Do I really have to look like a speckled hen?!
One of the things I’ve found most distressing about the aging process is the decline in integrity of my skin. Once upon a time it was smooth and the only spots were freckles. I don’t like to be overly vain, but as I look more and more like a speckled hen I must say I feel the need to fight back! Thankfully, over the years I’ve found that CO2 laser skin rejuvenation has worked really well to fight against skin aging.
As we age, our skin loses elasticity, becomes saggy and thin and spotty in many places. Having nursed for several years when I was younger, I keep remembering the poor little old ladies with their papery skin and how it often got caught on things and got ripped and bruised! It wasn’t pretty, and I swore then as I do now, that I’d do what I can to prevent this. In the same way I look after my internal organs, I’m going to look after my largest organ, my skin.
What can we do to maintain the integrity of our skin?
Maintaining youthful skin is not just about improving its appearance for cosmetic (read ‘shallow’ to some!) reasons. As with any organ or body system it is important to keep it in as optimal condition as possible and to provide it all the support it needs to stay supple, intact and looking good (because good=healthy). The use of products with active ingredients is a must, as is eating a diet low in sugar and full of fresh fruit and veges and lean, low fat protein such as that derived from fish and vegetables. More interventionist treatments to remove dead skin layers and to stimulate collagen growth will also make a huge difference, and laser falls into this category. CO2 laser skin rejuvenation is well recognised as a proven treatment.
CO2 laser skin rejuvenation
There are many and varied lasers all with pros and cons. Cons relate to expense, pain and ‘down time’. Lasers such as the fractionated CO2 laser take care of these key factors and provide fantastic results in typically 2 – 3 treatments. Depending on the doctor you see (and you must go to a doctor as it is not without its risks), the cost per treatment varies upward from $700 per session.
Over the past years, I’ve had many treatments and for facial skin rejuvenation have found fractionatedCO2 laser skin rejuvenation the best laser treatment for the reasons cited above. As well as smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, CO2 laser skin rejuvenation promotes a more even skin tone. Unlike many other interventions, CO2 laser skin rejuvenation can last for years and not just weeks or months.
One of the downsides associated with laser treatments in general is the pain level. If you are anything like me, then the pain level is a key determinant of compliance with any intervention. When considering undergoing CO2 laser skin rejuvenation, make sure you ask your practitioner how he or she manages this. My doctor, Bruce Williamson uses an anaesthetic cream comprised of Tetracaine 4%, Lignocaine 1.5% and Prilocaine 1 5% Euxyl. This needs to be applied at least an hour prior to the procedure. Bruce also promotes the use of Nitrous Oxide while he is doing the procedure.
How does the CO2 laser work on your skin?
When the laser head is placed on your skin, the carbon laser beam that is channeled through the hand piece is broken into lots of evenly channeled, thin, microscopic beams that hit your skin and vaporize any sun damaged or scarred tissue. This causes tightening of the skin and during healing supports it to produce collagen (the protein responsible for skin structure and appearance).
This action effectively vaporizes small columns of tissue and these take 2 – 3 days to seal back up again. As the skin heals, the lost volume creates a tightening of the skin and around those columns of skin where the beam delivers heat, and the actual mechanism by which wound healing occurs, partly leads to the formation of new collagen in the skin.
Here’s a video from one of my CO2 laser skin rejuvenation sessions (a few years ago now). Things haven’t changed though so you’ll get the gist of how it works when you watch it.
Benefit of CO2 laser skin rejuvenation
Bruce uses a fractionated CO2 laser and more specifically a Smartxide DOT laser made by Deka. Some doctors use Fraxel which is also a well-recognized brand. The wavelength of a CO2 laser is 10,600nm and is absorbed strongly by water ablating from the top down. This produces true fractional ablation of the epidermis with the depth of the thermal injury depending on the power of the laser and the dwell time on each dot. Because you ablate the epidermis you get a new, smoother surface of the skin with less treatments and a potentially less deeply penetrating treatment and less discomfort.
With regards to discomfort however, the CO2 laser can drill very deep holes into the skin if you want it to, such as if you were trying to treat deep wrinkles with a single treatment, and then there will be a lot of pain and discomfort and local unaesthetic blocks are usually necessary along with oral analgesics.
Recovery and results for CO2 laser skin rejuvenation
Think ‘red puffer fish’!! The immediate effects includes redness, swelling and sometimes oozing of clear fluid (serum). This is only temporary and initial healing occurs within 3 – 5 days. The first day or so you’ll be red and swollen and then the skin will start to peel off (think dandruff of the face!). Unless you want to be noticed it is best to stay out of the public eye until day 3 at least. By day 5, apart from looking pink you’ll be ready for public viewing.
There’s really not much required in the way of wound care. To keep swelling under control be sure to apply ice to your face for at least an hour after the procedure. For the first day or so use an intensive tissue repair cream and then use a thick moisturizer. Don’t use moisturizer with active ingredients as this will most likely cause stinging and damage the rejuvenated skin surface.
Dr Bruce Williamson operates from Skin Smart Medical Services.