Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Best Results

1/2

Best Results
Best Results

Best Results

1/2

Duration of Results

Longterm

Duration of Results
Duration of Results

Duration of Results

Longterm

Treatment recovery

2 weeks +

Treatment recovery
Treatment recovery

Treatment recovery

2 weeks +

Risks & complications

Medium

Risks & complications
Risks & complications

Risks & complications

Medium

Anaesthetic

Topical/sedative

Anaesthetic
Anaesthetic

Anaesthetic

Topical/sedative

Procedure time

30min - 2hrs

Procedure time
Procedure time

Procedure time

30min - 2hrs

Skin specialist

Doctor

Skin specialist
Skin specialist

Skin specialist

Doctor

Back to work

1 week

Back to work
Back to work

Back to work

1 week

Ablative Laser Resurfacing Overview

Ablative laser skin therapy, also called photofacial or photorejuvenation, is an invasive skin resurfacing treatment used to remove the outer (epidermal) and a portion of the dermal layers of skin.

Examples of brands include, but are not limited to, Fraxel® Re:Pair, Pixel® 2940 and 3JUVE®

Ablative fractional lasers lead to destruction of the epidermal and a portion of the dermal skin layers. This controlled, intentional injury created by skin resurfacing lasers, triggering extensive skin repair. During this process, new, thicker layers of skin, with higher levels of collagen and elastin, are laid down. The new skin will have significantly fewer lines, wrinkles and pigmentation, revealing smoother, softer, younger-looking skin.

Whilst they are far more effective than non-ablative skin treatments, they have more severe side effects, require a much longer recovery time and have a higher risk of complications.

This treatment guide has been verified and edited by Dr Sophie Shotter.

How does ablative laser resurfacing work?

A laser is simply a very high-energy beam of light. Different lasers can be set to different wavelengths of light. This enables the practitioner to determine the strength of the laser and the depth to which it penetrates the skin, but they can also choose the correct laser for your skin tone.

Ablative, or skin resurfacing lasers, deliver an intense burst of laser energy to the area being treated in a precise, controlled manner. The light energy is transferred into heat energy within the specific layers of skin. This causes the water, and therefore the cells, to vapourise. This results in the epidermis and some of the dermis effectively being peeled away. This controlled, but intensive, skin damage leaves the skin red, sore and weepy. As the saying goes “No pain, no gain!” And that certainly applies to ablative laser resurfacing treatments.

Ablative laser treatments can be fractional, where columns of skin are vapourised, leaving healthy skin around the columns. This is a less aggressive ablative laser treatment than non-fractional ablative treatments, which remove the whole area being treated (see diagram).

Following the intentional, controlled injury, the skin repairs itself by growing new skin cells and producing additional elastin and collagen. Once healed, the new skin is thicker, and smoother with fewer wrinkles, scars and pigmentation.

What is ablative laser resurfacing used for?

Ablative laser skin resurfacing treatments are best for those who have significant signs of skin ageing, want dramatic results, fast and those who can take 1-2 weeks off work.

Ablative laser treatments are used to dramatically improve the appearance of:

  • Deep wrinkles
  • Scars (including acne scars)
  • Warts
  • Enlarged pores
  • Dark spots and pigmentation

Ablative laser resurfacing may not be suitable if you have:

  • a history of keloid scarring
  • An active herpes infection
  • Impetigo
  • Active acne
  • A dark tan or black skin (nb there are certain brands of laser machine which are suitable for dark skin tones)
  • Used isotretinoin in the last year
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • It is also not suitable for smokers

How should I prepare for ablative laser resurfacing?

Your practitioner may ask you to prepare for your treatment by:

6-8 weeks prior to your treatment you should avoid sun exposure and false tanning products.

4 weeks prior to your treatment, to prepare your skin and to kick start the production of collagen, your practitioner may recommend you use a topical retinoid product alongside exfoliating acids, such as alpha-hydroxy acid-based creams.

2 weeks prior to your treatment, your practitioner may prescribe an anti-viral medicine (Acyclovir) if you are prone to cold sores.They may also recommend taking an oral antibiotic prior to and following the treatment, to prevent a bacterial infection.

1 week prior to your treatment you should:

Stop taking aspirin, NSAIDs and Vitamin E supplements

Complete the Fitzpatrick test and have a patch test

NB: Before and after your ablative laser treatment you need to avoid sun exposure. Ideally, you will avoid the sun for at least 2 months prior to your treatment. Equally, to get the best out of your laser treatment, you should avoid sun exposure following your treatment. Investing in, and using, a broad spectrum SPF 50 product every day is advised.

What happens during an ablative laser resurfacing treatment?

Step One - Step One - The Consultation and Consent

On arrival at the clinic, your practitioner will complete a detailed personal and medical history form with you.

