Lasers are precise surgical devices that solve a wide range of skin problems. The state of California allows different kinds of practitioners to perform this procedure. But the cosmetic outcomes largely depend on the provider’s expertise, so you must choose wisely.
True laser specialists can zap away blemishes safely and effectively, but one lacking the necessary skill can give you disappointing results or put you in harm’s way.
In this article, we explain the importance of finding the right laser dermatologist and give you some tips on how to do it.
What Is Dermatologic Laser Treatment?
Dermatologic lasers generate high-energy light beams with a very narrow color spectrum. Each laser type has a specific molecular target in the skin, leaving unscathed structures that do not absorb its energy.
The target molecules heat up and vaporize when hit by laser rays. A tiny portion of the surrounding tissue also absorbs some damage. The procedure creates minuscule areas of injury, which become the focal points for healing and skin renewal.
The skin repair process gets rid of the blemish.
What Kinds of Lasers Do Dermatologists Use?
There are many ways to classify dermatologic lasers. To make it simple, we shall group them according to their color spectrum and applications.
These instruments use invisible, high-powered, far-infrared light to target water molecules in the top layers of the skin. They include carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Er:YAG) lasers.
Ablative lasers create tiny open wounds and cause significant inflammation, but they produce the most dramatic cosmetic transformation. They address a wide variety of skin conditions but are best for deeper or more severe lesions.
Non-ablative lasers may be of the invisible or visible type. Most have wide applications, though some are better for specific conditions because of their molecular targets.
- The excimer laser uses ultraviolet B radiation, which is absorbed by DNA, melanin and some proteins. It can treat immunity-driven skin disorders like psoriasis.
- Green-yellow lasers like Vbeam break down the main blood pigment hemoglobin, but they are also modestly absorbed by melanin. They are best for lesions with prominent blood vessels, such as port-wine stains, though they also work on other skin blemishes.
- Red lasers are absorbed by skin and hair melanin and tattoo pigments. They can remove unwanted hair, multicolor tattoos and pigmented lesions.
- Intense pulsed light (IPL) uses a broad light spectrum. It can get rid of excess hair and vascular and pigmented lesions.
- Near-infrared lasers are strongly absorbed by water but weakly absorbed by blood and melanin. These lasers have vast applications but are better for skin of color.
- Mid-infrared lasers are absorbed by water, lipids and proteins. They are best for acne but may also be used for skin rejuvenation.
Non-ablative lasers produce minimal inflammation and require little downtime, but the results are modest and gradual.
Dermatologic Laser Types and Their Applications
|Laser Type||Molecular Targets (Chromophores) in the Skin||Applications|
|Immunity-driven conditions like:
Weakly absorbed by melanin, hemoglobin and other pigments
|For skin of color with the following issues:
|Best for acne
Also for skin resurfacing
|Far-IR||Maximally absorbed by water||Skin resurfacing, especially for more severe lesions|
Other skin pigments
|Best for vascular lesions like port-wine stains, rosacea and spider veins
Hair and skin melanin
Other skin pigments
|Best for multicolor tattoo removal
|Invisible and Visible Spectra|
Other skin pigments
|Has many uses|
What Are the Risks of Laser Treatment?
Laser surgery is complex and requires specialized knowledge of the skin and correct use of the equipment. Complications may arise if the procedure is not done properly.
- Severe inflammation. Discomfort, redness and swelling are normal in the first few days after treatment. Susceptible people may even see a little bruising or pinpoint bleeding. But the wrong technique can lead to greater skin damage.
- Pigmentation problems. Skin of color is particularly at risk because of its rich melanin content. Pigmentation problems can happen if an inexperienced provider has a sloppy technique or uses the wrong type of laser.
- Infection. Laser surgery may reactivate cold sores. Laser plumes can carry microbes in the air that may infect distant parts of the skin. Vulnerable individuals can develop pus-filled lesions from Staphylococcal infection. All these may be avoided by careful patient examination, good pretreatment preparation, good technique and diligent aftercare.
- Burns. Laser beams can burn the skin, especially if one has been exposed to light-sensitizing agents right before the session. Burns can occur from the following:
- Inadequate patient evaluation, e. g. failure to note recent treatments and understand their potential interactions with laser
- Poor pretreatment preparation, e. g. did not advise the patient to stop taking photosensitizing drugs before the procedure
- Using the wrong technique or choice of equipment settings
- Aggressive combination of skin treatments
- Worsening of the lesion. Poor technique or choice of treatment parameters can induce more scarring. Inexperienced providers may miss premalignant lesions, such as actinic keratosis, or the early signs of skin cancer.
