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In this article, we will talk about the new age CO2 laser treatments, the way they work, application, and benefits, with a special focus on fractional CO2 laser technology.
Ablative lasers have always been the gold standard in the treatment of deep wrinkles as well as in achieving faster results in the treatment of scars.
The treatments consisted of the complete removal of the superficial damaged skin layer and the creation of newly rejuvenated skin.
Unfortunately, the risk of complications of the old CO2 laser technology and infections after these procedures has made patients and doctors turn to non-ablative lasers, which are not even close to the efficiency of the ablative ones.
Advances in technology have made it possible to use an ablative CO2 laser without fear of complications. One of the most popular lasers today is the so-called fractionation mode.
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What is a CO2 Laser?
CO2 laser treatments are one of the most popular skin rejuvenation technologies. This is a proven way to help in the process of reducing small wrinkles, age spots, acne scars, and other skin changes, but also to tighten the skin, improve the skin tone, as well as balance the complexion.
The CO2 laser wavelength equals 9–12 μm which is optimum for the very best results on damaged skin.
In this section, we will explain the basics regarding the use of CO2 lasers in skin rejuvenation.
Laser skin rejuvenation involves removing the outer damaged layers of the skin, in order to reveal the new, healthy skin underneath and to stimulate the mechanisms of recovery and growth of the new young skin.
What is CO2 Laser Fractional?
The CO2 laser fractional is a technology used to tighten the skin, rejuvenate, and treat all types of scars. It is an ablative laser that allows with one or two treatments a year to get the result of 4-6 treatments of any other laser.
Previous ablative lasers used to rejuvenate and treat scars have resulted in a long recovery period after treatment and carried high risks of skin damage.
The application of CO2 laser fractional treatments enables minimal tissue damage. The reason is amazing – during the treatment, it leaves areas of untreated skin fractionally between the microscopic thermal damages.
Fractionated lasers are much safer, more efficient, and more reliable for the patient. Therefore, you can use the CO2 laser on the face without any problems.
The post-treatment CO2 laser recovery period is shorter too. It can also be used as a powerful CO2 laser on stretch marks treatment and a CO2 laser facial.
How Does Fractional CO2 Laser Work?
Fractional or fractionated lasers break up the laser energy into thousands of tiny rays to treat only a fraction of the skin in the area, which reduces healing time but also gives the ability to act on larger areas.
Fractional lasers can be ablative or non-ablative and are used for the processes of rejuvenation and treatment of signs of skin aging.
The fractional CO2 laser essentially heats the tissue, eliminates water from the cell, destroys cell connections and membranes, and thus performs a controlled removal of the surface layer of the skin.
When the laser is used very often, patients can see certain patterns on their skin that originate from the laser itself, such as a grid, crossed lines, as well as dots in the form of a tiny grid.
If you look at these patterns, you will see that there are islands of intact skin between the parts of the skin on which the laser worked. It is these islands of intact skin that make this laser stand out from the rest.
These islets allow the laser-treated surrounding skin to recover faster, increase its safety, and reduce the possibility of side effects and complications.
After the laser treatment, all the skin can be red, but the untouched skin is islets that enable faster recovery than with fully ablative lasers.
Preparing for Laser Resurfacing
First of all, the most important thing the patient must do before having laser skin treatment is consulting a dermatologist.
Even though today’s laser technologies are safe, having a professional opinion is always a good idea. There are certain conditions that can represent an obstacle to your laser treatment.
For example, acute infectious processes. Those include inflamed acne. Similarly, herpes infections on your face are also contraindications for laser treatment.
Secondly, your skin must be clean before the laser treatment. So, as before any other treatment, the skin needs to be disinfected with some of the antiseptic solutions.
Absolute surgical disinfection is not required as before surgery, but some of the alcoholic solutions or disinfectant products should be used for cleansing.
It should be noted that removing makeup is mandatory before this facial cleansing. Namely, you must not have any make-up residues nor traces. In the same vein, your skin should be free from dirt from air pollution.
