Laser facials, also known as laser resurfacing treatments, are the new high tech way of improving the skin. As far as the name itself is concerned, I suspect that “lasers” simply sound so sci-fi and high tech that salons can’t help but name their facials after them. After all, aren’t we all looking for the newest and most technologically advanced treatment possible?
In reality, laser facials are a little simpler than that, and they certainly have some excellent results. There are also some serious risks involved, so it is important to be informed. Read on to learn everything you need to know about laser resurfacing, and perhaps I can help you decide if this treatment is right for you.
What Are Laser Facials?
At their core, laser facials are just another type of skin resurfacing treatment, much like an acid peel or a microdermabrasion. Using pulses of light, layers of skin are removed from the surface, to reveal the fresher and younger skin below, as well as to trigger skin cell regeneration.
This process, over time, is supposed to minimize surface imperfections in the skin and improve its overall look. From within, the laser resurfacing treatment is meant to increase collagen production in the skin, making it firmer and more elastic over time and with regular treatments.
Similarly to microdermabrasions and peels, the level of intensity or exfoliation the laser facial provides can be different depending on the type of machine and location where you have it done. In other words, the stronger (and likely more painful and expensive) your laser facial is, the more layers of skin will be removed.
There are also non-resurfacing laser treatments, otherwise known as non-ablative laser facials. These laser facials utilize radio frequency to firm up the skin and fix issues like redness and broken capillaries, without removing any skin.
Who Performs Laser Resurfacing?
Since laser resurfacing treatments are considerably more intense and have more side effects than your average facial, they should only be performed by a doctor or by a registered nurse.
Can’t I Just Go to Any Old Salon?
Lasers are serious business, so you should definitely have an experienced and licensed professional perform your facial. Later down in the article I list some of the risks associated with laser facials, however, most of them are unlikely to occur if you have the treatment done in a safe place. Less experienced cosmeticians can burn the skin, potentially doing the exact reverse of what you wanted done (i.e. causing scarring or pigmentation).
What Are the Different Types of Laser Resurfacing Treatments?
There are many different types of laser resurfacing treatments that vary in strength, side effects, and that target different skin issues. A smaller salon may only have one machine that gives a weaker facial with less of a recovery time, while a comprehensive cosmetic center might have as many as four or five different types of laser resurfacing treatments. Additionally, some treatments don’t technically count as classic laser facials, but might still be advertised similarly.
What Does Laser Resurfacing Treat?
• Dead skin build up
• Fine lines and wrinkles
• Shallow scarring
• Hyperpigmentation and dark marks
• Thick or uneven skin texture
Non-blative laser facials can also treat the following:
• Sagging skin
• Fine lines
• Redness and broken capillaries
Can Everyone Do a Laser Facial? Who Can’t?
A consultation is always recommended before pursuing a laser facial, since the type of machine and strength of the laser may or may not be appropriate for the specific skin type or concern. Those with darker skin or active acne lesions might want to pursue a different facial treatment.
How Much Do Laser Facials Cost?
A lunchtime laser treatment will cost between $250-$600, while the more intense laser facials can cost as much as $2500 per session. Generally, buying a series of sessions will be less expensive than paying for each treatment individually. Lastly, be wary of prices that seem too good – cheap laser resurfacing treatments can cost a lot more in the long run.
How Long Does a Laser Facial Take?
The laser resurfacing portion of the facial can take from 5 minutes up to 30 minutes. However, like many other treatments, laser facials can be paired with nourishing masks and other treatments. In fact, the skin is much more susceptible to absorbing beneficial nutrients, so it is best to pair a laser facial (especially a lighter one) with a facial that includes hydrating and collagen-boosting skincare masks.
If you are only trying to treat one small part of your face, the laser treatment will naturally take much less time.
What Should I Keep In Mind Before Opting for Laser Resurfacing?
