Sun damage, stress, and aging all take a toll on our skin in the form or wrinkles and sun spots. These, as well as acne scarring and other blemishes can make skin look dull and unhealthy. Skin resurfacing is a great treatment to improve the health and appearance of skin, and CO2 laser resurfacing is one type of skin resurfacing treatment. We asked our facial plastic surgeon Dr. Inessa Fishman to discuss CO2 laser skin resurfacing and its benefits.
What can laser treatments help with?
“There are lots of different lasers in medical use,” says Dr. Fishman, “and some are used to target excess red or brown pigment in the skin, while others are used to make unwanted hair and tattoos disappear.” CO2 laser is most commonly used to smooth and tighten skin, soften the appearance of acne and surgical scars, and make the skin look more glowing, healthier, and younger.
CO2 laser skin resurfacing, also known as laser peel, can help improve:
– Acne scars
– Skin tone
– Skin-damaged cells
– Enlarged oil glands
While Dr. Fishman most commonly uses CO2 laser to treat the skin of the face, neck and decolletage, laser skin resurfacing can be performed on most parts of the body covered with skin. Dr. Fishman lists our patients’ most popular areas for addressing fine lines and wrinkles are around the mouth (also called the perioral region) and around the eyes (also known as the periorbital region).
How does CO2 laser skin resurfacing work?
CO2 is a colorblind laser that is absorbed by water within tissues like our skin, Dr. Fishman explains, and this characteristic is helpful in reversing years of aging and sun damage with extreme precision. The CO2 laser’s wavelength is smaller than the width of a strand of human hair and this precision as well as the ability to wary the power of the laser makes it a helpful tool in a variety of treatments such resurfacing and smoothing skin; and cutting and coagulating tissue, such as during a laser-assisted blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) or vocal cord surgery.
CO2 laser skin resurfacing is typically performed with the help of by-mouth sedation in our clinic, or “twilight” or general anesthesia in the operating room. Patient comfort with medical procedures as well as planning other treatments (such as a facelift or rhinoplasty) help determine where and how CO2 laser skin resurfacing is done. During treatment and after ensuring the patient is comfortable and numbed, Dr. Fishman directs the handpiece of the CO2 laser device over the to-be-treated areas and “fires” to delivery very controlled and precise energy bursts to the skin. The treated skin shows immediate tightening and mild redness after absorbing the laser’s energy. On a microscopic level, the CO2 laser burns away the superficial skin layer called the epidermis, and creates tiny, precise channels of injury in the dermis, or the collagen-rich undersurface of the skin, thus stimulating the body’s healing and formation of new collagen. With CO2 laser, Dr. Fishman removes part of the top layer of skin, improving the appearance of acne scarring, sun spots, and aging. After treatment, the treated epidermis and dermis heal with boosted collagen for firmer, more plump skin and more even skin texture and tone.
Who should get CO2 Laser Resurfacing?
Healthy women and men interested in reducing the signs of aging are good candidates for CO2 laser treatment. Dr. Fishman commonly uses CO2 laser to tighten the skin of the eyelids in combination with doing eyelid surgery, and often uses CO2 laser resurfacing to polish the skin in addition to performing a rejuvenating facelift and necklift surgery.
Dr. Fishman cautions against aggressive CO2 laser skin resurfacing treatments in patients with darker skin tones, as this treatment can result in permanent skin pigment disruption. “Chemical peels, like a TCA peel, are my go-to resurfacing treatments in patients with olive and darker skin tones because they are safer,” says Dr. Fishman. Alternative treatments for skin improvement and resurfacing are Morpheus, microneedling ,and Celluma LED light therapy, all of which we offer at Aviva Plastic Surgery.
Since the CO2 laser removes the top layer of skin, people taking certain acne medications such as Isotretinoin or Accutane are more sensitive to the laser, with a potentially higher risk of wound healing problems or scarring after treatment. Some acne medications such as doxycycline or minocycline that cause sun sensitivity should be halted prior to the procedure.
What to expect after the CO2 laser skin resurfacing
Following CO2 laser resurfacing, your skin will be red and take 7-10 days to heal from the treatment. Dr. Fishman recommends frequent moisturization with a bland emollient like Vaseline or Aquaphor to promote faster healing after laser, and recommends to expect crusting, swelling, and redness for at least a week after treatment. As the laser treated skin heals further, redness and swelling resolve; and most patients can return to work and social obligations in 10-12 days after treatment. Sun protection is key for maintaining an even skin tone after your treatment, so sunscreen with physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide is preferable and routinely recommended after CO2 laser. Autumn and winter are the best times to schedule a CO2 laser treatment, especially if you are considering receiving multiple treatments since sun exposure is more limited and the weather is cooler.
Do you want to know more about CO2 laser treatment? Give our office a call at 678-974-8435 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Fishman today!