- Eye injuries. They can happen if the provider fails to give adequate eye protection, especially when using laser equipment near the eyes.
- Fire and smoke inhalation. Laser devices can set off fires if used close to a high-flow oxygen source or flammable chemical. Laser fumes also contain toxic gases, which specialists minimize by evacuation.
- Electrical hazards. These can occur if high voltages or currents are used or if the equipment is wet.
The secret of Hollywood’s most beautiful stars is great skin care, and LA has some of California’s best dermatologists. However, cosmetic procedure-related injuries are also frequently reported in the state, thanks to the handiwork of unlicensed individuals. So finding the right specialist to perform your laser surgery is no small matter.
True laser experts are well acquainted with the above risks and the ways to avoid them. Only they can guarantee the safety and effectiveness of your treatment.
How Should You Choose a Laser Dermatologist?
When looking for a laser dermatologist, pick one who you think can give you the best results and ensure your safety. So ask the following questions:
- What are the provider’s qualifications?
A laser dermatologist is a medical doctor, specifically one who skillfully uses the technology for skin care. In the US, these physicians are certified by the American Board of Dermatology and have pursued further education in laser treatment.
Active membership in professional organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology also strengthens their qualifications.
Doctors usually display these credentials on their office walls or websites.
Ask how many years they have been in practice and how many procedures they have done. These numbers correlate with proficiency and patient trust.
Also, do not forget that there are added advantages to getting a board-certified dermatologist, and not just any provider, to do a cosmetic procedure.
One is their keen eye for early skin cancer. For example, they can easily tell if a mole is benign or a beginning melanoma. If that is the case, the doctor may recommend Mohs surgery or a combination regimen rather than a laser-only treatment to eliminate the lesion before it spreads.
The other is their mastery of skin of color. The wrong laser choice can make things worse for a patient with this skin type.
Some providers may mention using a particular brand of laser equipment to you. Using fashionable equipment is good, but the work of a reputable laser dermatologist speaks for itself regardless of the tools they use.
And if you live near Glendale or Encino, you will never go wrong when you choose BHSkin Dermatology’s award-winning laser specialists.
- Is the provider referred by a friend or another medical professional?
Seek friends who have had laser treatment in the past. You can judge the results for yourself, but ask if they are happy about their doctor’s work, too.
Referrals from other medical professionals are also important, so get a few as much as possible. A colleague’s recommendation speaks highly of a specialist’s capability, professionalism and consistency of performance.
- Is the provider skilled at performing other dermatologic procedures?
It could be that your skin condition needs a combination of treatments or something other than laser surgery. For example, injectables like Botox are safer for wrinkles around the eyes, so doctors may recommend them in place of laser therapy. Your skin care specialist must be able to perform a variety of alternative procedures to ensure the best outcomes and save you time and resources.
- How much does the provider charge for the treatment?
Cost is an important consideration, but you should be careful not to fall easily for bargain deals on laser procedures. When it comes to dermatologic surgery, the doctor’s qualifications and your expected quality of service must still be at the top of your priority list. You’ll want to get it right the first time because it’s even more expensive to patch up the complications of a botched procedure.
Insurers will not cover laser surgery done for aesthetic enhancement. But they may reconsider if there is a medical need for it, such as relieving scarring-related movement limitations.
For more information, you may check out our in-depth article on finding excellent dermatologists in LA.
When Quality Is Better than “Practical”
Dermatologic lasers are powerful medical tools. In the hands of a specialist, they can correct skin flaws and make you look your best. But the results can be disastrous if they are used by an unqualified provider.
Laser treatment is one of those things that you want to get right the first time. So when looking for a laser dermatologist, show your skin some love by choosing quality over “practical.”
Pamper Your Skin. Pick LA’s Best.
Cosmetic lasers can get rid of skin blemishes effectively and safely, but only if you get the right professional to do it. In LA, patients can count on BHSkin Dermatology’s skin care specialists for stunning results.
Every. Single. Time.
For wrinkle-free, healthy skin, come see us at our Glendale or Encino clinic or consult remotely through our virtual portal. Book your appointment today.
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