Laser resurfacing has become widely used for addressing a number of facial skin issues. It can help you reduce the appearance of smaller wrinkles, clear away serious acne scarring and make scars, sun damage and other blemishes disappear. It can also stimulate collagen growth, which can help you slightly firm up aging skin.
While laser treatments may be more expensive and require more recovery time than some other cosmetic procedures that target these skin issues such as microdermabrasion and Botox injections, one of the benefits to choosing laser treatments in lieu of other options is the long-term improvement you can see with laser resurfacing.
Here’s a look at how often laser resurfacing treatments are repeated and what you can do to help minimize the need for future cosmetic procedures:
- Using less powerful lasers may mean you need more treatments to address your issue. Non-ablative lasers and fractional lasers don’t burn away as many layers of skin, so they don’t cause the same level of repair per session as a CO2 laser. That may mean you need to have additional treatments to achieve the look you want. “The fractional laser is a good alternative to the CO2 laser, but you have to do one to three treatments to see results,” says Lori Cherup, MD, a plastic surgeon at Radiance Plastic Surgery in Bridgeville, Pa. Keep that in mind when you are considering the cost of a treatment, as multiple fractional treatments could wind up being more expensive than you would expect. “The total cost after three treatments could be about the same as one traditional CO2 treatment,” Cherup says.
If you do need multiple treatments — perhaps to help minimize the look of acne scarring on your cheeks, for example — you may be able to schedule them as close together as two weeks apart to help maximize your results in a minimal amount of time.
Once you’ve achieved the look you want, you may not need further treatments. While many plastic surgery experts cite eight years as the length of time your results from a fractional laser treatment or CO2 laser treatment will last, others find that the results last far longer. “CO2 laser resurfacing really never has to be repeated,” Cherup says. “Once in a while, we will have to go over the same area very lightly if we’re doing a face lift, but otherwise, it never has to be repeated.”
There are steps you can take to minimize the need for future laser resurfacing treatments. Excellent skin care can help you preserve the results from your laser resurfacing treatment and ensure that you keep your skin as firm and smooth as possible.
Laser resurfacing often leaves your facial skin more susceptible to the damaging rays of the sun for more than a year after your treatment. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with the maximum possible SPF (at least 5) every day to protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet rays. But even after the sun sensitivity subsides, you should continue to wear your sunscreen to minimize sun damage.
Anti-aging creams, especially those that contain retinoids, can help stimulate your skin to keep producing new, fresh layers and slow the creation of new wrinkles. After your skin has recovered from the laser resurfacing treatments, your doctor will likely recommend a good Retin-A cream that can help you keep your skin looking firm and wrinkle free. “Two to three weeks after your skin is healed, you can start using Retin-A again,” says Cherup. “Retin-A is like amphetamine for the skin—it helps program cells to divide and multiply.”
Less-invasive treatments, like peels and even Botox, can help you preserve your results by stimulating new skin growth and limiting the appearance of new wrinkles. “The basic issue with wrinkles is hills and valleys,” says Josh Korman, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon in Mountain View, Calif. “Often there are greater benefits from combination therapy — Botox plus laser resurfacing.”
- Any follow-up treatments will likely be less intensive than the first treatment. If you do need a “touch up” in a few years, you may only need to go over a few key problem areas or use a laser that doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin.
Consult with your plastic surgeon or aesthetician to see how many treatments will be needed to achieve the look you want now — and what kind of maintenance you might need down the line to help you keep your skin looking firmer and smoother for years to come.