Skin Resurfacing - Process and Procedure

The Process

Chemical peels vary in their effect based upon the type and strength of the agent used. The lightest of these are the alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), which can be found in better commercial skin lotions and creams. Alpha hydroxyl acids, when used as part of a comprehensive daily skin care regimen, can gently exfoliate dry and rough skin. Medical-strength AHA peels, like glycolic acid peels, use stronger concentrations than those performed at salons and produce a noticeable softening and smoothing of the skin. They are often useful in cases of mild acne as well.

More potent peels, such as the "Blue Peel" or the trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel, penetrate more deeply. These peels can help even complexion, soften fine lines (especially around the eye and mouth) and smooth skin. Laser resurfacing is generally reserved for more aggressive treatment of lines and wrinkles.

Skin resurfacing can be combined with a number of other procedures, and works especially well with blepharoplasty, brow lift, and in limited areas, with a facelift. Properly performed, laser resurfacing can smooth and tighten the skin rapidly without any incisions or scars. Intense Pulsed Light or Nd-YAG treatments can be tailored to the patient's skin and skin problems without causing damage to the outer layers of the skin. This means there is little to no recovery time.

The Procedure

Medical strength AHA peels take as little as 20 minutes to perform, and produce a light blush in the skin; make-up can be applied immediately, and there is no "down-time" afterwards.

The more potent peels, such as the TCA peel, are performed in the office as well; discomfort is limited to a brief "stinging" during the procedure, and "down-time" is limited to 4-6 days of skin peeling.

Laser resurfacing vaporizes the upper layers of skin without damaging the surrounding tissue. Once the upper layers of the skin have been removed, the deeper structures in the skin assist in healing the abraded area. There is some evidence that laser treatment stimulates new collagen production in the deeper areas of the skin, tightening and restoring elasticity to the treated skin.

In order to prepare your skin to obtain the best results from your laser resurfacing, you may be pre- treated with a vitamin A derivative (such as Retin-A (Renova) or tazarotene) and/or a glycolic acid home product for 1- 4 weeks prior to the treatment. This prepares the skin for the peel, and may assist in achieving a better final result. You will also be treated with an antiviral medication prior to and after the peel to prevent cold sore flare- ups following treatment.

Intense Pulsed Light and Nd-YAG laser treatments take advantage that certain wavelengths of light will pass through the outer layers of skin without causing damage. Within the deeper layers of the skin, these light based treatments can target dilated blood vessels, age spots, sun damage, and unwanted hair. Treatments can be quick and effective with little to no recovery time.