Everything you need to know about Laser Skin Procedures
Everything you need to know about
Laser Skin (Whitening) Lightening
A fair and spotless skin is a dream cherished by every woman across the world since time immemorial. Decades back, our ancestors resorted to several homemade exotic ingredients to get a glowing, soft, and fair skin. Much has been said about the seductive beauty of Cleopatra who also used various natural products as part of her beauty regimen. But today in the midst of hustle-bustle, women around the world are faced with constraints when it comes to maintaining their beauty regimen. They neither have the time nor the patience to prepare the historic natural masks and wait for days before getting the desired results.
This is where the scientific world stepped in to make life easier for women and voila! A fairness miracle happened in the form of laser treatment!
What exactly is laser skin whitening?
Laser skin lightening (or resurfacing) is a medical procedure in which concentrated beams of short pulsed light are cast upon the targeted areas of skin to remove unwanted, irregular, and damaged skin. The process stimulates the new growth of fresh skin cells which ultimately leads to lighter skin tones. The procedure takes anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
This treatment is widely used to treat skin conditions such as wrinkles, acne marks, and hyperpigmentation problems such as uneven skin tones (due to overproduction of melanin), melasma, chloasma, liver spots and age spots and also the discolouration issues.
History of laser skin whitening
The laser skin whitening procedure was started in early 1980s with the inception of the carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers which were used for the first time to deliver many light beams into the skin. With the number of harmful side effects arising from this procedure, the methodology was modified. A new range of erbium lasers and (CO2) lasers were used with the ability to deliver very short and “quick-pulse “ of light energy to the skin and in a very controlled manner.
Types of laser skin whitening
There are three types of laser skin whitening procedures.
1) Ablative Laser Resurfacing
The one that we mentioned earlier (the new range of lasers that delivers short-pulsed light energy to the skin) is known as ablative laser resurfacing. It is considered to be the most effective procedure. In this procedure, the top most layers of the skin and a part of the sub layers underneath are removed by vaporizing the affected tissue. This is a one-time treatment. Being the most effective also has its side effects. This procedure has significant complication risks and a prolonged recovery time of 2 – 3 weeks. Hence, it is recommended that you see an experienced laser surgeon who can guide you depending on your skin requirements. Ablative lasers include;
Carbon dioxide (CO2) laser: This is laser which use a gas based mixture to vaporize the targeted skin; to promote collagen and elastin tissue production. As new tissue is formed, hyperpigmented skin, wrinkles and fine lines are reduced giving rise to a youthful and lighter skin.
Erbium:YAG (Er:YAG) laser: The procedure uses Erbium doped solid-state laser to induce controlled scarring of the skin. As the skin heals, new cells are formed reducing dark pigmentation and damaged skin.
2) Non-ablative Laser Resurfacing
The next type of laser skin whitening is the non-ablative laser resurfacing procedures. Here, non-ablative lasers penetrate through the skin without damaging the top surface of the skin. The lasers curdle the affected skin tissue, while the outermost layer is kept intact, aiding faster recovery and healing. The downtime is minimal, but as opposed to ablative laser resurfacing, several treatments may be required in this case. Nonablative laser skin resurfacing include treatments such as Fraxel RE: store and Fraxel RE: pair.
3) Fractional Skin Resurfacing
The third type is the fractional skin resurfacing. This procedure utilizes the combination of non-ablative and ablative techniques which leads to a more efficient result, at the same time minimizing risk and aiding a faster recovery time. In this treatment, micro-beams of energy are directed to areas of affected tissues, all the way from the upper most layer through to the epidermis (underlying layers of the skin) below.
Both the non-ablative laser resurfacing and fractional resurfacing procedures are not as efficient as ablative laser resurfacing, but they still stimulate the body to replace affected tissues with new tissues, leading to the radiant and younger-looking skin.
4) IPL Laser Skin Resurfacing
The intense pulsed light or IPL laser is yet another laser used in skin resurfacing. The distinction from the other traditional forms of laser is that it uses multiple wavelengths of light to treat the skin. It has the added advantage of allowing the surgeon to alternate the laser’s wavelengths; thus it can be used on different skin types to treat different skin layers.
