Laser Skin Resurfacing for Acne Scars - Dangers, Risks & Side Effects


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As there are different kinds of laser used in laser skin resurfacing, so too are there different effects. As a rule of thumb CO2 lasers cause the most severe side effects while erbium and fractional lasers generally only cause a few such as crusting, swelling and possible hyperpigmentation. It is important to be aware of the side effects before you seek treatment for your acne.

Immediate Side Effects of Laser Skin Resurfacing

Most laser skin resurfacing procedures are carried out with the use of anaesthetics. If you are only having a small area treated you will generally be given a local anaesthetic to numb the treatment zone, you may also be given a mild sedative. If you are having a large area of scarring treated you will be given a general anaesthetic, administered intravenously. For this reason it is unlikely that you will experience any pain as the treatment is performed. As the anaesthetic wears off you may experience discomfort that, depending on the patient, can be minimal or moderately sore.

Immediately after acne treatment with the laser, your skin will redden and swell and the area that has been resurfaced may ooze and crust over. The extent to which these side effects will affect you depends on the kind of laser used. CO2 lasers are the most harmful, followed by Er:YAG lasers and finally, the least harmful, fractional lasers. These side effects are all part of the skin’s natural healing process.

Side Effects of Laser Skin Resurfacing during Healing

A number of side effects will be present as the damage caused by the initial laser skin resurfacing heals, promoting the growth of healthy, unscarred skin. Depending on the harshness of the laser that was used on your skin you will experience these side effects to a greater or lesser extent.

If a CO2 laser is used, these side effects will last much longer, around two weeks. These side effects include discomfort, swelling, bruising, weeping and crustiness. Reddening of the skin is likely to last much longer, up to three months. The weaker lasers do not have this problem. Instead their side effects should last not much longer than a week.

One other, significant though rare, side effect is that the use of a laser can reactivate viruses such as the herpes virus. If the procedure is performed near to the mouth it is possible that you may re-develop cold sores if you are prone to them.

Long Term Side Effects of Laser Skin Resurfacing

There are a few longer-term side effects that can occasionally be caused by laser skin resurfacing. Almost all of these are only really likely with CO2 laser treatment and are not the norm. It is possible that you may experience hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin in the treated area), hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin), the formation of small white lumps known as Milia, the development of eczema, acne, cysts or hypertrophic (raised) scars. These side effects are not common but do happen. For the best chance of avoiding such complications, ensure that you are treated by an experienced, trusted practitioner.

Are Lasers Dangerous?

Often people associate the word laser with weapons. Understandably, this can make the process sound a lot scarier and more dangerous than it really is. In fact, there is no danger of serious injury. The process is very safe and is increasing in popularity year-on-year. As long as you ensure that you are in the hands of an experienced practitioner, you will certainly not be vaporised!


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