Cosmetic laser treatments have been a powerful anti-aging tool for many years, but today, they are safer and more effective than ever before. Laser treatments work by resurfacing the top layers of facial skin to encourage new skin growth and reduce overall signs of aging. Laser skin surgery is also known as laser skin resurfacing, laser treatments, or laser peels, since they work by destroying old skin cells and encouraging new growth.

Laser skin surgery can be used to treat a number of different skin problems, including:

  • Wrinkles & fine lines
  • Sun damage
  • Brown spots/uneven pigmentation
  • Acne scars
  • Dull or rough skin

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There are two main types of laser treatments: ablative and non-ablative.

Ablative lasers can be successfully used to address the significant signs of aging. However, the procedure is also aggressive.  Patients find ablative treatments can a greater discomfort, and require more recovery time, following the procedure. These lasers can also produce dramatic reductions in skin wrinkling, uneven pigmentation, and other age-related skin problems. Most treatments are generally one-time procedures.

Non-ablative lasers are more suitable for people with mild to moderate signs of aging. These are less invasive, but can still produce good results for many patients. Most of these treatments can be performed under topical or local anesthesia. These treatments can also be repeated if desired for improved results. This type of laser treatment is more appropriate for patients with darker skin as well, since the treatment is gentler and less likely to result in uneven skin pigmentation.

Laser Skin Surgery Consultation

If you are interested in finding out if laser skin surgery is right for you, the first step is an in-person consultation with one of our cosmetic surgeons at Emory Aesthetic Center in Atlanta. During your consultation, our cosmetic surgeon will evaluate your face, and discuss your goals for the procedure. Images may be taken during your visit for evaluation purposes, and you will then have a chance to find out more about what laser skin surgery can accomplish for you. Once you have discussed all the options that may work for your needs, we will explain your options for laser skin correction. If laser treatments are a good fit for you, our surgeons will work with you to choose the right laser and treatment plan for your needs.

Laser Skin Surgery Candidates

Laser skin surgery is extremely popular, and the procedure is a good fit for many people struggling with lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and minor scarring. However, not everyone is a good candidate for the procedure, and it is important to get an honest assessment of your candidacy for your own safety, and to avoid disappointment in the results. Our surgeons will discuss any concerns they have during your consultation, and will ask you questions about your health history and medications. They may suggest an alternative procedure, if they feel laser skin surgery is unsafe or unsuitable to help you to meet your anti-aging goals. However, most healthy adults with mild to moderate signs of aging are good candidates for laser treatments.

Laser Skin Surgery Procedure

The laser treatment procedure is essentially the same for all laser types, though there are variations in the type of anesthesia used. For ablative lasers, typically sedation with local anesthesia or general anesthesia will be used. Non-ablative laser treatments may only involve topical anesthesia.

Once the area is numb, the surgeon will use a special laser hand piece to carefully target the light from the laser to destroy aged, damaged, and rough skin. This does not produce an instantaneous result, as the skin will need a chance to regrow and renew itself over the next few days. Once the entire area is treated in this manner, the procedure is complete.

Laser Skin Surgery Recovery

Depending on the type of laser, patients will experience varying levels of discomfort following the procedure. Ablative lasers usually require some downtime, while fractional laser treatments typically allow patients to return to normal activities almost immediately. It is important for all patients to avoid sun exposure for several months after treatment to avoid unwanted hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin).

Following ablative laser treatment, the skin will need to heal over a period of about five to ten days, on average. Discomfort from the procedure can typically be controlled with prescribed medication, which should not be required beyond a few days. Specific instructions will be provided to patients on what to do (and what not to do) to help the skin heal properly and avoid complications. With ablative laser treatment, the skin may be red for several weeks after the procedure.

Non-ablative laser treatments require less downtime than ablative laser surgery, but the skin will still be pink for about a week. It is recommended that this treatment be repeated at three to six week intervals for best results.

Laser Skin Surgery FAQs

Absolutely. Our Georgia cosmetic surgeons will be happy to recommend the best procedure or procedures for your needs at the time of your consultation. Many patients choose to have a combination or series of procedures to achieve the desired results. Patients can also combine laser treatments along with surgical treatments, such as a facelift.

The face is the most common area of treatment, though some patients do elect to have treatment on the hands, neck, and chest areas, as these are prone to sun damage and discoloration over the years.

Every procedure has its risks, though these can be minimized by taking proper precautions, like choosing the right cosmetic surgeon, and practicing good aftercare. Potential risks of laser treatments include:

  • Infection
  • Poor healing
  • Changes in skin pigmentation (hyper - or hypopigmentation)
  • Scarring

Serious complications are rare, and your surgeon will carefully assess your risk factors prior to the procedure to ensure you are a good candidate. Following all pre - and post-operative instructions is essential for getting optimal results from any procedure.

It is more risky for people with dark skin to undergo laser treatments, because resurfacing the skin can cause pigmentation irregularities. However, the gentler fractional lasers can be a good resurfacing option for people with darker skin, as it is a less invasive procedure that carries less risk of hyper- and hypopigmentation.

Most laser skin surgeries do not require an overnight stay. The procedure is normally performed on an outpatient basis.

All surgical procedures and laser treatments involve some swelling, but the amount will depend on the extent and type of procedure. Ablative lasers produce more swelling which will take longer to subside.

Results appear gradually. Patients who have undergone more in-depth laser procedures should expect to see final results after a few months. This is when all redness and swelling has subsided and the skin has restored itself.

The skin is very vulnerable to sun damage following laser skin surgery. Treated skin should be protected from the sun, especially for the first six months or so. Treated skin is more susceptible to brown pigmentation from the sun during this period, so avoiding the sun as well as wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunscreen are highly recommended.