The positives of laser skin whitening
- Faster results
There are numerous whitening treatments available in the market. While most skin lightening treatments take many weeks to portray effective results, the laser resurfacing provides faster results and changes to your skin are visible right away. Just after laser treatments, your skin appears radiant, softer, and brighter and improves progressively as it takes over three to six months to heal. This stands true when it comes to ablative laser treatments where you only need only one to two sittings to get rid of the damaged skin and also improve the appearance of your skin. For non-ablative laser treatments, the time taken can be a bit longer as it requires one to five sessions for desired results.
- Most effective way
Among all the skin whitening products that are available in the market, laser resurfacing technology has been proven to be the most effective way to get the radiant and younger looking skin. Also, laser treatments works on some skin issues such as fine lines and wrinkles, removing acne scars, repairing damage from the sun, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots.
- Professional Treatment
Also, laser treatments are under quite a lot of professional surveillance. Patients are handled by professionals during and also after the skin treatment. The effects are continuously monitored and, in case of any complications, trained doctors are called in to help with the problems.
The negatives of laser skin whitening
While modern laser technology has proven to work wonders when it comes to enhancing skin appearances by assisting in the reduction of skin blemishes and dark spots, there are possible side effects that you should be aware of. The most common laser skin brightening side effects are:
- Prolonged swelling and redness of the treated area
- Skin scarring
- Skin blistering
- Cold sore reactivation
- Skin scabbing
- Changes in skin pigmentation
- Tightness and discomfort of the treated area
- Turning of the eyelid after aggressive treatment
- Acne formation due to skin breakouts
- Other kinds of infections
The laser treatments work by disrupting the cell structure under the skin surface. This means that there is a possibility that the procedure can damage the cells that produce melanin. Damage to the cells producing melanin can either cause increased melanin production that darkens the skin (hyperpigmentation) or, decreased melanin production that lightens the skin (hypopigmentation) in some rare cases.
How much does laser skin lightening cost?
The laser skin resurfacing treatment costs may vary depending on the area of skin where the treatment is to be targeted and the type of laser used. Yet, it is one of the costliest skin whitening treatments. In some instances, several sessions may be needed for best results. Pricing is packaged depending on the size of area of treatment; arms and legs, underarms, facial and full body.
To have a better understanding of how much you can spend on the treatment let’s look at the cost in different regions. For comparison purposes, we have based our research in US Dollars.
Laser Resurfacing cost in US
As per the Society of Plastic Surgeons Society of America Statistics (ASPS 2017), $2,124 is the average expenditure of laser resurfacing of skin for an ablative procedure. On the other hand $1,114 is the average cost for the non-ablative treatments. Usually, treatments can range between $600 and $3500.
A single minor procedure costs around $200 but the costs goes up since 3 - 5 or more revisits are usually required. Judging from information on different laser clinic websites, getting a laser treatment by a surgeon can be slightly costly than consulting a dermatologist.
Laser Skin Resurfacing Cost in UK
A spot check shows that localized or treatment on a small area costs an equivalent of $400 and above. When going for full body laser whitening, expect to pay upwards of $3000. Doctor consultation costs ranges from $200 to $300.
Typical costs for different methods include; fraxel laser resurfacing from $600, CO2 laser from $800. Advanced procedures like Erbium laser resurfacing cost $1800 and above. Complete treatment sessions cost on average $2750 in London and $2175 in other cities around UK. These figures are based on practitioner’s data and online reviews.
Laser Skin Resurfacing Cost in India
Traditionally, most practitioners of these treatments did not overly disclose their fees until one went for consultation. However with increased internet marketing and online presence, it’s possible to get an overview of the costs associated with the procedures.
Consultation costs between $15 and $30. On average, treatment costs $15 and $575 depending on the type of laser used and the circumference of the treatment area. According to MediFee, a consortium of medical professionals which research on medical fees across India, Mumbai ranks the highest with the treatment costing from $170 to upwards of $1000. The survey took into account different clinics and hospitals in 10 cities. In New Delhi expect to pay up to $580 for the treatment and up to $360 in Bangalore and Chennai.
