Facial wrinkles, age spots, acne scars and other skin imperfections can be caused by aging, sun exposure, lifestyle factors and genetics. Skin resurfacing procedures are intended to "turn back the hands of time" by improving the texture and tone of the skin with long-lasting results. Based on your skin type and other pertinent factors, your doctor can help you decide on the best skin resurfacing method to meet your cosmetic goals.
Skin Resurfacing Options
Skin resurfacing procedures work by removing dull, damaged skin and revealing fresh new skin with a younger, healthier appearance. This can be accomplished using chemical solutions of varying strengths (chemical peel), abrasive action (microdermabrasion and dermabrasion) or laser light (laser skin resurfacing). Skin resurfacing is effective for conditions such as wrinkles, photoaging, rough skin, acne scars and uneven pigmentation, and can improve skin on the face and other parts of the body.
Light, medium and deep Chemical Peels are used to treat patients with different types and severities of skin conditions. Light chemical peels offer a gentle treatment using ingredients from fruit and other natural sources (alphahydroxy acids and betahydroxy acids). Medium peels (trichloroacetic acid) are stronger than light peels and penetrate the skin more deeply. Deep peels (phenol or carbolic acid) penetrate the skin even deeper and produce the most dramatic results. Chemical peels can be performed on the full face or specific areas of the face or body to treat skin conditions from fine wrinkles and dry skin to acne scars and severe sun damage.
During the procedure, a light, medium or deep chemical peel solution is applied to the skin. The exact strength of the chemicals is determined by your doctor to address your individual needs. The chemical solution remains on the skin for a certain period of time before being washed away. Multiple treatments may be needed for the most beneficial results with light and medium peels, while deep chemical peels require only a single session.
Microdermabrasion is a gentle but popular and effective skin resurfacing method for patients with relatively mild skin conditions such as fine facial lines, light acne scars, crow's feet and age spots. Often called a "lunch hour" peel, microdermabrasion can be performed quickly with no downtime after the procedure. Microdermabrasion is used on the face, neck and other body areas to improve the skin in tone and texture.
Microdermabrasion is performed using a hand-held instrument that sprays a stream of microcrystals into the skin. The microcrystals and exfoliated skin are then suctioned away. The most beneficial results are seen with four to eight treatment sessions spaced a week or two apart, with periodic touch-ups thereafter. Most microdermabrasion providers offer discounted packages of multiple treatments.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
Using the latest innovations in medical technology, Laser Skin Resurfacing offers a fast and effective way to treat facial lines and wrinkles, sun-damaged skin, uneven pigmentation, acne scars and other skin imperfections. The whole face or specific problem areas can be treated with laser resurfacing for a smoother, more youthful complexion. Lasers are used to treat larger areas of skin more quickly than traditional skin resurfacing methods.
During laser skin resurfacing (also called a "laser peel"), a beam of pulsing, concentrated light penetrates the skin and vaporizes damaged skin cells. The level of laser penetration is precisely controlled by your doctor. The treated skin will peel about a week after the treatment, allowing new skin to appear. Most patients are able to achieve their appearance goals after only one treatment, but repeat treatments may be needed in some cases.
Dermabrasion is a surgical method of skin resurfacing proven to treat fine facial wrinkles, photoaging caused by exposure to the sun, acne scars, age spots, skin lesions and pre-cancerous growths called keratoses. Dermabrasion can be used to address more serious skin conditions and produces dramatic results with a single treatment.
Dermabrasion is performed using a motorized brush or wheel fitted with diamond particles that rotates at high speed. The instrument is carefully applied to the skin to soften surface irregularities and remove damaged skin. From there, the body's natural healing process takes over and allows fresh new skin with a smoother texture to form. Depending on the size of the area of skin to be treated, dermabrasion can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and a half.
Am I a Good Candidate for Skin Resurfacing?
You may be a good candidate for skin resurfacing if you are physically healthy, have realistic expectations and want to enhance the appearance of skin on your face, neck, legs, arms or elsewhere on the body. Many skin resurfacing patients realize psychological and emotional benefits when skin imperfections are eliminated and the skin's vibrant, youthful glow is restored.
The cost of skin resurfacing can vary widely depending on your plastic surgeon's experience, geographic area and other factors. Most skin resurfacing procedures are considered to be cosmetic and are usually not covered by health insurance. However, skin resurfacing may be covered when used to treat some types of scars or pre-cancerous growths. Ask your surgeon if he or she offers options for patient financing. If your skin resurfacing treatment involves multiple sessions, package discounts may be available.
Though complications from skin resurfacing are rare, risks are inherent with any procedure. Some skin resurfacing patients may experience changes in pigmentation that cause the skin to become lighter or darker. Your plastic surgeon will discuss all of the risks involved with your procedure and help you choose a skin resurfacing method that produces the best results for your skin type. With some resurfacing methods, the skin may be pretreated to improve results for people with darker skin tones.
Your Skin Resurfacing Consultation
If you believe that you may benefit from skin resurfacing, schedule a consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon to learn more about your available options and your possibilities as an individual. The consultation is your opportunity to ask all of the questions you have about skin resurfacing and undergo professional evaluation. The doctor will conduct a physical examination and look at your complete medical history to help determine the best skin resurfacing method based on your skin type, the nature of the skin condition, your overall health and your goals for skin rejuvenation. The surgeon should explain in detail the recommended procedure and its benefits, costs, risks and recovery time.
Recovery and Results
The length of recovery from skin resurfacing varies greatly depending on the specific procedure. More extensive procedures, such as a deep chemical peel or dermabrasion to treat a more serious skin condition, can have remarkable results at the cost of a longer recovery time. On the other hand, a light chemical peel or microdermabrasion are milder treatments with no downtime that require a series of treatments to produce optimal results. Whether you choose to undergo skin resurfacing using a chemical solution, abrasion or laser light, your doctor will give you complete instructions on caring for your skin after treatment.
After any skin resurfacing procedure, special care should be taken to protect your skin from the sun. Lessening sun exposure helps to reduce risks such as irregular pigmentation of the treated skin. Stay in the shade, avoid tanning booths and use sunscreen when going outside. Long-term sun protection helps to prevent further photoaging and keep your new skin smooth and appealing.