What is Laser Skin Tightening?
As we age, we lose collagen and elasticity in the skin. This results in fine wrinkles, skin laxity, and an aged appearance. Sun exposure also results in hyperpigmentation and changes in skin tone and texture. A laser skin tightening procedure is designed to stimulate collagen production, resulting in skin that appears smoother, tighter, youthful, and more rested. In addition, areas of hyperpigmentation and sun damage are addressed and diminished.
Laser skin tightening comes in several different formats. One key distinction is whether the laser is ablative or non-ablative. Examples of ablative lasers are ablative CO2 lasers and ablative Erbium:YAG lasers. An ablative laser destroys, or vaporizes, the surface layer of skin (epidermis). This surface layer is subsequently replaced by the growth of new skin from below. At the same time, collagen production is stimulated and increased, resulting in increased volume and fullness. Historically, ablative lasers vaporized the entire surface layer of the skin. Although this was effective, it resulted in prolonged healing and an increased risk of complications including scarring and pigment changes. The newer ablative lasers are fractionated, meaning that instead of vaporizing 100% of the skin’s surface, they vaporize about 20% of the skin’s surface. The areas of intact skin that are left behind assist with the healing process and decrease the risk of complications. Fractionated ablative laser treatments are less effective than a fully ablative laser, and 2-3 sessions are required for maximal effect. The complication profile and healing times, however, are substantially improved.
A non-ablative laser leaves the surface layer of skin completely intact, and works by heating up the underlying layer of skin (dermis). This stimulates the growth and remodeling of collagen from below the surface. This technique does not create any open wounds in the skin, therefore recovery time is minimal. It does, however, require multiple sessions (4-8) to have a full effect.
An ablative laser is the best option for diminishing moderate to deep wrinkles, and for significantly improving skin texture and tone. A nonablative laser is effective for correcting more superficial concerns such as fine lines and hyperpigmentation, while also improving skin texture and tone.
Dr. Rovelo uses the Alma Harmony Pro XL laser system. This system is compatible with a variety of laser therapies, including a 1064nm Q-switch laser technology (ClearLift). This nonablative laser technology heats deep beneath the skin to stimulate new collagen production and collagen remodeling. The ClearLift laser produces skin that is firmer and more toned, with diminished areas of hyperpigmentation and photoaging.
Who is a candidate for Laser Skin Tightening?
You may want to consider a laser skin tightening procedure (ClearLift) if you have concerns about:
- Sun damaged skin, including sun spots and areas of uneven pigmentation of the face and neck
- Fine lines and wrinkles of the face and neck
- Skin laxity of the face and neck
- Epidermal melasma of the face and neck
How is Laser Skin Tightening Performed?
The Alma Harmony ClearLift laser therapy is performed in the office. Due to its nonablative technology, pain is minimal and no topical anesthesia is required. The procedure takes about 20-30 minutes and patients will be able to go home immediately afterward. The procedure can be performed every 2-4 weeks for a total of 6-8 times for maximal effect. Therafter, maintenance sessions may be performed once every 6-12 months.
The risks of a nonablative laser are much less than an ablative laser. Complications are rare but include the possibility of changes in pigment, particularly if the area has been recently exposed to the sun. Prior to your procedure, you will have a consultation with Dr.Rovelo to discuss your unique skin type and to discuss how risks can be minimized to provide the best possible outcome.
Patients will go home the same day following their procedure. Most patients do not experience any significant redness, or swelling, therefore no downtime is required. It is important, however, to make sure that the skin stays hydrated and moisturized following the procedure. Sun protection is also very important to prevent scarring and hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone may be prescribed post-procedure for patients at risk of melasma or hyperpigmentation. Retin-A use may be resumed 1-2 days following the procedure.