Lasers are used in dermatology as a means to treat unwanted hair, as well as other unsightly and unwanted skin imperfections that affect one’s appearance.
Why treat with lasers?
A laser is a tool that allows the dermatologist to use light under very controlled conditions to treat skin problems. The word laser is actually an acronym standing for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers focus a beam of light at select wavelengths and pulses to target specific parts of the skin. For example, hair removal lasers target the melanin pigment found in the hair follicles while leaving the surrounding tissue relatively unscathed. This allows the dermatologist to selectively destroy unwanted hair.
There are other ways to control unwanted hair. For example, one can shave, pluck, wax, or use depilatory creams to remove the visible portions of the hair follicle. But these methods do not destroy the follicle and prevent the hair from growing back, and they all are merely temporary, requiring ongoing and continual use to control excess hair. Laser treatments, on the other hand, are the only permanent method for hair reduction.
What else can be treated with lasers and other light-based systems?
Besides being the fastest and most cost effective means for hair removal, lasers can be used to treat many other skin imperfections.
- Vascular lesion lasers are used to remove spider veins on the face, port wine stain birthmarks, and cherry angiomas on the chest and back. Instead of melanin pigment, these lasers target red blood cells beneath the surface of the skin.
- Pigmented lesion lasers are used to treat age and liver spots, lentigos, café-au-lait birthmarks, and freckles.
- Skin tightening devices are not lasers, but like lasers, they use light to selectively alter components of the skin to improve one’s overall appearance. For example, our E2 Matrix uses lasers to tighten the skin along the face and jawline. E2 is a type of fractional resurfacing laser that stimulates the replacement of older, damaged skin using radio frequency to lift and tighten.
What are the downsides to laser treatments?
- While improvement often is seen after a single treatment, most light based therapies require repeat visits to obtain desired results. Hair removal treatments often require three or more visits because hair grows in phases. While the percentage of hair destroyed at any one session varies with the location on the body, approximately 10-25% reduction in hair growth can be expected with each treatment.
- Depending on the laser used and the condition treated, discomfort is possible during treatment and during post-treatment recovery. Discomfort is usually minor and may include pain, swelling, and the skin may be pink or reddened for several days after treatment. Blistering, herpes simplex outbreaks, and bacterial infections may also occur.
Our bodies often seem to age faster than our sense of self. Don’t hesitate to talk with your dermatologist about whether lasers and other advanced light systems might provide you with the means of getting your skin back in alignment with the way you feel about yourself.
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