Laser resurfacing can help you reduce the appearance of scars, wrinkles and skin damage — but it doesn’t work for everyone. They can be expensive (the average price currently runs between $1200 and $2200, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons), and there is a risk of creating permanent skin discoloration or scarring, especially if you have darker skin.
Fortunately, there are other treatment options to help you achieve similar results on your face, and many of these treatments can be used either alongside laser skin resurfacing or on their own to help improve your look. Discuss these potential options with your doctor to determine the right course of treatment to get you the beautiful skin you’re craving:
- Dermabrasion. This treatment is the most similar to a laser treatment except instead of using laser light to burn away the layers of skin, a special brush is used to sand away the outer layers. This treatment will require a similar recovery time as using an ablative CO2 laser; it will take more than a week for the raw, red look and scabbing to decrease. Dermabrasion also costs significantly less than an ablative laser treatment at an average of $1200, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- Microdermabrasion. Consider this your alternative to the non-ablative or fractional laser. In this kinder, gentler version of dermabrasion, your face is sandblasted with tiny crystals that wear away the outer layer of skin. It’ll make subtle changes, and you’ll likely need several treatments to get more dramatic results.
- Botox. Botulin toxin (a poison that paralyzes the nerves) is injected — usually into forehead and the space between the eyes — which relaxes the muscles and renders them unable to move and deepen the furrows. To keep the effect going, you’ll need to go back every few months for another treatment. This treatment works on fine lines, but won’t help with scarring or sun damage. It’s a treatment that many doctors combine with laser resurfacing to improve the look of your face. “The basic issue with wrinkles is hills and valleys — for treatment you either have to take down the hills or fill up the valleys,” says Josh Korman, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon in Mountain View, Calif. “Often there are greater benefits from combination therapy.”
- Chemical Peels. A potent mix of chemicals is applied to the skin to burn away layers of skin, which will regrow and heal to give you a smoother appearance. Chemical peels cost, on average, $653, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery. However, these typically need to be repeated at least annually to maintain the results.
- Fillers. Collagen and other fillers are injected into the wrinkles or even acne scars to help plump them up temporarily. This is another treatment that will need to be repeated every few months to keep the effect, and it has no impact on dark spots or sun damage.
- Facelift. The doctor surgically removes extra fat and skin from your face, tightening it and making it appear more youthful. It’s the most expensive option of the alternatives, requires several weeks of healing and it won’t treat any scarring or freckling.
- Surgery. Severe scarring from acne could be removed with a surgical technique called a “punch excision,” where the acne scar is removed and the area is either sutured shut or treated with a skin graft.
- Retinoid creams. The least invasive treatment out there, retinoid creams can be bought over the counter and applied to help gradually reduce the appearance of fine lines and small scars, freckles or other imperfections. They will need to be used continuously in order to maintain the results.
- Energy-based Treatments. To help treat acne scars, the affected areas are treated with a pulsed light or radiofrequency, to help encourage the growth of new skin.
- Bleaching creams. These potent medications can be applied to dark spots, to help freckles or other spots fade away.
Once you’ve chosen the right treatment(s) for you, your doctor can help you determine the best post-treatment regimen. Your doctor will likely recommend wearing sunscreen with a high SPF daily and applying Retin-A in order to keep your skin looking fresh and fabulous.