Laser Resurfacing & Intense Pulse Light

This is now divided into “ablative” and “non-ablative” laser resurfacing. Ablative laser resurfacing means the use of a laser light to “burn” off a superficial layer of skin. This results in an improvement in texture, pigmentation as well as the removal of fine and some coarse wrinkles(*).

This form of ablative laser resurfacing is slowly falling out of favour because of the unacceptable down time (usually a week or two); and the prolonged (2 to 4 months) post-procedure redness and pigmentation. Of all the “texture changing” procedures mentioned, this has the highest chance of causing scarring. It is also more costly but potentially can also achieve the best results(*), especially in those with acne scars or severe photoaging changes.

In recent years, the introduction of new laser machines has seen the rise of what is called “non-ablative” laser resurfacing. These new lasers directly target the deeper layers of the skin where collagen is found without causing damage to the overlying superficial layers. The resultant effect is improvement in texture and some smoothening out of the fine lines and shallow scars. There are at least three machines in use that perform this type of resurfacing and they are known by names like “Cool Touch”, Aramis machine and the “Genesis” laser machine.

Complications are minimal with redness and mild discomfort. Some may experience pain during treatment (eg. for the Cool Touch machine).

Non-ablative resurfacing cannot achieve the results that can be obtained with ablative resurfacing but is gaining in popularity, because of the minimum down time and convenience, especially for those with less severe photoaging.

The intense pulse light (IPL) is technically not a laser but uses visible light over a wide spectrum to achieve some of the effects as laser resurfacing. Recently, it has been used to remove hair; improve skin texture; reduce redness caused by dilated blood vessels; and some lightening of pigmentation. It is especially good for improving redness, but the overall effects on texture are more variable with some getting good results and others getting only mild improvement.

Complications with IPL include redness, slight darkening of pigmentation and “burns” that are manifested as brown streaks. Some patients are uncomfortable with the gel that must be applied during treatment while others do not like the intense light and heat during the procedure. It requires, like the non-ablative lasers, about 3 to 5 sessions to achieve the desired results(*).

*Individual results may vary.