FIRST QUARTER 2002, VOLUME 16, NO 1

Laser resurfacing … Is it right for me?

IN THIS ISSUE

Me, Myself, and I … Do it for yourself

Laser resurfacing … Is it right for me?

Ask the Surgeon / Health Tip / What’s New

Get your facts straight about facial plastic surgery

We would all like to recapture that young, vivacious, radiant skin of our youth. One popular method for reducing the weathered look, fine lines, and scars is laser resurfacing. This procedure removes the damaged, outer layer of your skin allowing new, pink skin to emerge. Learn more about laser resurfacing, patient selection, and types of lasers available to see if this rejuvenation method is right for you.

What is laser resurfacing? Lasers work by producing a powerful beam of bright light that gently removes the skin tissue. The depth of laser resurfacing is dependent upon the type of laser, wavelength, power utilized, and pulse direction. The laser acts as a light scalpel.

Your skin is made up of the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (underneath). Within the dermis are two levels, the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis. Superficial wrinkles and slight pigmentation problems generally originate in the epidermis. Scars and deep wrinkles involve the papillary and reticular layers. Laser resurfacing can remove the epidermis and penetrate into the papillary dermis; this eliminates the superficial wrinkles and blotchy pigmentation. Extensive scarring and wrinkles in the reticular dermis can be made less noticeable with resurfacing, but not eliminated entirely. After resurfacing during the repair process your skin rebuilds the tissue allowing a fresh new layer to become the skin surface.

Is this procedure right for me?

This procedure may be ideal for you if you suffer from sun damage, uneven pigmentation, fine line wrinkles (crow’s feet, smile lines), acne scars, or superficial skin cancers. Talk to your facial plastic surgeon, ask him or her to evaluate your skin, and see if you are a good candidate.

One patient was unhappy with the laugh lines around her mouth and tiny lines around her eyes. I felt like my face was aging beyond my years, says Susan, a patient in her forties. Laser resurfacing appealed to me because the wrinkles could be pinpointed, there would be little blood, and the results would be long-lasting, she states.

Laser resurfacing provides you with a reliable, safe, and effective, out-patient proce-dure to minimize the appearance of damaged or wrinkled skin and revitalize your look. The procedure is usually performed with a local anesthesia. If there is a large area to be treated, your physician may recommend a light sedation as well. This means that you will be awake during the procedure, but relaxed. I was not in any pain, it was just uncomfortable, says Susan.

Layers of the skin:
A. Epidermis
B. Papillary dermis
C. Reticular dermis

Your skin will be cleansed and then the procedure begins. The surgeon makes even passes over the area, wiping away the exfoliated skin until the desired depth is achieved. The laser is very precise so there is little trauma to the surrounding tissue and the layers are removed with very little bleeding. The procedure can take between 30 minutes and an hour.

The convalescence period may last between one and four weeks depending on the extent of the resurfacing. As your skin is healing there may be mild discomfort with swelling and some redness especially the first week. Susan comments, Initially, my skin was swollen and red. My doctor gave me a pain medication for any discomfort. I took one pill the first night, but that was it.

Your physician will give you specific instructions regarding cleansing and moisturizing your face. Most patients return to work 10 days to two weeks after the procedure. Protect your new, supple skin by avoiding sun exposure and wearing sunblock anytime you are outdoors. I was very happy with my new skin, says Susan, I know nothing can stop the aging process, it is nice to have my skin look as young as I feel.

What is the difference between Erbium and CO 2 ?

There are two commonly used lasers, the carbon dioxide laser, CO2, and the Erbium YAG laser. Your facial plastic surgeon will determine which type of laser is best suited to meet your needs.

The cooler micropulse of an Erbium YAG laser may be chosen to lessen fine to moderate wrinkles and facial scarring. This laser penetrates the epidermis, only improving superficial imperfections. The recovery period is shorter because there is less skin tissue being removed.

The CO2 laser has increased thermal penetration which permits an effective treatment of moderate to deep wrinkles. The healing time is longer because the epidermis and upper level of the dermis are being vaporized.

We have all touched the soft, smooth skin of a baby and wished that that could be our own skin again. Facial plastic surgery cannot turn back the clock that far, however, laser resurfacing can completely renew your skin and your look. The procedure will reduce the tired, wrinkled skin and leave you with new, supple, and undamaged skin. Consult with your specialist in the field of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery to determine your options and what procedures would be right for you.