What are the various laser treatments used for?
At West End Plastic Surgery, we offer a wide assortment of laser treatments. These treatments address everything from sun spots to broken facial capillaries, from acne scarring to lines and wrinkles, from removing unwanted hair to removing unwanted tattoos.
The different treatments utilizing different laser platforms work to rejuvenate and resurface the skin on different levels. Some toil mostly in the epidermis, targeting the melanin in dark spots and the hemoglobin in telangiectasias. Others work in the dermis, delivering heat energy to trigger a boost in collagen production that rejuvenates the skin from within. Others fractionally penetrate the skin to improve texture and skin quality. Others remove the outer epidermis, “resurfacing” the skin more deeply.
How do these laser skin treatments work?
Laser is an acronym that stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Lasers deliver a single, narrow wavelength of light energy onto the skin. The wavelength and the pulse duration of the beam of energy vary with different platforms and treatments.
Generally speaking, the longer the wavelength, the deeper it penetrates. The shorter the pulse duration, the better it works on small targets.
Just for the sake of the overview we want our patients to have here (please click on the individual treatment links for detailed explanations of each), we’re going to break these laser treatments into four categories: anti-redness, pigmentation, non-ablative resurfacing, and ablative resurfacing.
The goal of non-ablative laser skin resurfacing is to usually deliver laser energy to a fraction of the skin surface, creating hundreds or thousands of microscopic channels through the epidermis down into the dermis. By only damaging a fraction of the skin, leaving the majority of the skin untouched and ready to help repair the microscopic punctures around it, this earns the name “fractional resurfacing.”
When the laser energy enters the dermis through the microscopic punctures it converts to heat energy, and when the body senses heat in the dermis it assumes a wound has occurred. It responds by producing new supplies of collagen and elastic to “heal” the perceived wounds when the actual microscopic channels heal within just a couple hours. The increase in collagen improves the surface skin by thickening and firming it, a process that lasts for a few months.
Anti-redness laser treatments:
These treatments target rosacea, sun damage, spider veins, cherry angiomas, port wine stains, and some types of scars. Pulsed dye lasers and Intense Pulsed Light target the hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that is creating the redness in the skin. They heat the hemoglobin, and this makes the blood vessel’s walls collapse, closing off the vessel.
These treatments deliver energy onto the epidermis seeking out those age spots, areas of hyperpigmentation, and tattoo ink. The laser energy is absorbed by the melanin that is producing the darker pigment, and the energy shatters the pigment. The spots then peel off and go away or become markedly fainter. With tattoos, the laser energy is matched to the wavelength of the color being targeted in that session.
The laser pulse then breaks apart the pigment in the same way and the body absorbs the particles and lessens the tattoo color. With laser hair removal, the melanin in the hair shaft absorbs the laser energy, which converts to heat. The heat travels down the hair shaft into the hair follicle, damaging or destroying the follicle and preventing future hair growth.
Ablative resurfacing basically uses laser energy to vaporize the outer layers of the epidermis. The body then gets down to healing the skin by creating new skin cells and lots of collagen. This removes the old, damaged skin and replaces it with much younger-looking new skin. Ablative resurfacing, however, has the downside of requiring a fairly lengthy recovery period to allow the skin to heal. There will be crusting and oozing of the treated skin. Plus, it will be very sensitive to any sun exposure for up to a full year.
Who is an ideal candidate for a laser skin treatment?
A better question would be “Who wouldn’t be an ideal candidate?” Every one of us has some or all of the skin issues treated with our various laser treatments at West End Plastic Surgery. That’s part of the beaty of the diverse array of laser treatments we offer — one is sure to match the problem you would like to improve.
Really the only people not great candidates for these treatments are those with active skin infections. If you’re prone to the development of keloid scars, some of these treatments are not recommended. Also, some more aggressive laser treatments are not a good match for patients with darker skin tones, as they can create areas of hyperpigmentation.
How long do the various laser treatments offered at West End take?
The duration of your laser session varies depending upon the area being treated and the laser treatment itself. Many skin rejuvenation treatments, such as ThermiTight, Clear + Brilliant, and IPL, take just 30 minutes or so. Laser hair removal and laser tattoo removal, on the other hand, may only take 15-30 minutes but they require a series of sessions to remove the hair or the tattoo.
During your consultation, where we match your skin issues with the perfect laser treatment, we can tell you how long the session will take and if there is any recovery/downtime.
How long will my results from laser treatments last?
Laser treatments provide a mix of permanent results and results that last for a year or two but then succumb to the aging process. For instance, IPL treatments to remove broken capillaries on your nose remove the vessels permanently. But that doesn’t mean you won’t produce new capillaries in the future. Clear + Brilliant is intended to help head off some of the signs of aging before they become very prevalent, but you’ll still age.
Laser hair removal provides from 80 to 90 percent permanent hair removal across the treated areas. If some of the follicles are damaged but not destroyed, they can return to hair growth. Hormonal changes can also have the same effect. ThermiVA tightens vaginal tissues for up to two years, but again, the march of time wins in the end, requiring maintenance treatments down the road.
Are laser treatments safe?
All of the laser treatments we offer at West End Plastic Surgery have been cleared by the FDA. Each of our staff members handling these treatments has received training direct from the laser manufacturers before being able to perform these treatments. These are safe and effective treatments.
Dr. Ruff and his staff are amazing. I am so happy with the results! - S.B.