What is laser treatment? 

The word laser stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The basic principle behind both laser and intense pulsed light is that specific wavelengths of light delivered to the skin are absorbed by certain targets – for example melanin (pigment), haemoglobin (found in blood), and water. This light heats the targets without damaging the surrounding skin. In the case of pigment, this can lead to the body eliminating the pigment, resulting in a reduction in pigmentation of the skin. When treating blood vessels, heating of the vessel can cause it to be resorbed by the body, reducing the appearance of redness and prominent blood vessels. When treating hair, heating of the melanin in the hair follicle can destroy the hair follicle and stop hair growth. Some lasers create tiny areas of damage in the skin, which stimulates collagen regeneration and cell turnover, resulting in skin tightening and rejuvenation. 

Are lasers and intense pulsed light the same?

No, they’re different. Intense pulsed light (IPL) uses a broad spectrum of wavelengths of light, whereas lasers tend to use a single wavelength of light to treat select targets in the skin. This means lasers are more targeted than IPL, so are generally more powerful. However, IPL can treat larger areas and multiple targets (such as pigmentation and redness) at the same time. 

What skin concerns can lasers treat?

Lasers can be used to treat blood vessels, redness, birthmarks, pigmentation, tattoos and unwanted hair, as well as for skin tightening, resurfacing and rejuvenation.

What‘s the downtime, and how many treatments will I need?

This really depends on the type of laser treatment you are having. Depending on the laser used and the condition you are having treated, there may be no downtime, or a recovery period of up to a week or two. Multiple treatments are often required.

Patil UA, Dhami LD. Overview of lasers. Indian J Plast Surg. 2008;41(Suppl):S101-S113.

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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…