Preparation for the treatment
To ensure that your skin is ready for treatment, the surgeon or dermatologist will start you off on a pre-treatment regiment. This is usually done 6 weeks in advance. Typically you will be required to use a range of skin care products that are meant to nourish you skin. These are products customized to suit your specific type of skin to reduce possible complications and get the best out of your laser whitening.
Topical creams will be prescribed to aid in unclogging pores and boost collagen production in your skin. They also speed up the rate of cells turnover for a healthier epidermal and dermal layer. Such creams, if applied as per instruction will result to skin improvement in as little as 4 weeks.
Smoking should be stopped at least 2 weeks before the procedure. The reason being it dries out the skin which can lead to less than ideal treatment results. A dry skin heals slower which increases the possibility of post-treatment infection. With that in mind, you should also not smoke for at least 2 weeks after the procedure.
Blood thinning medication should be stopped 6 weeks to the treatment. These medications prevent blood from clotting which can lengthen the healing process. Such include anticoagulants like heparin,rivaroxaban and apixaban. Others like aspirin and tirofiban are antiplatelet agents; which inhibit platelets aggregation. Some of the drugs may also interact adversely with post treatment medication.
You will also be advised to decrease or stop alcohol consumption 6 weeks before the treatment. Sun exposure should also be kept at a minimum to reduce skin’s photosensitivity to the lasers. Prophylactic antivirals and antibiotics may also be prescribed if you have a history of cold sores or herpes.
Expert Tip: Preoperative measures are just as important as the procedure itself hence you should go to a reputable laser clinic. Most treatments that go wrong are as a result of rushed procedures on un-ready skin.
Recovery after laser skin whitening
After laser treatment, the skin can react in numerous ways. Most people get a mild tingling sensation, like sunburns, after the treatment. The skin may also show signs of redness and swelling after the procedure. Itching or stinging are also common for the first couple of days. In case of blondes and redheads, the redness tends to last longer.
If you are going for a laser treatment, then you should be ready to experience a long recovery time and talk to your surgeon regarding the same. The time will vary based on the type of treatment. Simple treatments just need a day or two to settle down. But if you go for a full facial treatment, it involves having a dressing applied on the targeted skin area which needs to be kept for 7-21 days.
Also, aggressive treatments can lead the skin to become raw. Blisters may appear, and sometimes you may notice a yellow liquid oozing out from the targeted areas and forming a crust. Never try to pick at the crusts as you may end up with deep scarring. Give it some time (5 days to a week), and you notice the crust peeling off and new rejuvenating skin coming up in the treated areas. The skin will also lighten over a period. You might experience some extra sensitivity to light right after the treatment. It is recommended that you put on sunscreen every day and minimize sun exposure.
Alternatives to laser resurfacing
Laser skin resurfacing can be scary and may not be everyone's cup of tea. It can also be prohibitive due to high cost and unavailability of qualified practitioners. Good news is that there are other procedures that can remove the outermost skin surface and hasten the growth of newer and healthier skin. Such procedures include:
Dermabrasion: A skin exfoliation procedure that uses a rotating surgical device.
Microdermabrasion: The procedure involves use of tiny abrasive materials or diamond tipped devices to exfoliate skin.
Chemical peels: Use of acid based substances to ‘peel’ or remove the outermost skin layer for a lighter skin tone.
Yes, laser skin whitening treatment is a very effective and faster way to get the radiant, fair, and young skin that you dream of. But it is very important that you understand the risks before you get down to the surgery. We recommend that you talk with your surgeon, understand the risks, and take all necessary precautions before jumping right into it.
We would love to hear your experiences with laser skin whitening treatments in the comments below!
Sonia Knight is the founder of be:skinformed.Apart from having her own experience with hyperpigmentation, Sonia has gained vast knowledge in the dermatology field. For more info on this, check out our about us page.