How does an ablative laser differ from a non-ablative one? To recap my last blog, there is no downtime and no anesthesia with the non-ablative laser. You can go on your lunch break, immediately put your makeup on, and head right back to work. The benefits are dramatic, but it typically takes two to five treatments and it does take time to see the full benefits of this type of laser facial. In addition, non-ablative lasers only target the skin’s dermis, which is why there is no downtime and also why you need more than one treatment.
Lasers have been around since the early ‘90s; the word "laser" is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers are an intense light beam that bounce and amplify light between lenses and mirrors. As compared to the non-ablative lasers, ablative lasers are more intense and do require downtime, anesthesia or sedation, and recovery; it’s basically like outpatient surgery.
Ablative laser treatments actually vaporize the damaged skin with an intense wavelength of light that reaches the skin’s epidermis. There are two types of ablative lasers, carbon dioxide (CO2) and Erbium (or YAG) lasers. Ablative lasers are one of the most effective ways to improve your skin; however, they do not take away deep wrinkles or sagging skin. It is also important to note that they are not for all skin types, especially darker skin. It is important to consult with your doctor about what skin treatment will work best for you.
There are different types of ablative lasers, and some target deeper into the epidermis than others. Because the ablative laser procedure is more intense, you will need some form of pain relief during and possibly after the procedure, depending on your pain tolerance. For the deeper penetrating lasers, general anesthesia is typically given because the laser is resurfacing the skin at the epidermis. For the less intense ablative lasers, topical and oral pain medications/sedatives are given prior to the procedure. It is possible that you may be awake or experience twilight sleep during the procedure. Depending on the strength of the laser treatment, which typically takes 30 minutes to two hours, you may need pain medication while recovering.
Upon completion of the procedure, you can expect raw, uncomfortable, weeping skin that takes two to four weeks to fully heal. You will want to use healing ointments throughout the healing process and a mask bandage for the first day or two following the procedure.
Although this procedure is intense, the results are dramatic. You basically have new skin that has regenerated itself and it can last up to five years. You can also extend your results by maintaining your skin with other procedures like chemical peels or microdermabrasion.
As with anything, dark spots, wrinkles and fine lines will still develop because of the aging process and the sun. However, with an ablative laser treatment, you are targeting all of your skin imperfections at the core. As a result, you will have less damage and most of it will be at the surface levels of the skin.