All about laser treatments
Laser treatments are one of the fastest developing areas in beauty care since lasers offers great opportunities for aesthetic treatments.
The rapid development has led to a range of different laser treatments and techniques, the information is many times both contradictory and complicated. It often happens that laser treatments are mixed up with completely different treatments such as light treatments as IPL etc.
The reason is the uncontrolled market for laser treatments. Therefore it is important that consumers understand the basics in order to choose right.
On this page you will get the information you need about the different laser alternatives, possibilities and limitations. This way you can decide whether, and if so what laser treatment is right for you.
The laser is used to heat up the skin or other tissue
Laser is a light that concentrate’s in a single wavelength. Different wavelengths of light are what we perceive as different colours. Different laser, different colours/wavelengths of lights.
In all cosmetic laser treatments, the laser technique is used to convert light energy to heat energy. The heat is used superficially or deeper into the tissue depending on what you want to do .
”The laser causes a controlled injury to the tissue you want to treat”
However, with the help of the heat that the laser light creates, you achieve a controlled damage to the tissue which is what you are aiming for. If you want to, for example, remove hair, it is the hair follicles that are heated while vascular reduction heats blood vessels.
The colour of the laser decides where the light is converted to heat
In the skin there are various pigments called chromophores. Different colours absorb light in different degrees.
Therefore, by using laser light of different colours you can control where the laser light is absorbed and converted into heat. In this way, you can choose to heat the skin surface, in deeper layers, or even the tissue under the skin.
It is the ability to “dot shoot” in this way and choose exactly what you want to heat up which gives the laser its wide range of use.
Fractional laser leaves most of the skin untouched
A laser treats small areas at a time, with the help of a laser nozzle, the practitioner “shoots” laser beams into the skin.
A traditional laser heats the entire surface that you “highlight” with the laser pulse. A fractional laser leaves untouched skin which makes the healing process faster so that you can return to your normal activities. The fractional laser maximize results and minimize recovery time.
Therefore, by only heating a small part of the skin and leaving the main part of the treated area intact, you can achieve maximum effect while the body receives a considerably simpler healing process.
An ablative laser removes skin, a non ablative does not
The heat that is generated, where the laser light is converted can for example evaporate the outer skin layer (epidermis) and also the next layer of skin (dermis). This is called laser peel.
The purpose with laser peel is to remove imperfections or renew the skin surface. The lasers that are used for this are called ablative laser. Therefore, ablative laser removes the skin.
A non-ablative laser on the other hand, leaves the skin surface intact and only affects deeper structures. This provides a shorter recovery period and reduces the risks of complications. Non-ablative laser will not remove any skin.
Different laser technologies for various uses
There are many types and manufacturers of lasers with different uses. But there is no “all-in-one” machine. Many however promote their equipment, just to get more customers.
It is also not uncommon that lasers report to achieve results in areas where the scientific evidence is so far very sketchy. An example of this is laser treatments for fat reduction.
Right laser + correct use = good results
Lasers can be very effective tools provided that the equipment is of high quality and used correctly. The areas where the laser treatments and techniques have a well-documented effect are:
- Hair removal with Alexandrite, Nd:YAG & Diode laser, which of these three works best depends on the patient’s skin type.
- Spider vein removal with Nd:YAG or pulsed dye laser. The two secure cards.
- Removal of pigmentation, scars and other skin changes that are peeled with ablative Erbium Er:YAG or C02 laser.
- Skin tightening with fractional non ablative laser. These laser’s wavelengths are often located in the 1000-2000 nm range.
- Superficial wrinkle reduction with fractional/non fractional ablative/non ablative CO2 or Erbium YAG laser.
- Tattoo removal with Q-Switched laser (short pulse with high power) with Nd:YAG, Alexandrite and Ruby Laser. Different tattoo colours require different lasers.
- Treatment of active acne with Nd:YAG
- Treatment of stretch marks with a dye laser (red stretch marks) or fractional ablative laser / some non-ablative lasers in the 1000-2000 nm range (white stretch marks)
Carbon dioxide laser is replaced by Erbium YAG for laser peel
Spots, unevenness or superficial wrinkles are often treated effectively by peeling/vaporizing the skin’s outer layer with an ablative laser. This process is also called laser abrasion.
Laser peel has for a long time been performed with ablative carbon dioxide laser (CO2 laser). One of C02 laser disadvantages as an abrasive laser is that it tends to give a pigment loss due to overheating in the treated areas. This in turn results in white patches on the skin.
Whoever plans a laser peel should be aware of that there is a newer technology for laser peel which is the so-called Erbium YAG Laser. An ablative laser can go as deeply in the skin just like CO2 but with less risk of heat damage and damage to pigment cells.
How you choose the right laser treatment
There are many different clinics and lasers. One promises better, faster and more reliable results than the other. Many times you get what’s promised. At sometimes you don’t.
To make the choice easier for you who are considering a laser treatment, we have put together a guidance of five based on choosing “safe bets”:
- Make sure that the treatment you want to perform is on the list for laser treatment areas on this page. If it’s not, then maybe laser is not the best option. Then go to the menu of beauty treatments to find other options.
- If you find your treatment in the list of laser’s treatment areas, click on the link for the treatment and learn more about the different laser technologies. Then ask the clinic what technique they want to use in your treatment. Therefore, by being well informed, you will make the right decision.
- Always choose a laser technique which is recognized, proven and “tailor-made” for your needs. What they are, you will find out through step 1 and 2 in this guidance.
- There are many manufacturers of various cosmetic lasers. The best-known among Syneron and Candela, Fotona, ConBio, Cynosure, Lumenis and Sciton. Ask the clinic what manufacturer/lasers they want to treat you with. By choosing a laser from a proven brand ensures certain standard equipment.
- A laser is never better than the person holding it. Always choose a clinic and therapists with access to the latest technology and who knows how to use it. If you are unsure how to do this, there are many tips on our page about choosing the right clinic.
More options and opportunities for laser treatments
- Here you can find clinics that perform laser treatments in your area
- Share and learn from other’s opinions on laser treatments in our forum
- Ask a question and read answers about laser treatments in Ask the Expert
The content on this page about laser treatments is examined by dermatologist Tore Nilsen at Vaxsjo Medical Center. It gives a good general understanding of the cosmetic use of lasers and gives a general guidance. It can however not replace a medical consultation before a laser treatment.