After cleansing the face, an anesthetic cream can be applied. It is most often a combination of lidocaine and bupivacaine.
These are all local anesthetics that allow the laser treatment to be painless. They also allow the surface layer of the skin to numb and that numbness persists after the treatment too. As a result, you will not feel any pain.
After the activation period of this cream, which takes a maximum of 30 minutes, a thorough facial cleansing is started again and the CO2 laser treatment can start.
Finally, let’s remind you that sensitive regions, such as eyelids, dark circles, or ear areas, require special attention and care. Most professionals use ice packs, as holding the ice on the sensitive area achieves additional numbness and the most painless treatment possible.
Who Is A Good Candidate for Laser Resurfacing?
If one of your goals is fewer wrinkles or removing acne scars, you are a good CO2 laser treatment candidate. Also, if you want to tighten your skin, this treatment is the best solution for you.
Skin color and type do not play an important function here, because the laser treatment adapts to your skin type. If your face has numerous small wrinkles, acne scars, bumps, relaxed tone, loss of elasticity, you are definitely a candidate for the laser intervention.
The doctor will adjust the treatment to your skin type and in accordance with what you want to achieve with laser treatment.
CO2 laser treatment is primarily suitable for people who want to keep a youthful look. This is the most effective treatment for the prevention of facial loosening, loss of the skin tone, ie facial tension, and reduction of wrinkles.
The laser shapes the face extremely effectively while restoring the previous contours of the face that were lost as a result of the lowering of the face tonus.
Before choosing this treatment, you should focus on your goals: what skin problems do you want to solve, what results do you hope for and what is the best solution for you?
And most importantly, which doctor does these procedures. Remember that not every CO2 laser treatment provider is safe and trustworthy. Always choose trusted and experienced professionals.
Fractional CO2 Laser Treatment
The CO2 laser is a device and also the name of the treatment in anti-aging, rejuvenation therapy, and removal of skin changes. The fractional CO2 laser is the most popular type of CO2 lasers today.
This device is most often used in the treatment of all skin scars, as well as in the removal of skin imperfections such as acne scars and sunspots (melasma).
In essence, a fractional CO2 laser is an ablative laser (an ablative laser is one that removes the surface layer of the skin), but is designed not to remove the entire target skin area.
This laser leaves a small insula of skin between the places where the removal was performed. Why is this technique so important? This greatly speeds up the recovery process and reduces the possibility of all possible complications after the treatment.
Prior to the advent of the fractional or fractionated CO2 laser, full ablative lasers were used widely. However, these lasers literally removed the surface layer of the skin, without the above-mentioned skin islands left in between. As a result, the rate of the occurrence of different kinds of complications after the treatment was high. Even more often, the recovery process was slow.
These lasers are still used today with CO2 lasers, but only when removing changes from the skin (keratoses, dermatofibromas, etc.), but also as an aid in surgical interventions, for example.
Today’s fractionated or fractional CO2 lasers, which leave islets of skin intact between the parts on which the laser has operated are very efficient, safe, and very reliable.
Unlike the ablative laser, which removes only the surface layer of the skin, the CO2 laser also removes the deeper layers of the skin and is, therefore, more efficient.
Although patients recover very quickly from the classic Erbium ablative lasers, their effects in removing scars, as well as in the process of removing stretch marks, or in the process of rejuvenation, are simply not effective.
Therefore, we can say that today’s modern fractional CO2 laser technology is state-of-the-art in laser skincare.
Recovery After the CO2 Laser Treatment
Acute recovery after the CO2 laser treatment or the CO2 laser downtime takes seven to ten days. During this period of time, patients may notice various changes from day to day.
A couple of hours after the treatment, the skin is sensitive. It usually looks like sunburns. It is reddish and it can burn. You might feel a tightening sensation.
Sometimes, with more intensive laser treatments, a small amount of serous fluid can appear. This is, in fact, the lymph fluid. This condition should not make you worried.
On the second day, the skin already takes on a dark-bronze color. It is only after the third day that the patient can notice the feeling of itching, which is not particularly pronounced.
