Most patients considering laser treatments to improve their skin’s appearance spend some time online researching their options. They’re often left more confused than when they started. That’s partly because “laser” has become a catchall term for a range of treatment options that use different types of energy to accomplish similar goals. At Ovation Med Spa, we offer a range of laser skin resurfacing options for Houston residents that address various skin conditions.
If you’re looking for easy-to-understand explanations about the different laser skin treatment options—including the differences between downtime, the number of treatments needed, and the skin concerns that each procedure addresses—you’ll find that information in this guide.
What Is Skin Resurfacing?
Before discussing the different types of energy-based treatment options, it’s important to understand what is meant by skin resurfacing. Treatments that resurface the skin remove the outer layers, revealing smoother, refreshed, and softer skin with less discoloration. Lasers are one way to accomplish these goals. Chemical peels and dermaplaning are also skin resurfacing treatments.
Skin resurfacing treatments remove the outermost layers to reveal brighter and smoother skin and a more even complexion. The term ‘skin resurfacing’ encompasses a variety of cosmetic treatments that address common complexion concerns, including:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Pigmentation (sunspots and broken capillaries, for example)
- Acne and acne scarring
- Uneven skin tone and texture
Even though skin resurfacing treatments vary in aggressiveness, they all work by creating wounds to stimulate the body’s healing process. This triggers the production of collagen and elastin, which are the essential building blocks of healthy, youthful-looking skin.
What Are the Different Types of Lasers?
When researching laser skin resurfacing treatments, it may seem that there are countless types of devices. But there are really two types of lasers used for skin resurfacing—ablative and non-ablative. Within those two categories are fractional and non-fractional lasers, which we’ll describe a bit later. Ablative lasers can be either fractional or non-fractional; the same is true for non-ablative lasers. Yes, it can be confusing.
Let’s start by describing the differences between ablative and non-ablative lasers. Each type has its own advantages, and an experienced provider can recommend the laser that best suits your needs.
An ablative laser removes the skin’s outer layer, called the epidermis, by focusing thermal energy on water molecules in the skin. This triggers extensive repair and collagen production by tricking the skin into a healing phase. Some ablative laser treatment options, such as the NanoLaserPeel™ and MicroLaserPeel®, offer either light skin resurfacing or medium depth resurfacing. A NanoLaserPeel is less aggressive and requires less downtime, but more treatments are needed than for MicroLaserPeel procedures.
An ablative laser is an excellent option for treating:
- Mild to moderate wrinkles
- Facial scarring
- Skin discoloration
It’s also very effective for treating skin damaged by years of sun exposure.
These lasers improve the appearance of mild wrinkles, minor scars, and discolorations like liver spots by heating the skin without injuring the surface of the skin. Because these treatments target the medium layers of the skin, they aren’t actually skin resurfacing procedures. These lasers also stimulate collagen growth, improving the skin’s tone and texture.
Non-ablative laser resurfacing is less invasive and requires less recovery time than ablative laser resurfacing. BroadBand Light (BBL) treatments, even though they’re not technically lasers, offer a non-ablative approach that is less focused than laser skin resurfacing. A treatment such as Forever Young BBL™ uses an intense beam of broad-spectrum light that targets the lower layers of the skin without harming its surface.
Non-ablative lasers and BBL devices are good choices for treating:
- Pigmented lesions like freckles and age spots
- Vascular lesions (cherry angiomas, telangiectasias, rosacea, and others)
- Deeper lesions
We don’t recommend BBL for clients with darker skin, but we offer treatment alternatives.
What’s the Difference Between Fractional and Non-Fractional Lasers?
A fractional laser delivers energy that is dispersed rather than concentrated in a single beam. By fractionating—or breaking up—the energy, the treatment is gentler and there is less downtime. The tradeoff is it’s less powerful, so it often requires more treatment sessions to achieve the patient’s goals. A non-fractional laser acts on the entire surface area of the skin and is more aggressive, requiring more downtime.
The development of fractional lasers enabled providers to greatly customize procedures, taking a gentler approach for patients who wanted less downtime than a non-fractional, ablative laser requires. Another breakthrough was the introduction of the Halo® hybrid fractional laser, which delivers non-ablative and ablative wavelengths in a single pass over the treatment area.
One of the gentler laser treatments is MOXI®, a non-ablative fractional laser that’s safe for all skin types. It works particularly well for younger patients or those who are just starting their skincare journey, as it is quick, effective, and has a short recovery period. The treatment itself takes no more than 30 minutes.
Maintaining Your Results
Maintaining and enhancing the results of laser skin resurfacing treatments is important. It’s essential that patients use broad-spectrum sunscreen as their skin is more susceptible to sun damage. A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects skin from both UV-A and UV-B rays.
Fractional ablative laser skin resurfacing treatments require some downtime. It’s important to keep the treated area clean and apply an ointment such as petroleum jelly to prevent the area from scabbing over. Depending on the area treated and the depth of penetration, the recovery time could last a week or more.
Start With a Consultation
Whether you’re new to laser skin treatments or are interested in maintaining the results of previous treatments, discussing your options with an experienced laser provider is the best place to start. You can use the online form to request a consultation at our med spa in Houston or call us at (713) 936-2490 to schedule an appointment.