The skin is your body’s largest organ. It is also the first place to show the earliest signs of aging. Depending on your lifestyle choices such as how much time you spend in the sun, you may begin to notice brown patches, redness or fine lines as early as your late 20’s. Laser skin resurfacing is a non-surgical procedure in which energy is used to improve skin tone and texture. While the right laser is going to depend on your specific needs, a laser skin resurfacing procedure can literally restore a more youthful glow to your face, neck, chest, hands, and arms. It is one of the simplest ways to “turn back the clock”.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty has extensive experience in the use of both ablative and non-ablative lasers as well as other energy based devices. He not only serves as medical director for Cynosure, Inc. (the Aesthetic Division of Hologic, Inc.), developer and manufacturer of some of the top aesthetic lasers available today, he also trains other plastic surgeons and physicians on how to use these devices safely and appropriately. A firm believer in embracing new innovations, Dr. Doherty is proud to offer his Boston patients a wide range of Lasers and Energy based treatments including:
While laser skin resurfacing procedures can be performed alone, Dr. Doherty will often combine them with another treatment such as Threads, micro-needling, fillers or Botox for truly exemplary results.
Laser Skin Resurfacing Consultation
Since every laser is unique, addressing your skin’s issues in slightly different ways, it is important that you be assessed in person. During your laser skin resurfacing consultation, Dr. Doherty will listen closely to what is bothering you about your appearance. Then, he will perform a thorough physical exam to assess your skin tone and elasticity or “bounce back”. He will also ask about treatments and surgeries that you may have had done to your face in the past, your skin care regime and your relationship with the sun. Then, together, you will come up with the treatment plan that best suits your individual anatomy, needs, and lifestyle.
Skin that has become uneven, rough or blotchy thanks to brown spots and redness is going to best be addressed with some kind of laser. However, skin that has become loose or sagging is going to need some kind of non-surgical tightening. This is best achieved with an RF or radio frequency treatment. Some patients may need both, and either can be combined with micro-needling for seriously amazing results.
What is Laser Skin Resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing is a generic term that is used to describe a cosmetic procedure that uses a laser or energy to remove damaged layers of skin and to then stimulate the skin to be revitalized. Not only does this lessen discoloration, but as your new skin cells develop, they look firmer and more youthful. Lasers are great for addressing:
- fine facial lines
- age spots
- sun spots
- uneven pigmentation
There are two types of lasers: ablative and non-ablative. The right one is going to depend on how much skin damage you have as well as how much downtime you can endure.
Laser Skin Resurfacing: Ablative & Non-Ablative Lasers
Ablative lasers are the most aggressive. They remove a portion of the surface of the skin and stimulate deeper layers of tissue. Ablative lasers are best for addressing significant sun damage, fines lines, and brown spots. Dr. Doherty uses two: CO2 and Erbium. The right one is going to depend on:
- your skin type
- how much downtime you can afford
- which areas of the face & body are being treated
In general, patients who have laser skin resurfacing with an ablative laser can expect 4-5 days of scabbing of the skin, similar to a burn. Ablative laser patients need to keep their skin moist and clean during this time. You will also be washing your face multiple times a day and performing saline gauze soaks to slowly remove the scar tissue and debris. After the debris is gone, the “new” skin is pink, very vulnerable and sensitive. Typically, patients can use cover up at this time. Patients report that they are swollen for the first 4-5 days, but not in any particular pain. It’s more like an overall warmth. This aggressive treatment could be done as often as every 3-4 years to maintain results.
Non-ablative lasers, which are often referred to as “Fraxel”, actually penetrate deeper than ablative lasers, but they leave the surface of the skin intact. Dr. Doherty offers his patients the PICOSure picosecond laser and the 1540nm laser. Laser skin resurfacing with a non-ablative laser is best for treating:
- facial aging
- raised scars
- stretch marks
- acne spots
It’s also great for providing overall facial rejuvenation of the face, neck, and chest. There is significantly less downtime with a non-ablative laser procedure. Most patients can expect to look red and swollen, like they got a sunburn, for about 24 hours. However, patients will need anywhere from 3-4 treatments, spaced a month apart, for optimum results.