They will discuss your medical history and clearly highlight the realistic, expected result of the treatment.

Step Two - Step Two - Your Non-ablative Laser Resurfacing Treatment

Your skin will be thoroughly cleansed with an antiseptic cleanser and a local anaesthetic will be administered to the area being treated.

Step Three - Step Three - The Check-up

You should be offered a check-up a couple of days following your ablative laser treatment. This will allow the practitioner to check your progress and provide advice. They may also prescribe a further course of painkillers or steroids. It is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions and raise any concerns you may have.

If a number of laser sessions were suggested in your initial consultation, your practitioner will suggest when you may wish to book further treatments.

Step Four - Step Four - The Repeat Treatment

Depending on the particular issue you were having treated, you may be advised to have additional treatments, 4-6 weeks from your original treatment.

Your practitioner will advise regarding when you may require a repeat treatment.

What happens after an ablative laser resurfacing treatment?

Ablative laser treatments, like CO2 laser, strip the outer layers of the epidermis and the dermal layers of skin. They are as invasive as non-surgical aesthetic treatments get. You will likely need to take a week off work, allowing your skin to heal.

Immediately after having your treatment, you will look like you have severe sunburn. The treated area will be red, swollen, itchy and will become blistered. Your skin will remain like this for about a week.

If you have been given a sedative during your treatment, you should ensure you have someone to drive you home.

Your skin will ooze, crust and then peel. The peeling process indicates that your skin is healing itself. DO NOT PEEL OR SCRATCH. You will be creating more damage if you peel, scratch or roll the healing layers of skin.

It goes without saying that you should contact your practitioner if you have any questions, worries or concerns. Indeed, a good practitioner will be in regular contact with you following your treatment.

Week 1 - During this week, the aim is to keep your skin clean, cool, moist and lubricated.

Clean your skin several times a day with a sterile salt solution and gauze/muslin cloth. Do not scrub. Simply douse your skin with the saline solution and very gently pat with the gauze. Apply a layer of petroleum jelly or Aquaphor.

Sleep with your head and shoulders elevated and use an icepack on the first few days.

Do not undertake any strenuous exercise. Avoid hot showers and baths.

Do not expose your skin to any sun. The aim is to keep your skin cool.

Keep taking any painkillers or steroids as prescribed by your practitioner.

Week 2 - Don’t undo the good work you did in week 1!

Your skin should be healing nicely. It may remain red/pink for a number of months (this is especially true if you have red hair or are naturally blonde), but as long as you have no oozing or raw skin, you should be able to begin to wear light makeup.

You should still avoid strenuous exercise and anything which causes your treated skin to heat up/sweat.

Protect your new skin. Avoid sun exposure. Wear a minimum of SPF 50 everyday, not just when you are in the sun. Wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Keep taking any painkillers or steroids as prescribed by your practitioner.

What are the side effects and risks of ablative laser resurfacing?

Aside from the expected redness, swelling, weeping skin and peeling post laser resurfacing, there are other potential complications to be mindful of:

Infection - the skin is a natural barrier, protecting you from infection.Without the epidermal barrier, the skin is prone to infection.

Skin Redness (erythma) - This can last for several months.In rare cases, it can last much longer.

Small, raised cysts (milia) - These usually appear 6-8 weeks after treatment and may remain for days/weeks.

Hyperpigmentation - For those with darker skin tones, hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) can sometimes occur.

Hypopigmentation - very rarely, the treated skin may become lighter.

Scarring - very rarely, scarring of the skin can occur post treatment.This can occasionally be permanent.

Please ensure you discuss all of these potential side effects and risks with your practitioner PRIOR to going ahead with your treatment. You have to make and educated and informed decision reagarding your treatment. At no time are you obliged to go ahead, so ensure you are fully aware of the benefits and risks of ablative laser resurfacing.

How much does ablative laser resurfacing cost?

Often at around £1000 per unit.

1 unit - cheeks

2 units - half face and chin

3 units - full face

Glowday Disclaimer

All information in our Glowday Treatment Guides and blog articles is intended for reference and information. The information given here is to help you make informed decisions when considering the wide range of non-surgical aesthetic treatments available.

It is NOT intended as medical advice. Any reliance placed by you on the information contained within the Glowday Treatment Guides, Glowday blog articles or on any of Glowday.com is done by you at your own risk.

Before undergoing any non-surgical cosmetic treatment mentioned anywhere on Glowday.com, you should fully consult with an appropriately qualified and accredited practitioner who is properly trained in and fully insured to conduct the treatment you are interested in. Neither the author of the guides or blog articles, or the practitioner who has verified the guides nor Glowery Limited can be held responsible or liable for any loss or claim arising from the use or misuse of the content of Glowday.com.

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