Skin aging is inevitable. Starting around age 25, the human body naturally starts to produce less collagen and elastin. This affects both the form and function of your skin and tissues. The end result can be uneven skin texture and sagging skin. Depending on your lifestyle choices, particularly how much time you have spent in the sun, these issues may creep up earlier rather than later. Lasers, which is a catch-all term for all laser and energy-based devices, can be an ideal procedure for rejuvenation of the skin on your face, neck, chest, hands, and arms. Lasers are particularly great for improving uneven skin texture. Diminishing brown spots, redness and fine lines and wrinkles with a laser skin resurfacing procedure can literally make you look and feel more youthful, vital, and confident.
Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Sean Doherty, is a laser expert. Not only does he serve as medical director for Cynosure, Inc., the developer and manufacturer of some of the top aesthetic laser and energy-based devices used today, but he also trains other plastic surgeons and physicians on how to appropriately and safely use these devices. Dr. Doherty has extensive experience in both ablative and non-ablative lasers as well as the other energy-based devices that he offers his Boston area patients including:
- Clear + Brilliant laser
- CO2 laser
- Erbium Laser
- PICOSure laser
- 1540 nm laser
- IPL (Intense Pulse Light)
- TempSure (radiofrequency)
- Profound (micro-needling and radiofrequency)
Determining whether or not a laser procedure is the right choice for your skin issues always begins with an in-person consultation.
Laser Skin Consultation
While everyone’s skin will age with time, every person’s aging journey is unique. This is why it is so important to book an in-person consultation. The internet has become a vital resource for educating patients on the aesthetic options available today. However, what worked for your favorite influencer or celebrity crush may not be the right choice for you.
During your laser consultation, Dr. Doherty will listen closely to what bothers you about your skin and tissues. He will ask about your medical history, family history, any prior procedures you may have had as well as your lifestyle choices such as:
- How much time you spend outdoors
- Whether or not you smoke
- Exercise routine
- Water consumption
- Skin care regime
Dr. Doherty will then perform a thorough physical exam to assess your skin tone and texture. Together, you will determine which laser or lasers might be best for your individual skin type, lifestyle and goals.
Ideal Candidate for Laser Skin Resurfacing
One of the greatest benefits of laser skin resurfacing is that there is a laser for almost everyone. Furthermore, skin texture issues happen to both men and women of all ages. As discussed, they can start as early as your 20’s depending on factors such as your:
- Where you live
- Lifestyle choices
So, the ideal candidate for laser skin resurfacing is anyone in good overall health who is bothered by:
- Brown spots
- Contour irregularities
- Broken blood vessels
- Crepey, uneven texture
- Fine lines & wrinkles
Ablative vs. Non-Ablative Laser Treatments for skin
When it comes to actual lasers, there are two types: ablative and non-ablative. The former is more aggressive. They require more downtime because they actually remove a portion of your skin’s surface and stimulate healing in the deeper layers of your tissue. However, this is what makes them ideal for addressing significant aging issues such as sun damage, brown spots and fine lines. Dr. Doherty uses both the CO2 and Erbium ablative lasers. The right one for you is going to depend on the treatment area, your skin type, and how much downtime you are willing to handle.
Non-ablative lasers do not damage the surface of your skin. They actually penetrate deeper into the tissues than ablative lasers. They are great for inducing an overall rejuvenating effect in the skin and tissue of the face, neck and chest. Dr. Doherty also turns to the PICOSure and 1540 nm non-ablative laser to address:
- Raised scars
- Stretch marks
- Acne spots
- Facial aging
Laser Skin Procedure & Recovery
A laser or energy-based procedure is performed in the office. Dr. Doherty or a member of his staff will apply a topical numbing cream. The length of your treatment is going to depend on the size of the treatment area, but generally, laser skin resurfacing only takes about an hour. You can return home immediately after your session, but it will be clear that you had a procedure done.
