Thanks to modern laser therapy, we are able to confidently face skin pigmentation issues, wrinkles and fine lines caused by sunlight exposure, pollution, and lifestyle issues. Convenient, effective, fast-acting, and painless, laser treatments are a doctor’s trusted weapon to help erase the blemishes and years from our faces. Today, the use of lasers in health and aesthetic medicine is so widespread that we have many specialized lasers designed for the different aspects of skin treatment and rejuvenation processes. But, there are a plethora of terms, such as pico laser, fractional laser, and long-pulsed lasers, in circulation, that confuse the novices.
Even as they are putting back the smiles on faces, several misconceptions and myths associated with lasers tend to discourage people from contemplating laser treatments for chronic skin pigmentation problems such as melasma, persistent pimple spots, and a host of other skin issues like acne scarring. While some people worry that laser treatments may be unaffordable, others wonder if it would lead to cancer, and some others feel that salons provide laser treatments. It makes sense to do a fact-check on some myths about medical laser treatments and the plethora of technical terms that have compounded the situation further.
While the myths abound in large numbers, here’s a look at the top seven that you should know about and get to the truth:
Myth #1: Cosmetic laser technology is still in the experimental stage and therefore comes with the perils of using new and unknown technology that can be harmful for the body.
Fact: Believe it or not! Lasers have been around for around sixty years now. Developed in 1960, the first cosmetic laser procedure was conducted just two years later, when dermatologist Leon Goldman successfully used them in tattoo removal. And just two more years later, in 1964, lasers were used for the first time in skin treatments.
Today, as the stock-in-trade for doctors, an array of aesthetic lasers, such as Pico laser (pulse duration), Alexandrite laser (wavelength), and Erbium laser, are routinely used in treating a variety of skin conditions such as scars, birthmarks, dilated prominent veins, wrinkles, melasma, hyperpigmentation, hair removal, and so many more. Rest assured, if they are used as per treatment protocols, and expertly handled, laser treatment procedures are safe, effective, and convenient. Innumerable clinical studies have proven time and again that cosmetic lasers are a safe option for cosmetic and therapeutic procedures.
Myth 2: Laser treatments weaken your skin by thinning it
Fact: There is absolutely no truth in this point if you use the right lasers and get treatment from a trained doctor. The misconception has been fueled partly by the ablative lasers such as the Carbon Dioxide (CO2 lasers) that can peel the skin. However, in this case, the skin heals fast and actually increases its original thickness.
On the other hand, non-ablative lasers such as Nd:Yag lasers operate on the principle of ‘controlled heating and regeneration’ to encourage the skin to increase its collagen output, thus rejuvenating the skin. In the case of treating hyperpigmentation too, Q-switched laser beams of specific wavelengths are used to precisely target the problem areas for extremely short time intervals, effectively blasting the pigmentations, minimally affecting the skin cells. What’s more, in the hands of experienced medical practitioners who know their lasers, even undergoing laser procedures multiple times is safe for your skin. So, for all those wondering does laser thin the skin? The answer is a resounding NO!
Myth 3: Laser treatment is expensive
Fact: In the long run, you’ll find that laser treatment actually works out to be economical. This is because laser treatments for many skin problems are more effective and last much longer than conventional creams, lotions, and salon treatments. It also translates into less visits to the beauty parlour! While making an upfront treatment for laser treatment may seem expensive, the short-term and long-term benefits far outweigh the initial costs. Most importantly, lasers must be handled by trained doctors as it is a highly specialized area of medical treatment. Further, costs also vary according to the specific problem, the complexity, the kind of equipment, and several other factors. So, is laser treatment expensive? The answer is that laser treatments represent good value for money. Laser treatments need not be expensive, as there are many affordable treatments available. You can consult your aesthetic practitioner for advice on your skin concerns and possible treatment options.
Myth 4: A single session of laser treatment can clear all your skin problems away
Fact: Just as each one of us is a unique person, it is normal that our responses also vary to different stimuli. Remember, any laser treatment cannot completely resolve your skin problem, in one session. It’s a gradual process and so, you could observe the skin lightening up a bit after the first session.
Optimal results will become evident as you continue the remaining sessions prescribed for your treatment. There is no one best laser that can solve your skin problem in one session. There are myriad factors at play – genetics, age, gender, physical condition, skin sensitivity, pain toleration levels, the severity of the condition, allergies, and so many other pre-existing conditions. Even the slightest variation in any of the influencing factors can influence your skin’s response to the laser procedure. Problem diagnosed, what then is the solution? Remember, your doctors know best. So, trust their experience and judgement on whether to continue the treatment or consider alternatives.
Myth 5: Stopping laser treatment will lead to skin degeneration
Fact: Contrary to misconceptions, laser treatments do not force dependency on the user. This is because correct laser treatments will induce regenerative changes in the skin. After the laser treatment rejuvenates or repairs the damaged cells and tissues, the skin heals to its original structure. Of course, it’s possible that you could require multiple treatment sessions to achieve the expected outcomes. Remember, lifestyle factors, ageing, and pollution are crucial factors in the development of skin issues. Periodic reviews with your doctor will help you take necessary steps.
Myth #6: All Lasers are Equal
Fact: While laser skin treatments generally operate on the same principle – using a light beam to repair the skin, and destroy the unwanted elements, it does not mean that any laser can cure all skin issues. There simply is no scope for the ‘one size fits all’ approach when using lasers for skin treatments.
To begin with, specific laser treatments are prescribed in accordance with the patient’s skin type, condition, colour, and sometimes, treatment area too. So, even if two persons are suffering from the same type of skin problem, doctors can recommend different lasers for their treatments. Sometimes, the same devices are recommended but with different settings! This may be because the severity of the condition can vary from person to person. The best thing to do is, choose the right doctor and trust them with your skin problems.
Myth #7: Lasers means Pain
Fact: On the big screen, lasers turn into incredible weapons that swashbuckling space heroes battle villainous characters with. In real life, in skin treatment clinics, lasers are benign tools that can be relatively painless in the hands of a trained doctor. For most patients, the laser feels somewhat similar to that of a rubber band snapping on the skin. The unusual sensation slowly fades away in minutes as patients soon get used to the slight hum and buzz of laser devices.
In case of high power laser devices, doctors conduct the procedure after applying a topical anesthesia to the treatment area. This is done even in cases where skin sensitivity is more, or when the patient specifically requests for topical anesthesia. Ultimately, a meticulously done laser procedure by an experienced doctor, in normal circumstances, will never be too painful or cause undue discomfort.
As we have seen, there is absolutely nothing to worry, or fear about proper medical laser treatments. In fact, lasers offer the easiest way to fresh-looking, healthy, attractive skin that bring you admiring glances from your friends and colleagues. Consult with a doctor to clear your confusion about laser treatments.