Intense Pulse Light (IPL)
IPL or intense pulse light is an energy based treatment that instead of a single wavelength of light uses filters to block out all of the wavelengths except those taken up by pigment and/or blood vessels, for example. Sometimes referred to as a photo facial, IPL is great for treating:
- age spots or hyperpigmentation
- small, broken blood vessels (Telangiectasia)
Dr. Doherty will often combine IPL with an ablative and/or non-ablative laser in order to treat red scars. The nice thing about IPL treatments is that the discomfort is minimal. Patients describe it as feeling like a rubber band snapping against the skin. There is also little to no downtime associated with this procedure. In fact, some patients even have it done on their lunch hour.
Radiofrequency & Microneedling
Radiofrequency or RF procedures such as Pellevé are not actually lasers. Instead, they use radio frequency (i.e. heat) to penetrate into the deep layers of your skin. The heat causes the collagen in your skin to contract and tighten. The result is smoother, firmer looking skin in the treatment area. The nice thing about RF treatments is that, in the right patient, they deliver measurable results without surgery. While the downtime with RF treatments is minimal, you will need 3-4 treatments, spaced a month apart, to achieve your final results.
One of the ways to improve your skin tightening is by combining an RF treatment with microneedling, a device that produces a series of pricks to gently “injure” the skin in the treatment area. The body’s natural response to any kind of injury is to produce more collagen. And since collagen is the fountain of youth, these treatments can be a great way to look and feel years younger. Dr. Doherty likes the Profound procedure for treating the lower face and neck. But he’s also gotten great results using it on crepey skin on the arms, medial thighs and knees. The great thing about Profound is that it only takes one treatment. Patients look like they have been attacked by bees in the treated area for 4-5 days (swelling, bruising and small needle marks). After this, the swelling subsides and then the waiting game begins. Patients should expect about a 3-month wait for ultimate results.
Endymed Intesif is another RF and microneedling procedure. Less intense than the Profound, it does require multiple treatments spaced about a month apart. This is a good treatment for lines around the eyes and mouth area.
Laser Skin Resurfacing Recovery
The recovery from your laser skin resurfacing procedure is going to depend entirely on which procedure or procedures that you have done. It will range anywhere from a day to two weeks. In general, however, laser skin resurfacing is one of those procedures that deliver a lot of bang for its buck: great results with minimal downtime, no incisions, no anesthesia, and no scars.
To find out more about laser skin resurfacing with Dr. Sean Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office, contact us today or call (617) 450-0070 to schedule a consultation.
What is the right age to try laser skin resurfacing?
There is no right or wrong age to start with lasers. It is really going to depend on your individual anatomy and needs. Certain lifestyle choices such as smoking and sun damage are going to speed up the aging process of your skin. Genetics, your diet and where you live can also take a toll. The great thing about the array of lasers available today is that there are ones to fit every patient’s needs. And that is really the important thing: fitting the right laser to the right patient.
The skin on my abdomen hangs over my pants. Will an RF treatment help?
If you have significantly loose skin in your abdomen post pregnancy or weight loss, a non-surgical treatment such as skin tightening with RF is probably not going to deliver the results that you desire. It is really best for mild to moderate loose skin.
Microneedling sounds like a medieval torture device. Does it hurt?
Trust me; it looks so much worse than it is. The needles are quite fine. If you can tolerate Botox or fillers, you can definitely tolerate microneedling. Especially since the end results can be truly remarkable. Needling is actually a very old and proven plastic surgery treatment for scars. Modern microneedling is a refined version – the needles stimulate the tissue after the are inserted.
Will my face look like hamburger meat after an ablative laser treatment?
I won’t lie — you are not going to be pretty for the first week or so. I require all of my ablative laser patients to do skin soaks for the first 3-4 days and follow up closely with me and my staff. This is really the worst part. After that, your skin will be a light pink color for 7-10 days. But the end result can be truly amazing. So, it’s really up to you whether or not it’s worth it.
I have a lot of sun damage. How do I know which laser is right for me?
You don’t. This is why it is so imperative that you see an experienced plastic surgeon or dermatologist for a laser skin resurfacing consultation. You need someone who knows what each laser can deliver. Most treat sun damage so it’s really going to depend on the extent of your sun damage as well how much downtime you are willing to endure.