Please enjoy this guest blog post on a topic lots of moms are curious about…
It seems like every day, I run across an ad, article, or online post hammering home the importance of protecting your skin from the sun. This is advice I’ve taken to heart over the years. Although I wasn’t too diligent in sunscreen application when I was younger (teenagers are invincible, remember?), I wised up soon after. Therefore, I slather some sunscreen on pretty much every morning.
If you’re like me, you probably associate light exposure with skin damage such as freckles, wrinkles, and even cancer. So it can seem counterintuitive to consider lasers — sources of intense, concentrated light — as options for improving your skin. But the results don’t lie. These procedures are picking up a lot of steam throughout the country thanks to their versatility and simplicity. There seems to be a laser for nearly every skin concern under the sun, and they’re non-surgical, meaning many treatments don’t require any significant recovery.
In response to the rising interest in laser treatments, I’ve created a quick rundown of the different types of lasers out there along with how they work.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Most CO2 lasers, including the popular Fraxel® system, use a fractionated CO2 laser. Instead of administering laser energy in a solid beam, fractionated lasers break apart the energy into very small “pillars” of light. These pillars penetrate skin only in precise areas, leaving the surrounding skin untouched. The laser energy encourages skin to produce an excess of collagen in order to heal itself. The new collagen tightens sagging skin and smooths away surface irregularities, including scars. According to the website of Dr. Susan Stuart, a dermatologist outside San Diego, a Fraxel treatment is powerful enough to necessitate the use of light topical anesthetic. However, it doesn’t require any significant downtime.
Erbium laser resurfacing typically requires less downtime than CO2 laser treatments. It works in much the same way, by stimulating the skin’s natural healing processes to go into overdrive. Both CO2 and erbium lasers are ablative, which means they vaporize damaged skin in addition to encouraging new, healthy skin to take its place.
Used most often to treat rosacea, spider veins, and other vascular lesions, the pulsed-dye laser is non-ablative and therefore gentler on skin. Pulsed-dye energy is absorbed by the skin and scatters the pigment in colored lesions such as dark spots or scars. People who undergo treatment with a pulsed-dye laser often see some bruising and additional discoloration after treatment, but these signs go away quickly and take the original lesion with them.
In case you were curious, “YAG” stands for yttrium aluminum garnet, which is the crystal used as the medium for laser energy in these particular devices. However, what it means isn’t as important as what it does. YAG lasers are especially popular throughout the entire field of medicine and are often used in ophthalmology, dermatology, oncology, and more. In aesthetics, YAG layers are just as versatile and are often the lasers of choice for tattoo removal, hair removal, and spider veins.
Treatments that use radiofrequency energy, intense pulsed light, and ultrasound energy often get lumped into the same category as lasers, but they each have different mechanisms of action. Generally speaking, these treatments are even gentler than the least-invasive lasers and can treat everything from sagging skin to freckles to facial hair.
A Little About Dr. Susan M. Stuart:
Before leading La Jolla Dermatology, Dr. Stuart earned her B.A. from the prestigious Duke University and went on to receive her M.D. at Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her residency at Emory University’s dermatology training program after finishing a highly competitive 1-year internship at Mercy Hospital Medical Center in San Diego. After her 8 years of postgraduate education, Dr. Stuart began offering her knowledge and services to San Diego, and has remained in the area ever since. Dr. Stuart is an avid learner and stays current on the newest trends and innovations in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She has worked with several internationally respected laser experts and dermatologist which has led her to long being considered one of San Diego’s leading experts in laser dermatology. To learn more about Dr. Stuart, please visit her bio page today!
Susan M. Stuart, MD
9850 Genesee Ave #480
La Jolla, CA 92037