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Is laser skin resurfacing a good skin care treatment?

January 16, 2008
Lasers are a tool. Like any tool, they have very specific uses and limitations. Any particular laser has things that it is very good at doing and it has things that it is really not very good at doing.

It used to be that laser resurfacing meant that you went under general anesthesia in the operating room to undergo a full strength ablative CO2 laser treatment. Your skin was red, swollen and weeping for days afterwards and you needed several weeks to recover. The results were sometimes excellent, but sometimes there was hypopigmentation or a waxy cast to the skin.

About 3 years ago, the Fraxel came on the market. It was a new technology that permitted us to resurface the skin without the downtime and risk of the CO2 lasers. Instead of vaporizing an entire layer of skin, the Fraxel is a fractionated treatment. It places microscopic holes in the skin, leaving healthy tissue around the holes. Healing is much faster, we never see the pigmentation problems that the CO2 treatment caused and downtime is limited to a couple of days of swelling and a week of sunburn - like redness. The Fraxel is still the standard of care for acne scars and is one of the most popular lasers.

A new resurfacing laser has recently become very popular called the Active Fx. This is a fractionated CO2 laser that works similarly to the Fraxel (which is an Erbium laser). The Active Fx treats fine lines and tightens skin better than the Fraxel and it is a one treatment procedure (as opposed to the Fraxel, which usually needs 3 to 5 treatments to achieve maximal benefits). It will treat fine lines under the eyes and around the lips much better than anything else (including chemical peels). Downtime is similar to Fraxel and pain is less. Risks are minimal, but Active Fx should really not be used for dark skin yet. We don't know how risky it is for darker skin individuals.

So, laser skin resurfacing is now much safer, easier and cheaper. This makes it accessible to a much broader segment of people. The answer to the question is that yes, it is a good treatment, but you still have to have a doctor you trust check to see how good of a candidate you are.

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