Photo rejuvenation by laser is one method of revitalizing skin to a more youthful appearance. Laser resurfacing is a technique in which specific tissues are targeted by laser to remodel the skin.
Complete resurfacing was first done with a CO2 laser. The removal of wrinkles, lines, pigmentation, age spots, scarring and general sun damage has been accomplished with the CO2 laser since the 1990’s. The traditional CO2 laser was very effective, however it fell out of favor because it required general anesthesia, was painful and had a prolonged recovery time. There was also a significant risk of post-abaltive hyperpigmentation in which skin tone can worsen after laser in certain skin types. Over the last several years, advances in technology known as fractional resurfacing has made the CO2 laser popular again. Fractional resurfacing fractionates the laser beams into small beams, drilling tiny microscopic zones throughout the skin. Fractional CO2 laser is an ablative laser, meaning that it drills a microscopic zone within the skin. The skin is vaporized and allows for collagen to stimulate and fill in the column that was created (see image below). The combination of skin vaporization and collagen stimulation allow for skin tightening, removal of pigmentation and wrinkles, and enhance the texture and tone of the skin.
Between these microscopic zones, there exists intact skin that was not affected by the laser. These untreated areas allow for faster recovery and healing compared to the traditional CO2 laser. This means that patients can return to work in a matter of a few days as opposed to weeks. The fractional technology makes the CO2 laser safer.
The new CO2 Fractional technology offers all of the benefits of the traditional CO2 but with less pain, discomfort and downtime. Instead of a having a recovery of 4 to 6 weeks, the new fractional CO2 laser has about less than a week downtime without the significant sloughing, crusting and oozing of the traditional CO2. Most patients feel like they have had a sunburn and most resume normal activity in about 4 to 5 days. After the first few days, there may be some residual redness but patients can resume normal activity and the redness can be covered with a makeup. Continued improvements occur for the next 6 months and then level out. Most patients notice between 50-70% improvement of the condition treated within this time.