Laser Skin Resurfacing Treatment for Acne Scars

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Laser skin resurfacing is an increasingly popular treatment that is used for many cosmetic purposes; from reducing wrinkles, to removing tattoos and to reducing acne scars. It is still something of a developing field with many different types of laser being used and with techniques improving all the time. Therefore, the results you may get from laser skin resurfacing can vary depending on your skin and your practitioner.

The procedure works by using lasers to safely beam light containing radiation at the scarring you wish to remove. This destroys the skin cells that are targeted allowing new, healthy skin to grow and take the place of the destroyed, scarred skin. Many people choose to undergo laser skin resurfacing over other treatments because it is far less invasive and can be performed very accurately, reducing the risk of mistakes and the length of time needed for recovery. It can however have short-term side effects. The most usual of which include: pain during the procedure (although not everyone finds it painful), redness, swelling and irritation. After healing, there is a slight possibility that you may notice skin discolouration in the treated area after healing. The process is carried out under local anaesthesia if a small area is to be treated or full intravenous anaesthesia if you are having a large area tackled.

It is extremely important to consult your medical practitioner before undergoing laser skin resurfacing and to ensure that you are in the hands of someone qualified and experienced and whom you trust during the procedure. It is possible that your scarring may be better treated with other methods so be certain that you get the best advice possible and that you are well informed about your options.

There are three different kinds of lasers which are commonly used:

CO2 Lasers

CO2 lasers are the harshest of all those used in laser skin resurfacing. They cause more side effects and discomfort but can be more effective than the less severe laser treatments. They are ablative which means that, unlike non-ablative lasers (Fractional lasers for instance) they destroy the surface of the skin as well as the layers of scarring which are the target. As they are ablative they can hurt more and cause more visible, temporary damage. Recovery time from ablative lasers is also longer (approximately two weeks) than that of non-ablative lasers and the skin may remain redder than usual for up to three months. On a more positive note, the final improvement is also often superior to that achieved with weaker lasers.

Er:YAG Lasers

Er:YAG lasers, also known as erbium lasers are also ablative and work in the same way as CO2 lasers. This means that they can destroy the surface layers of the skin along with the scarred areas that are being treated. However, erbium lasers are weaker than CO2 lasers. This means that they do less damage to the skin. For this reason the swelling, irritation, redness and pain that laser skin resurfacing can cause is lessened when erbium lasers are used. Healing time is often decreased to just over a week by the use of this kind of laser, although the results are usually not as good as those achieved by CO2 lasers. This type of laser resurfacing treatment is best for mild-to-moderate scarring rather than severe scarring. It may also be better if you have dark skin as it can reduce the higher risk of hyperpigmentation (a change in the colour of the skin after treatment).

Fraxel/Fractional Lasers

Fractional lasers work in largely the same way as both CO2 and Er:YAG lasers but are non-ablative. This means that they are less damaging to the skin in general. They target and destroy the scarred areas below the surface of the skin and do so far more precisely than other lasers. They cause fewer side effects and have a shorter healing period of around a week. Swelling, bruising, reddening, pain and irritation are significantly reduced by this laser. They are, however, weaker than the other lasers and, despite being safer, are generally not as effective on moderate-to-severe scarring.

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