When talking about lasers, intense pulse light (IPL), or radio frequency resurfacing, you will find there is a clutter of complex, technical information that is hard to decipher. Perhaps the best way to start making sense of skin resurfacing procedures is to understand the technical information involved in skin resurfacing procedures- the kind of resurfacing methods being used, how they work, and then what machines are employed to perform those tasks.
Generally, lasers, IPL, or radio frequency resurfacing machines function as either ablative or non-ablative modalities.
Ablative laser resurfacing targets both the surface and the lower layers of skin. Ablative resurfacing can make a significant improvement in deep wrinkles, surface wrinkles, and skin discolorations. But serious risks can occur with ablative resurfacing. These include swelling, scabbing, oozing, bleeding, flaking, redness, and irritation, and there is also a risk of longer-term skin discoloration and scarring. So for ablative skin resurfacing, the quality of the laser skin resurfacing machine used and the skill of the physician are both very important. After ablative laser treatment, the skin oozes, crusts and needs to be cleaned and dressed for about two weeks. Because the top layer of skin has been stripped away, the raw, exposed skin needs to be cleaned and treated very carefully. Patients need to make sure they follow post-op care instructions precisely, because inconsistency or incomplete care can cause infection, delay healing, and increase irritation.
Non-ablative treatments target the lower layers of skin (dermis), while leaving the skin's surface (epidermis) unharmed and intact. Non-ablative resurfacing has none of the side effects associated with ablative resurfacing. However, non-ablative resurfacing doesn't produce the same dramatic or impressive results as ablative resurfacing does. Not only are the results subtle, but multiple treatments are required for any kind of noticeable outcome. The advantage for non-ablative resurfacing is its minimal downtime; women can reapply makeup before leaving the doctor's office and return to work the same day.
Resurfacing the skin with lasers can work as ablative or non-ablative procedures depending on the type of laser used, while IPL and radio frequency resurfacing are non-ablative resurfacing. The laser used by skin resurfacing emits a powerful beam of a specific wavelength of light. The beam is strong enough to heat the surface of the skin, causing a superficial burn of the tissue. An ablative laser can remove deep wrinkling and scars from the surface of skin and penetrates deeper into skin tissue, reorganizing and stimulating production of collagen and elastin fibers in the process, while non-ablative lasers can remove some skin discolorations, improve some wrinkling, and, with repeated treatments, help generate collagen and elastin.
The following is a list of the more popular laser skin resurfacing machine.
CO2 Pulsed Lasers
This is one of the oldest types of ablative machines around. There are basically two types of CO2 laser technologies, fully ablative and fractional ablative lasers. Fully ablative CO2 laser is not used as commonly, but does have a role in specific lighter skin types. The main issue with this technology is that the downtime can be longer than ideal and the rate of complications, such as pigmentation and scarring is higher than most patients and surgeons find acceptable. http://www.toplipolaser.com/goods-12-39-1. - Fractional CO2 laser skin resurfacing the laser technology of choice since they offer many of the benefits of fully ablative lasers without the downtime and the complications.
CO2 laser skin resurfacing is the most aggressive and produces the most dramatic results but also requires longer healing times and is more possible to cause potential skin damage. The skin can take one to two weeks to heal and can be red for one to two months afterward. Risks of scarring, skin discoloration, and uneven texture must be weighed against the intended outcome, although these side effects are rare when the doctor is experienced with this kind of procedure.
Erbium Er:YAG Laser
This is an ablative laser. http://www.toplipolaser.com/goodsshow-12-40-18-1. - Erbium Er:YAG Laser resurfacing is gentler and produces good results with quicker recovery. It is effective for minor or superficial wrinkling. However, if the intensity of the machine is increased, deeper wrinkling can also be treated. The Variable Pulse YAG Laser which can alternate frequency with pulses can resurfaces the skin almost as effectively as CO2 Pulse laser with fewer side effects.
A combination of CO2 and Er:YAG laser treatments is now gaining popularity. In this treatment, the Er:YAG laser is first used to remove the epidermis, followed by use of the CO2 laser to achieve contraction of underlying collagen. This produces the collagen-tightening benefits of CO2 therapy but with minimal damage to surrounding tissues.
Long-Pulsed YAG Laser
This non-ablative laser is often used for wrinkles and reducing the appearance of acne scars. It takes several treatments to achieve very subtle results. This laser provides skin tightening to all areas of the face and body with no downtime. It has a built-in cooling device that protects the top layer of skin but it can still feel like a rubber band snapping against the face as it is used. Types of the Long-Pulsed YAG Laser can also be used for hair removal.
Pulsed Dye Laser
As a non-ablative laser it gives impressive results in removing surfaced capillaries on the face, port wine marks, hypertrophic scarring, and hemangiomas. It doesn't cause skin damage, but it almost always causes temporary bruising. Several treatments may be required.
Long-Pulsed Alexandrite Laser
This non-ablative laser can also be used for hair removal and removing surfaced capillaries and leg veins. This machine quickly covers large areas of skin. This laser treatment is best for individuals with light to medium skin. After treatment with this laser, the skin will become very rough and dry and eventually slough off, leaving skin that is even in color.
Q-Switched Ruby Laser
This laser is minimally ablative and is primarily used to selectively remove skin pigment, such as freckling, sun-damage spots, and actinic keratosis without damaging the surrounding tissue. It is also useful for removing birthmarks. It usually takes several treatments to see the desired results. One of its popular uses is tattoo removal.
Intense Pulse Light (IPL)
IPL is not real laser, but high intensity pulses of light and is considered to be exclusively non-ablative. Though similar to lasers in many ways, IPL is limited to the depth of resurfacing it can produce. http://www.toplipolaser.com/goods-12-37-1. - IPL skin resurfacing is not meant for those with extensive sun damage and skin discolorations but it can safely remove irregular pigmentation, dark spots and red splotchy skin from the face neck chest hands or any area of the body. The number of side effects is minor, but it can take several treatments to see desired results.
Radio frequency (RF)
It is neither a laser nor IPL but a form of electromagnetic energy very similar to microwaves. It is considered as non-ablative. The RF skin treatment passes radio frequency electricity through the skin to heat up tissue. This is supposed to make the tissue contract and, as is true with any injury to skin, it begins making collagen. RF is considered as one of the most painful non-ablative procedures, requiring localized anesthesia because it intensely heats up the skin.
Which skin resurfacing system you choose depends on the results you are looking for and how much risk you are willing to take. The laser, IPL, or radio frequency resurfacing procedures should be used by a physician with adequate training, experience, and credentials.