During this period, you should not use any make-up. Professional dermatologists recommend applying makeup only after the seventh day when the peeling recovery percentage exceeds 50%.
The period over which the redness of the skin can last is completely individual. With stronger laser conditions, and sensitive patients, the redness can last for 2-3 weeks, but it is possible to completely cover it with make-up after the 7th day.
The recovery time of the skin in the neck area is usually longer. It takes 2-3 weeks for the skin of this area to fully recover.
After the treatment, creams for skin regeneration and hydration should be used. The best results are obtained if you apply these quality creams at least 3 times a day.
Special attention should be paid to skincare before going to bed. The skin regeneration process is more intensive during the night.
That’s why using night hydration creams is an excellent choice that will speed up the recovery process.
Cold compresses or ice packs can be applied. A solution of vinegar (1 teaspoon of vinegar and 2 spoons of water) can be used to alleviate the itching sensation.
It is necessary to avoid the sun and heat during the whole recovery process. Analgesics may be used to relieve pain and discomfort in the first hours or days after the treatment.
How many CO2 Laser Treatments Are Required?
The exact number of treatments may differ from patient to patient. This depends on the overall condition of the skin and the specific problem the patient wants to treat.
In general, CO2 laser treatments are done once every 3 months. It takes 60-90 days to achieve the effect of the new collagen synthesis and remodeling of the existing one.
For the full effect of the treatment, either in terms of rejuvenation, treatment of scars, or depending on the problem to be solved, it is usually necessary to do 1-3 treatments on average.
Although in some cases it is enough for the patient to have only one treatment, in most cases a series of treatments is necessary in order to achieve the maximum effect on the skin, and thus the longevity of the achieved treatment will be ensured.
The Benefits of CO2 Laser Treatment
The benefits of having a CO2 laser treatment are numerous. Those include:
- Acne scar treatment
- Treatment of other scars
- Treatment of stretch marks
- Treatment of melasma, keratosis, and other skin changes
- Reduction of enlarged pores
- Skin peeling
- Skin tightening
- Facial and neck wrinkle removal.
Moreover, the pros of choosing this treatment include:
- The fact that one treatment requires 5 to 7 treatments of other fractional lasers
- Fractional CO2 laser tightens the face completely, i.e. it generally solves the problem because it simultaneously reduces wrinkles, rejuvenates the skin, removes scars and pigmentation and pores
- The results of the strong treatment are compared with the result of a facelift, but with a completely natural look
- The results are visible immediately after recovery and will get better with time
- Treatment is safe and recovery is quick
- It can rejuvenate the skin in just 5 – 10 minutes.
Any Medical or Cosmetic Side Effects for CO2 Laser Treatment?
Depending on the strength of the treatment the patient might notice mild side effects. Namely, there are mild, medium, and strong treatments.
The results of the strong treatment are compared with the result of a facelift, but with a completely natural look. Side effects can appear accordingly. After the treatment, the face turns red.
Recovery after this laser procedure depends on the strength of the treatment and varies from 5 to 10 days with a stronger treatment.
For mild to moderate treatment, recovery takes about 2 to 5 days because the face is red.
Fractionated CO2 laser should not be used by patients on Roaccutane therapy for 6 months after discontinuation of this therapy.
Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not undergo this treatment due to the possibility of developing hyperpigmentation stimulated by high estrogen levels.
Treatments cannot be performed immediately after chemotherapy or while taking some anticoagulants that are phototoxic. Treatment is also not recommended for people prone to keloids.
CO2 Laser for Acne Scars And Other Scars
The CO2 laser, especially the CO2 fractional laser has become the gold standard in removing acne scars as well as scars from surgery, injuries, or burns.
For scars caused by injury, or after suture removal, the use of a fractionated CO2 laser enables very fast recovery of patients and aesthetically very acceptable scars.
Earlier, there was an understanding that a scar should be allowed to form, and only then should its treatment begin.
However, this standard has changed a lot and today it starts with a fractionated CO2 laser on the same day or the next day in relation to the suture condition.
In most cases, laser scar treatment should be repeated and the number of repetitions depends on several factors.
