Understanding Facial Peels and Laser Surgery
In the last half of this century, men and women have had more leisure time to spend outdoors than in previous generations. Many hours spent on outside recreations and the prevalence of both summer and winter vacations, have all taken their toll on people’s skin. Premature wrinkling is more common now than ever before. Both men and women seek facial plastic surgery to reverse the effects of sun damaged skin. Surgery may also improve the pitted look of acne scars and remove pre-cancerous skin growths called keratoses.
“About the time I realized that my regular workouts weren’t going to reverse these signs of aging, I became aware of laser resurfacing. Now, after full-face resurfacing, the lines are much less noticeable, and my skin looks young and fresh again. It’s just what I needed to get me over the hump of turning 40.” – t e r r i s p ec k , a g e 4 0
Understanding the Surgery
The skin is composed of the epidermis and the dermis. Within the dermis are two layers, both of which are constructed of collagen, long fibers that loosen and stretch with age and sun damage. If the deepest layer, the reticular layer, is damaged, scars result, while the upper layer of the dermis, the papillary layer, heals from injuries without scarring. In a chemical peel, the surgeon applies one of several chemicals to the skin. Glycolic acid is the mildest. TCA, trichloroacetic acid, can be used in varying strengths for longer- lasting smoothness. The deepest peel is done with phenol.
Before any peel, the face is first thoroughly cleansed with a solution to remove oil and to prepare the skin for deepest penetration. As the chemical is applied, the epidermis is removed, and the chemical penetrates into the first layer of the dermis.
Dermabrasion is a surgical technique where by some deeper scars and wrinkles can be smoothed. The surgeon uses a local anesthetic and/or a freezing agent to render the skin numb. Then, using a high speed rotating brush, the surgeon removes the top layer of skin to the appropriate level for the best results. The size and depth of scars and the degree of wrinkling determine the length of the surgery.
Laser surgery is used to resurface facial skin with wrinkles caused by excess sun exposure, “crow’s feet,” and acne scarring. The high energy, amplified light waves of carbon dioxide (CO2) laser vaporize the top layer of skin instantly, with no beeding and minimal trauma to the surrounding skin.
A number of techniques are available today that enable facial plastic surgeons to treat a wider range of skin problems than ever before.
What to Expect After the Surgery
Immediately following a chemical peel or dermabrasion, the surgeon may apply a dressing to your skin. Swelling and “crusting” of the skin are normal, and ointments to keep the skin supple will be applied for seven to 10 days following surgery. The redness of skin that persists after the initial healing phase will usually fade in about 4 weeks. The surgeon often recommends a soft diet, avoidance of extremes in temperature and any activity that would cause stress to healing skin. It is imperative that you follow the post-operative instructions of your surgeon to the letter. Should you experience any increase in redness or itching in the days after surgery, notify your surgeon immediately.
In one to two weeks after surgery, new skin will emerge that is pinker, finer, and free of many wrinkles. But it will take several weeks for all the redness to vanish. Follow-up care involves using sunblock in order to protect the skin while new pigment is created. Patients will notice that the skin remains lighter for a long time after surgery, but that condition will usually subside when the skin’s pigment level has been restored.
Facial plastic surgery makes it possible to correct many facial flaws and signs of premature aging that can undermine self-confidence. By changing how you look, cosmetic surgery can help change how you feel about yourself.
Insurance does not generally cover surgery that is done purely for cosmetic reasons. Surgery to correct or improve major deformities or accidental skin injuries may be reimbursable in whole or in part. It is the patient’s responsibility to check with the insurance carrier for information on the degree of coverage.
Skin resurfacing removes the epidermis and penetrates into the papillary dermis, which responds by producing new collagen.