Lasers are either ablative or non-ablative treatments. Non-ablative treatments target the lower layers of skin, while leaving the skin's surface unharmed and intact. Ablative laser resurfacing targets both the surface and the lower layers of skin by injuring or "ablating" the surface of skin. The treatment you choose depends on the results you are looking for and how much risk you are willing to take. But before you make that choice, here a few things you should know.
What is the Difference in Ablative and Non-Ablative Laser Treatments:
For ablative resurfacing with a laser, the quality of the post-procedure care is as important as the skill of the physician during the procedure. After ablative laser treatment, the skin oozes, crusts, and needs to be cleaned and dressed for about two weeks before you look even vaguely normal. Because the top layer of skin has been stripped away, the raw, exposed skin needs to be cleaned and treated very carefully. Patients need to make sure they follow post-treatment care instructions precisely, because inconsistency or incomplete care can cause infection, delays in healing, and increases irritation.
Ablative lasers can:
- Make a significant difference in the appearance of deep wrinkles and surface wrinkles.
- Help significantly fade skin discolorations.
- Erase years of sun damage by replacing damaged skin with healthier, new skin.
Risks from ablative procedures include:
- Swelling, scabbing, and oozing.
- Bleeding, flaking, and redness.
- Significant irritation that requires a longer time to heal.
- Long-term skin discoloration and scarring.
While non-ablative resurfacing does not have the side effects associated with ablative resurfacing, it also doesn't produce the same dramatic results as ablative resurfacing does. Not only are the results subtle, but multiple treatments are required for the most noticeable outcome. The advantage for non-ablative resurfacing is its minimal downtime; women can reapply makeup before leaving the doctor's office and return to work the same day.
Non-ablative lasers can:
- Remove some skin discolorations, particularly superficial brown spots.
- Improve and potentially eliminate redness from rosacea and broken capillaries.
- Improve minor wrinkles and fine lines.
- Stimulate collagen production (after repeated treatments).
Risks from non-ablative procedures include:
- Swelling and potential bruising (this fade within days).
- Enhanced redness or a sunburn-like reaction (this is temporary).
- Temporary darkening of treated spots (these lighten as they heal).
We hope this helps you make an educated decision about your next facial procedure.