Laser Resurfacing: Fractional CO2
Redding is the second sunniest city in the country—second only to Yuma, Arizona. Given the balmy climate, and large amount of fair skinned people who call Redding home, there are a significant amount of people with severe sun damage. Additionally, generally folks who are in their 50s or older, rarely used sunscreen as children. In fact, many people would sunbathe with oils mixed with iodine. Needless to say, this combination was very damaging for the skin.
What is a CO2 laser?
At the risk of boring those folks not interested in the physics of lasers, I will touch on a few laser concepts. All lasers produce a specific wavelength of light. The specific wavelength that the laser utilizes will correlate with the specific tissue that absorbs that wavelength. CO2 lasers have a wavelength that is absorbed by water. This is great news, because the skin is mostly made up of water, and as such the skin absorbs the CO2 wavelength. This explains, why the CO2 laser is effective at resurfacing skin.
What is the difference between CO2 laser resurfacing and fractional CO2 laser resurfacing?
In the past CO2 laser resurfacing was the technique of choice for plastic surgeons/cosmetic dermatologists, with the goal of improvement of deep and fine facial wrinkles. This goal was achieved, as many patients achieved significant improvement in their skin. However, the aggressiveness of the laser also leads to complications such as hypopigmentation and scarring issues.
In the last decade, there has been a significant leap forward in technology. This improvement, called “fractional” CO2 laser resurfacing, has continued to achieve significant results for patients, while minimizing the risks of the old technology (scarring and pigmentation issues). Additionally, the postoperative pain is less and healing is much quicker. In fact, most of our patients, are back to work within 5-10 days, depending on the depth of treatment.
What can fractional CO2 lasers treat?
Fractional CO2 lasers are excellent for acne scars, deep lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, pigmentation abnormalities and may even improve mild skin laxity.
What is the difference between chemical peels vs. lasers vs. dermabrasion?
In short, all of these treatments are designed to remove the outer layer of skin, and allow new more youthful skin to take its place. Chemical peels do this by producing a chemical burn. This is often effective, but only in experienced hands. Dermabrasion is a high speed burr that mechanically “abrades” the skin to a specific depth. Dermabrasion is highly effective, especially for perioral rhytids. Fractional CO2 lasers is essentially a controlled burn to the skin.
Which resurfacing methods do I prefer?
As a Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, when people come to my office, they expect expert knowledge, techniques, and results. As such, I offer treatments that are designed to get results. I perform dermabrasion and fractional CO2 laser procedures on a regular basis. Although chemical peels have a role in resurfacing, I prefer the other techniques, as I feel they give me more control of the depth of penetration.
Determine a treatment plan and prepare your skin for laser treatment.
A good pre-laser regimen is as important as the laser treatment itself. There are many factors that are considered when developing a customized pre-laser treatment including: skin type and tone, prior resurfacing procedures, depth of facial rhytids, and severity of sun damage. Hydroquinone products will help prevent hyperpigmentation after laser treatments. Retinol products (Retin-A) help thin the superficial layer of skin and motivates cells to divide and multiply. Your surgeon will also discuss with you the avoidance of sun.
Written by Dr. Randy Tate