CO2 Laser Resurfacing
Laser technology has been used for several decades in skin care, and the CO2 laser is a very common procedure option in physician offices. This technology has been applied in the treatment of a variety of issues; from wrinkles around eyes, to dark spots on face, and acne scars not treatable with Dermabrasion. But its early popularity is what also caused the CO2 laser to see many changes over the years. For example, earlier versions of these devices were often accompanied by significant discomfort and side effects in the form of redness, inflammation, and peeling skin. As consumer demand for minimally invasive treatments increased, the technology evolved with the addition of various cooling mechanisms to increase patient comfort, and strategies to limit skin damage through a more methodical laser beam application. The CO2 laser treatment of today has improved significantly from its predecessors, but risks of skin damage and painful side effects have not disappeared completely.
CO2 Laser Technology
The CO2 laser creates infrared waves, which are then amplified through a series of mirrors and lenses to deliver a powerful energy beam to the surface of the skin. Physicians use specially-designed versions of this device to selectively damage skin tissues, a process called ablation, and spur the body’s natural healing process.
In the more traditional applications, the CO2 laser would fully burn off the top layer of skin in the entire treatment area, providing for a type of laser peel. Damaged skin cells were completely vaporized, and fresh, glowing skin was present beneath. The intensity of this procedure, however, is too painful for some patients to endure, and the CO2 resurfacing laser treatment was altered over time to use a fractional approach.
The fractional version of the CO2 laser, or fractional Co2 laser, is very similar to the initial models, except for one key difference: it doesn’t burn off the entire upper layer of skin cells. Instead, this type of device destroys only tiny patches of skin within the treatment area, leaving much of the surface intact. This improvement on the CO2 laser allows for faster healing, but at the same time, may also require more treatments to show meaningful results.
CO2 Resurfacing Laser Treatment
The use of the CO2 laser is most common for conditions that can benefit from removal of damaged skin cells. Hyperpigmentation issues, liver spots, medium to light wrinkles, fine lines and crow’s feet can all be addressed with laser resurfacing. Because the treatment literally burns portions of the skin, the need for a topical pain cream is highly likely, and in severe cases general anesthesia may be required.
However, this technology is not thought to be as effective at long term skin tightening because it doesn’t focus on collagen stimulation. This protein is found in the dermis layer of the skin, but the CO2 laser resurfacing treatment isn’t meant to go that deep. Further, collagen is best stimulated by being heated and coagulated, as opposed to being completely vaporized. Therefore, other technologies like Thermage and Sublative Rejuvenation may need to be utilized instead of a CO2 laser for long term anti ageing effects.
Side Effects of CO2 Laser Resurfacing
Any CO2 laser treatment is likely to cause discomfort and require 3-4 days to recover. However, some individuals may be at a higher risk because of previous medical problems. For example, patients with infections in the treatment area should not have the procedure as the micro wounds could easily become infected, exacerbating the problem.
Individuals who have undergone a chemical peel in the last few months, or who has had Dermabrasion performed is also not a good candidates for CO2 laser treatment. The idea behind many such treatments is the same as with laser resurfacing; to break down the already damaged cells on the surface and allow the skin to heal itself. If a CO2 laser procedure is performed soon after, the damage may be too severe for the body to easily handle and may lead to permanent skin discoloration or scarring.