Patients who undergo an ablative laser procedure can expect their skin to be red and raw for 4-5 days. Your skin will scab, and look as if you got an intense sunburn in the treated area for 7-12 days. Dr. Doherty asks that you keep your skin moist and clean during this time so he will have you wash your face multiple times a day and apply saline gauze soaks in order to slowly remove any scar tissue and debris. Once this dead skin is gone, your new skin will be light pink, vulnerable and sensitive. It’s ok to use cover up at this time. It is also imperative that you avoid the sun. While the recovery with an ablative laser treatment takes a few days, most patients report that the process is not particularly painful. However, there is a significant amount of swelling. You can expect your results to last anywhere from 2-3 years.
The downtime with a non-ablative laser procedure is much shorter. You will be red and swollen for about 24-72 hours. However, most patients will need 3-4 treatments, spaced about a month apart, to achieve optimal results. All of this will be discussed with you in detail during your initial consultation.
Ablative Lasers: CO2 & Erbium Laser Treatments for skin
The two ablative lasers that Dr. Doherty offers in his Boston area offices are the CO2 and Erbium laser. As one of the earliest ablative lasers, the CO2 laser has a long and safe track record for effectively diminishing the effects of significant sun damage such as brown spots, and fine lines and wrinkles. The end result is a revitalized, fresh, and younger-looking you. A significant downside to this laser choice, however, is that it does require up to 2 weeks of downtime as it literally removes a portion of the surface of your skin. It also stimulates the deeper layers of tissue. However, this is not a procedure that requires multiple treatments, and you can expect your results to last anywhere from 3-4 years.
The Erbium laser is also an ablative laser. It has a slightly lower level of penetration into the skin than the CO2 laser so your downtime may be less significant but can still be aggressive. The right choice for you is going to depend on your skin type, how much downtime you can afford, and which areas of the face and/or body are being treated.
Laser Treatments options
Dr. Doherty offers differrent options for the laser skin treatment.
Non-Ablative Laser : Clear + Brilliant
Clear + Brilliant is a gentle, non-ablative laser that can be a great choice for younger patients who are just starting to see some of the early signs of skin aging, as well as older patients who just want to achieve a revitalized glow without having to deal with a lot of downtime. In fact, Clear + Brilliant is often the gateway procedure for patients into the many benefits of laser skin resurfacing.
Ideal for treating skin and tissues on the face, neck, chest, arms and hands, the safe, gentle heat of this laser promotes your body to produce more collagen. This, in turn, smooths out your skin texture, giving you that healthy, youthful looking glow. Depending on the intensity of the laser setting, you can expect some slight redness for about 24 hours after a Clear + Brilliant procedure. This can be easily camouflaged with makeup. This treatment can also be repeated as often as you like. Most patients require 3-4 treatments to attain their ideal result. In general, this is a procedure that is performed by one of our skilled nurses or aestheticians.
PicoSure Laser & 1540 nm
The PICOSure laser was originally developed as an effective tattoo removal device. But plastic surgeons quickly found that the speed and efficacy of this non-ablative laser make it ideal for skin rejuvenation. One of the many advantages of this particular laser is that it works on all skin types, including darker skin. Dr. Doherty uses the PicoSure to treat aged skin, pigment issues such as Melasma, scars, and stretch marks.
The 1540 nm is another non-ablative laser option. The advantage of this type of laser is that it does not totally damage the outer surface of the skin or epidermis. Ironically, non-ablative lasers actually penetrate deeper than a fully ablative device, but the recovery is faster. Patients walk out of a non-ablative laser treatment looking as if they just got a bit of a sunburn. However, unlike ablative laser treatments, it will take more than one procedure to achieve your optimum results. A series of 3-4 treatments, done monthly, is recommended.
Intense Pulse Light (IPL) as a no laser treatment
Often referred to as a photo facial, IPL is not actually a laser. It is an energy-based treatment that is great for addressing some of the earliest signs of aging like:
The latter are the small, broken blood vessels that often crop up on the face, neck and body with age and sun exposure. The nice thing about an IPL treatment is that it is extremely effective and requires minimal downtime. You will need a series of treatments to achieve your initial, ideal result, and then 1-2 a year for maintenance. Also, you will need to avoid sun exposure following your IPL procedure. Typically, one of our nurses or aestheticians will perform this procedure.
