The use of lasers today has made it possible for cosmetic aesthetic professionals to provide skin resurfacing to smooth wrinkles and eliminate blemishes with shorter downtimes. A surgeon skilled in laser resurfacing can eliminate several decades of blemishes and sun-damaged cells from the skin by the use of thermal energy. The first laser used for this purpose—the CO2—can rejuvenate a patient’s appearance, giving them back the years they thought they had lost to the aging process and damage from the sun.
Fractional CO 2 laser resurfacing restores the skin by removing a percentage of epidermal damage that results from aging and time spent in the sun. When a skilled cosmetic surgeon applies CO2 resurfacing, he or she can remove wrinkles, scars, benign growths, age spots, and premalignant lesions.
To understand how CO2 resurfacing works, it is helpful to examine the skin’s anatomy. The epidermis is composed the outermost skin and is avascular. That means it does not contain blood vessels. This upper level of skin influences skin tone. The dermis, which lies just beneath the epidermis, comprises the connective tissue, sweat glands, and follicles. Below the dermis lies the hypodermis, which is made up of connective tissue and fat.
CO2 laser resurfacing has 2 modalities, fully ablative or fractional. Fully ablative CO2 resurfacing works by vaporizing 100% of treated area. In other words, each pass eliminates a layer of skin and the depth of penetration is determined based on the severity of the damage. This type of approach produced incredible results but with very prolonged recuperation times. It could only be used in individual with fair skin, which limited its use. Conversely, fractional CO2 technology allows for more comfortable, safer and ore predictable results as the untreated skin helped accelerate the recovery process of the damaged skin. It can also be used in darker skin individuals under certain circumstances. With the fractional approach cell regrowth takes about 5 days as opposed to many weeks of redness and heat intolerance typically seen with the fully ablative procedure.
In addition, fractional CO2 laser treatments promote the growth of healthy elastin and collagen. This natural process occurs for 6 months after the skin has been resurfaced. Over this period, the skin continues to improve. Also, during this time, the skin becomes tighter and firmer, which means any loose or lax skin tightens.
Unlike an ablative laser, a non-ablative laser works by heating the dermis below the skin to promote the growth of collagen, thereby restoring skin tone and firmness. While a non-ablative laser works more slowly than a CO2 ablative laser, no downtime is experienced.
While CO2 laser resurfacing produces remarkable outcomes, the results won’t appear immediately. It will take several months for the full effects to “surface,” or for new collagen and cell growth to take place. Also, the skin can look pink for several weeks before the color finally fades.