Scars are the way the body naturally repairs the skin from an injury, burn, bite, acne or surgery. While everyone wants the healing, nobody wants the scars. Laser scar removal uses laser technology to improve or minimize the appearance of a scar. There are various lasers available to treat a wide range of skin and scar types. A plastic surgeon, or certified dermatologist who specializes in laser scar removal, can help you determine which type of scar treatment is best for you.
Types of Laser Treatments
Laser Resurfacing involves using a high-powered laser to minimize the appearance of the scar by removing the top layers of skin. The procedure can be performed as an outpatient procedure in a skin laser clinic or doctor’s office and only takes between 1 and 2 hours. A local anesthetic numbs the area and goggles will be placed over the eyes to protect them from the bright light. During the procedure, the doctor will move the hand-held laser wand over the scar to remove the damaged skin cells. Each pass of the laser eradicates more cells. As the laser penetrates the scar, it also reaches the middle layers of skin and can provide smoother, tighter skin.
The doctor may choose between two skin resurfacing lasers and they are the CO2 laser or the Erbium: YAG laser. Both lasers work well for most scars including acne scars.
- The CO2 laser is more powerful than the Erbium: YAG laser and can penetrate far deeper into the skin. This type of laser is best for removing thick and deep scars. The procedure can be slightly more painful and the recovery time is a little longer at about 2 weeks.
- Erbium: YAG laser is often used to treat shallow scars. Since it is not as powerful as the CO2 laser, there is less sedation needed and less pain. Furthermore, the recovery time is also minimized at about 1 week.
Fractionated laser resurfacing uses tiny beams of light which penetrate deep into the skin. The laser causes microscopic holes where the damaged skin cells used to be. These holes stimulate collagen production and the creation of fresh, new skin cells. This type of laser allows for a quicker recovery since the surrounding skin is left unharmed. Because it is a less invasive technique, this type of procedure only requires topical anesthetic. Plus, there is little to no recovery time. On the other hand, fractionated laser resurfacing cannot produce the same immediate results that laser resurfacing can provide. Therefore, additional procedures will be needed for best results. You may need 3 to 5 sessions at one week apart.
Non-ablative laser resurfacing involves using infrared lasers to heat the inner layers of skin to encourage collagen production and produce fresh skin cells to replace the damaged cells on the scar. The heat from the procedure can be slightly painful, as the laser moves across the scar, but a cooling spray will be released with each pass. This cooling spray prevents any damage to the surface of the skin. This type of laser treatment can be done in a doctor’s office and only takes about 15 to 30 minutes per treatment. However, you may need 4 to 6 sessions to benefit from this type of laser and it can take months before you see the results.