One type of scars, the keloid and so-called raised, i.e. hypertrophic scars, always need to be treated with a larger number of treatments.
Scars in the formation always react better in relation to old scars that you will recognize by the fact that they are whitish in color and require more treatments.
Scars that occupy larger areas of the body, such as those from burns, need to be treated more times.
Finally, as with most other things, we should not forget that the individual response of each patient’s organism can contribute in a positive or negative way to the outcome of the treatment.
CO2 Laser for Eyelid Lifting Treatment
The laser is used both in eye-lid surgery and after the eyelid surgery. Very often, in numerous newspaper articles, on numerous social networks, and on different websites, you can see sensationalist headlines such as “Laser eyelid lift”.
However, it is important to point out that the laser alone cannot lift the eyelids enough, that is, it cannot lift them to the extent that they are raised by a surgical approach.
Often, in the operation of lifting the upper eyelids, the amount of skin that is removed is two centimeters and the laser really can’t give such an extraordinary effect.
Also, fatty tissues are often removed during the surgery, which cannot be done by the laser only without the surgery.
On the other hand, we must say that the laser has a very large application in the operation of lifting the eyelids, both during the operation to cut the tissue and stop the bleeding, and immediately after the intervention to make the results even better.
Namely, when the suturing of the tissue is completed with one intradermal thread, if there are small wrinkles on the skin like crumpled paper, with fractionated CO2 laser they can easily be erased.
While you are still under the influence of anesthesia, it is enough to go through a fractionated CO2 laser once, after which protective patches can be applied, which are usually applied after the operation.
The CO2 laser is used especially during the lower eyelid surgery. Namely, in the case of the lower eyelids, the amount of the skin that is removed is usually smaller in relation to the amount of skin that is removed in the upper blepharoplasty.
The reason is very simple. If more skin is removed, a condition where twisting of the lower eyelid occurs can appear. This is a very unpleasant complication for the patient.
Therefore, after the completed surgical intervention, if there is still a minimal excess of skin, with two transitions made with the CO2 fractional laser, this skin can be tightened and excellent results can be obtained.
Is Laser Skin Resurfacing a Painful Procedure?
During the CO2 laser treatment, the skin cools down, so the treatment itself is relatively comfortable. There is a tingling sensation during the air application.
The whole treatment lasts up to 30 minutes. Immediately after the treatment, the face is red like the skin after sunbathing, and the feeling on the skin is similar.
The intensity of burning is directly proportional to the density of the applied air as well as the number of transitions during the treatment. Also, the strength of the laser affects the pain level and side-effects.
Patients receive instructions on skincare for the next 7 days. In the first two days, the skin may be slightly red and tight. Flaking begins as early as 24 hours after treatment and in some patients lasts 5 days and in some 7 to 14 depending on the region and the applied energy (there is always a prior agreement with the doctor).
The pain level can be higher or lower, accordingly. However, it is not significant and usually does not require using any pain killers.
Cost of CO2 Laser Treatment
The cost of the standard CO2 laser treatment or the CO2 fractional laser treatment is individual and is determined specifically according to each patient. Why?
The reason is simple: it depends on several factors, such as the region being treated, the condition of the skin, the problem to be solved, and the strength of the laser is applied.
For the approximate price and other details, it would be best to contact the doctor or medical professional who will perform the procedure in your specific case.
Final Takeaway for The CO2 Laser Treatment
The bottom line regarding the CO2 laser treatment refers to the fact that it has an extremely strong skin tightening effect.
Therefore, it is used for tightening and lifting the facial skin in addition to many other applications such as treating scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and facial rejuvenation.
CO2 laser technology is extremely suitable for stretch marks and deeper scars due to its strong skin tightening effect. In addition, the laser has a pronounced skin rejuvenating effect.
It can almost completely replace the blepharoplasty of the bags under the eyes, upper and lower eyelids if they are not extremely lowered.
Finally, this is perhaps the best method of tightening and lifting the face skin in women who have preserved facial contours.
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Last update on 2021-01-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API