• Like many other resurfacing facials, the effect of laser facials is cumulative. For best results, you should expect to do at least 4 treatments, and as many as 10 in a series.
• This treatment is intensive, and it might be painful. You might need to apply a numbing cream before laser resurfacing treatments.
• Laser facials make you more sensitive to sun exposure, so regular sunscreen use will be mandatory.
How Do I Prepare for Laser Facials?
• Wear sunscreen regularly for the month previous to the facial.
• Stop using resurfacing products like AHA or retinol two weeks before the laser treatment.
• A week or two before the treatment, avoid having any chemical peels or laser hair removal done on the area that you will be treating.
• You may also want to avoid medications that prevent blood from clotting, like aspirin, ibuprofen, and vitamin E supplements.
What Are the Side Effects and Risks of Laser Facials?
The side effects change depending on the strength of laser facial you opt for. You can certainly expect redness, and maybe a raw feeling in the skin. However, some risks include getting burned, going blind (specifically if your eyes are not adequately covered), or having the damaged skin become infected with bacteria.
In addition to that, sometimes the very pigmentation issues you might be trying to treat might be exacerbated. Generally, the more qualified the practitioner, and the less intense the laser treatment is, the less risks there are for side effects.
Is There a Recovery Time?
Some laser facials are essential lunchtime treatments. After you have the facial done, your skin will be slightly red, but you will be able to apply makeup and go back to work immediately. More intensive laser resurfacing treatments, however, remove a lot of skin. For a few weeks after the facial you may have to stay indoors, and deal with raw and painful skin.
What Should I Do After Having Laser Resurfacing Treatments Done?
Of course, some of these laser resurfacing treatments might require more aftercare than others. Your laser technician or doctor should give you proper instructions (and in fact, if they don’t, run fast the other way!). However, the following always apply.
• Wear sunscreen religiously. The laser treatments make you more susceptible to sun damage and burn, so a sunscreen becomes extremely important, lest all the hard work be undone and paired with some serious pain.
• Adopt a skin care routine that will help repair the skin, and increase the efficacy of the laser treatment. Use a lot of skin nourishing and collagen boosting creams. With weaker laser treatments, using a resurfacing active product at home like glycolic acid, vitamin C, or retinol might boost their effect, although with stronger lasers it may irritate the skin or make it too thin.
• If your skin feels especially raw, you may want to apply an ice pack to the skin.
For the more intense laser resurfacing treatments, the aftercare is actually not too different from having a tattoo done. For up to 3 weeks after the treatment you will have to do the following, in addition to the previous things mentioned:
• You will have to clean the area with a gentle cleanser.
• To prevent scabs from forming, the doctor will either give you an ointment to use, or will have you continuously apply petroleum jelly to the treated area.
• If you experience swelling for a few days after the treatment, you may choose to take anti-inflammatory medication like tylenol or advil.
How Well Does Laser Resurfacing Actually Work? What Other Factors Are Involved?
This is a difficult question to answer, because it totally depends on what you are trying to achieve, and how much maintenance you can handle. For a simple skin rejuvenating treatment, quick non-resurfacing laser treatments can certainly rejuvenate the skin without causing any damage.
Ablative laser facials are reported as very effective for scarring and fine lines. However, for pigmentation, acid peels and vitamin C or hydroquinone creams at home seem to work better. In comparison to other, gentler treatments, the results of laser resurfacing treatments are not necessarily much better, but the potential side effects might not be worth the risk.
Especially for pigmentation, laser resurfacing treatments can burn the skin and cause more serious scarring. I also think that acne can be much better treated with a great at home skin care routine, and the occasional professional strength peel.
Personally, I prefer sticking to gentler and better-known skin treatments, both at home and in salon. However, if you want to try something extreme, speak to your dermatologist. If they think a laser treatment is right for you, then by all means go for it!
What do you think, would you opt for laser resurfacing treatments, or would you rather stick to something simpler? Comment to let me know!
Photos courtesy of Pinterest