Radiofrequency (RF) is a form of energy that has been proven to deliver aesthetic benefits such as non-surgical skin tightening. TempSure is a platform with a number of different RF devices to address your face, neck and body. It provides skin tightening as well as an overall skin improvement in the treatment area. For his liposuction patients, Dr. Doherty will often prescribe a post-operative lymphatic massage with the TempSure in order to tighten the skin around your new body contour.
There is also a device, TempSure Firm, that helps diminish the appearance of cellulite. Since about 85% of women over the age of 21 have some degree of cellulite, Dr. Doherty is happy to be able to offer his patients with a moderate amount of cellulite a viable treatment option. FlexSure is the latest offshoot from the TempSure platform. This is a lighter RF treatment performed by an aesthetician. It delivers a more moderate degree of skin tightening for patients with only a mild degree of laxity.
Profound: Microneedling & RF Energy
Another very effective procedure for improving both skin texture and tone is Profound. This is a little different from the other laser and energy-based procedures in that it combines microneedling with radiofrequency (RF) energy to further improve your skin tightening results. Microneedling is a device with a number of small needles that produce a series of tiny pricks to gently “injure” the skin. The RF energy then passes through these needles into the deeper layers of your tissue. This combination induces your body to seriously ramp up its production of collagen.
The nice thing about Profound is that you will see an immediate improvement as well as a continued long-term improvement as your collagen levels rise. Dr. Doherty likes to use Profound for non-surgically improving the look of the lower face and neck, but it is also great for treating the crepiness and sag of aged skin on the arms, medial thighs, and knees. Though this is not the same result as a surgical improvement, this is a non-surgical procedure that can deliver some significant effect.
To find out more about an ablative or non-ablative laser, IPL, TempSure or Profound procedure as well as any other surgical or non-surgical procedure with Dr. Sean Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office, contact us today or call (617) 450-0070 to schedule a consultation.
FAQs about Laser Treatments for skin
The cost of your laser procedure is going to depend on which laser or lasers we decide to use, the size of the treatment area, and the severity of your skin tone and texture issues. If we decide to go the non-ablative route, you will need multiple treatments, spaced about a month apart. My best advice is to schedule an in-person consultation. Once I see you and assess your skin, I can give you an accurate idea of the total cost of a laser procedure to best address your exact skin issues.
For the procedure itself, you will be numb. You may feel a slight sting, almost like the zing of a rubber band. And you will definitely feel some heat. But most patients find the experience tolerable. Depending on which laser we use, however, you may be a tad more uncomfortable after your procedure, especially if you have an ablative laser procedure. I am very honest with my patients in terms of what to expect during and after a laser procedure. I have found that one of the hallmarks of the excellent result that we both want is realistic expectations. I will also let you know if I think that you may need more than one treatment to attain your ideal results.
Without assessing you in person, it is really impossible to say. All of the laser and energy-based devices that I use can address sun damage. The right one for you is going to depend on your individual skin, desired outcome and how much downtime you are willing to tolerate in order to achieve the results that you want. This is why I always recommend scheduling an in-person consultation.
I typically tell my patients to stay away from mirrors for the first week after an ablative laser procedure. You can expect to look like you have a very bad sunburn. Your face will be bright red and swollen, and the damaged skin on the surface is going to peel off. This is what we want as it will reveal the fresh, youthful looking skin beneath. However, it is a process. And for a while, you will look kind of scary. But my patients find the end result to be well worth it. Furthermore, I will send you home with clear instructions on how to get the best result, and my office is always available to answer any questions.
Intense Pulse Light or IPL is ideal for treating those little, red spider veins that creep up on all of us thanks to age, genetics and sun exposure. Though it can be a stand-alone procedure, I will often combine an IPL treatment with another laser in order to address all of your skin texture issues in one session.