The American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine defines aesthetic medicine as: “(an area of medicine that) comprises all medical procedures that are aimed at improving the physical appearance and satisfaction of the patient, using non-invasive to minimally invasive cosmetic procedures.” When we talk about aesthetic dermatology, we are talking about any non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures which enhance the physical appearance of skin for voluntary or reconstructive purposes.
A primary tool of aesthetic dermatologists is the usage of non-ablative and ablative lasers. Today, we will focus on non-ablative lasers and discuss their many uses within the field of aesthetic dermatology.
Defining Non-ablative Lasers vs. Ablative Lasers
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let us first define lasers as a whole. The term laser is actually an acronym which stands for “light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.” In other words, laser beams are concentrated rays of radiation which have been amplified to a specific wavelength. By controlling these wavelengths, lasers can perform a number of different functions.
Non-ablative lasers are “a non wounding laser that stimulates collagen growth, which over time helps improve skin tone and texture. This approach can be done with various types of lasers as well as intense pulsed light (IPL) devices. Non-ablative laser resurfacing is less invasive and requires less recovery time than does ablative laser resurfacing. But it’s less effective.”
Ablative lasers are “a wounding laser that removes the thin outer layer of skin (epidermis) and heats the underlying skin (dermis), which stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers. As the epidermis heals and regrows, the treated area appears smoother and tighter. Types of ablative treatments include the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, the erbium laser and combination systems.”
Usage of Non-ablative Lasers for Cosmetic Procedures
The primary use of non-ablative lasers within the field of aesthetic dermatology is for “laser rejuvenation” procedures. Much like a facelift or Botox treatment, the goal of laser rejuvenation is to improve the physical appearance of skin and reduce the physical signs of aging. Unlike those other procedures, laser rejuvenation can also improve the appearance of dark spots and minor skin blemishes.
Non-ablative lasers work by promoting collagen production beneath the surface of the skin. Collagen is defined as “the principal protein of the skin, tendons, cartilage, bone, and connective tissue. Collagen is an essential part of the framework of the design of our various body tissues.” Collagen plays a vital role in keeping our skin malleable, youthful, and healthy.
Non-ablative lasers are sometimes “fractionated”, meaning that they are separated into many different laser beams. This allows for deeper, more even penetration beneath the skin’s surface for superior collagen revitalization. A fringe benefit of using fractionated non-ablative lasers is that it is easier on the patient from both a recovery time and overall safety perspective.
Benefits and Risks of Non-Ablative Lasers
Generally speaking, non-ablative lasers have been shown to be quite safe when utilized properly. As with all cosmetic procedures, they do carry some risks. Here are a few benefits and risks of performing aesthetic dermatological procedures with non-ablative lasers:
Benefits of non-ablative laser procedures:
- Outpatient, painless procedure: while patients might feel something, non-ablative laser procedures are not painful and do not require any type of anaesthesia. This means that non-ablative laser procedures are almost always outpatient.
- Non-ablative laser procedures are very safe: as we discuss below, there are a few risks involved. Yet the overall risk to reward ratio is extremely low. Non-ablative laser procedures are safe and easy on patients.
- They work! Non-ablative cosmetic procedures may be used to effectively manage age spots, fine wrinkles, uneven skin texture, uneven skin tone, visible sun damage, and certain scarring.
Risks of non-ablative laser procedures:
- Secondary infection: for a number of reasons, procedures performed with non-ablative lasers may lead to a herpes virus flare-up.
- Skin discoloration: due to the nature of non-ablative laser treatments, affected skin can sometimes become hyperpigmented after procedures. This is generally a temporary side effect, and many cases of hyperpigmentation due to non-ablative lasers fade over time.
- Redness, swelling, discomfort: we like to talk about how simple and easy laser treatments are on patients, but they are still altering the patient’s body. It is common to experience some swelling, redness, and irritation for up to a few days after the procedure.
To learn more about cutting edge cosmetic procedures, laser tech, aesthetic dermatology and much more, join us from July 22-25, 2020 for our annual Music City Scale Conference! SCALE is the premier multidisciplinary meeting for aesthetic medicine, surgery and dermatology in the United States. Join other industry professionals to discuss industry trends, emerging technologies, and more!
While our list is always expanding, click here to view our current exhibitors and sponsors for 2020. To register, follow this link. We look forward to seeing you this summer for the cosmetics industry event of the year!