Laser Skin Rejuvenation
Scott A. Asher, MD
When it comes to plastic surgery, it’s easy to simply tell your surgeon what your problem is, and ask them just to “fix it.” But, some consumers want to know more about what they are getting themselves into before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a treatment. We find speaking to patients about lasers is one of the most technically difficult subjects to explain.
One of the most popular laser treatments our patients choose is a Lumenis Accupulse Fractional CO2. What the heck does that do for you? Well, to put it simply, it’s an excellent laser for overall skin rejuvenation, and below we’ll try to better explain why.
Patients will often tell me they had a “Solta” laser treatment, or a “Lumenis” laser treatment. Unfortunately this can get complicated, because when a patient refers to a laser treatment by the company that makes the laser, they probably are unaware that each company may make a dozen different types of lasers for plastic surgeons to use. Other popular laser company names one might recognize are “Alma,” “Syneron/Candela,” “CynoSure,” “Sciton,” and “Cutera.” Any of the above companies is going to produce a trustworthy unit, but know that many cosmetic providers may opt to purchase a less expensive laser which may provide a less uniform/consistent treatment.
Rather than by brand, it may often be easier to categorize a laser based on the wavelength of light produced, or what is known as the optical gain medium. Now this gets to be pretty nerdy rather quickly… But, basically, instead of using the company names like “Lumenis” we describe the treatments by names such as CO2, Erbium-YAG, Nd-YAG, Diode, Pulse-Dye, Ruby, Alexandrite, KTP, etc., etc. Each of these types of lasers has a different target, or “chromophore” by which the laser energy will be absorbed. For example, CO2 lasers target water, and since skin is most made of water anyway, it is a great way for the energy of the laser to target the skin as a whole for overall rejuvenation. By strategically injuring the skin with a laser, it stimulates new collagen growth so that when it regenerates it is healthier than before the treatment.
If all this scientific mumbo-jumbo hasn’t already blown your mind… know that the complexity of laser technology continues to escalate. Some lasers can harness a technology known as “fractionation.” You may also see this called “fractionated” or “fractional” laser treatments. Overall, these newer fractional treatments allow for a much quicker recovery, and also minimize any risks of complications compared to older types of outdated laser treatments. Fractional means rather than an “all-or-none” type of skin resurfacing treatment like a chemical peel, or older generation laser, only a fraction of the skin is affected by the laser beams. On a microscopic level a computer algorithm is able to leave tiny islands of the skin untouched, which are then allowed to heal the treated areas of the skin from within. Imagine a microscopic checkerboard where the treated areas of skin are the red squares and the untreated areas of skin are the black squares. This is much more efficient than new skin having to grow in from the untreated edges of the neck and scalp and grow up from the deep pores and hair follicles where the laser beams didn’t reach. The degree of fractionation can be adjusted depending on how aggressive or minimally invasive the patient would like the treatment to be. Even leaving a very small percentage of the skin untreated makes a dramatic difference in the recovery time. Whereas older laser treatments and deep chemical peels used to leave patients unsightly for months at a time, these newer treatments have on average about a week of downtime. All fractionated treatments are blended to avoid any areas of obvious demarcation, which is another concern for many patients. Many patients have heard of the “Fraxel” laser. It was produced by Solta, and was the first laser on the market to employ this fractional technology in an Erbium-YAG type laser system. But, fractional lasers are now produced by most major companies, for many different wavelengths of light such as CO2, Erbium-YAG, etc. i.e. fractional lasers do not have to be a “Fraxel.”
So, to recap, why is the Lumenis Accupulse Fractional CO2 treatment one of the most popular laser treatments our patients choose? The CO2 wavelength of light has the best scientific data showing results for rejuvenating aging skin (improving texture, tone, wrinkles, etc.) compared to other laser wavelengths such as Erbium-YAG, etc. Fractional treatments are safer and have less downtime than earlier generation “all-or-none” laser treatments. Lumenis is one of the most trusted companies in the marketplace, and their systems are very consistent in the hands of an experienced surgeon making the outcomes reliable. The Accupulse system is newest groundbreaking laser by Lumenis, utilizing the latest technology for uncompromising accuracy and precision. And, most importantly, our patients choose to have a treatment with someone who understands these lasers inside and out.