Erbium Laser Skin Resurfacing
Erbium laser resurfacing is a procedure that uses advanced laser technology to remove the outer layers of skin, revealing new, refreshed skin cells below. This can be used to help smooth the texture of the skin and create an even skin tone. In addition to removing the outer layers of skin, erbium laser resurfacing also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, which give skin youthful fullness. This procedure is similar to procedures like chemical peels or dermabrasion used to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, hypo or hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Erbium lasers allow for a range of treatment depths to address a wide variety of cosmetic concerns. A combination or sequence of laser treatments may be used to deliver the desired results over the course of several visits.
While there are many lasers available to improve the appearance of the skin, erbium lasers are often relied upon for their precision. Because of the greater amount of depth control built into most erbium laser treatment systems, smaller areas can be targeted, and these lasers can be used safely on sensitive areas like the face, neck, hands, or chest. Because of the treatment precision, the dermatologist is able to minimize posttreatment discomfort and recovery time compared with CO2 laser treatments and other laser resurfacing options.
Who is a Good Candidate for Erbium Laser Resurfacing?
Erbium laser resurfacing is most often used to address surface-level and medium-deep lines and wrinkles around the mouth and eyes, but it is equally effective in addressing a range of concerns. The precision laser technology can be used on the face, hands, neck, and chest. These procedures are most often recommended to address fine lines and wrinkles, but people may also choose erbium laser resurfacing treatment to address mild irregularities in the appearance of skin like uneven tone and texture, as well as issues like acne scars, surgical or injury scarring, dark spots, and other flaws. In most cases, patients choose this treatment due to the high levels of precision, so they, generally, are looking to treat a small area.
Like other laser treatments, erbium laser technology works best on lighter skin tones, but the advanced precision of the erbium laser means that a darker skin tone does not necessarily mean patients won’t be candidates for erbium laser resurfacing. However, they should take time to discuss potential side effects with their dermatologist before selecting this procedure to ensure it’s their best option.
Some factors that may mean erbium laser treatment isn’t ideal for the patient include:
Having a history of cold sores or fever blisters
Taking isotretinoin medication for acne
Healing or scarring irregularly in the past
Taking aspirin or blood thinners before treatment
Chronic health concerns like diabetes, lupus, and other conditions that impact the immune system and the body’s healing ability
Smoking or tobacco use
How Does Erbium Laser Resurfacing Treatment Work?
Because erbium lasers penetrate into deeper layers of skin, the sensation can be uncomfortable. For this reason, your dermatologist will likely apply a topical or local anesthetic to numb the area before treatment. Your dermatologist will then apply the erbium laser to the specific area and depth of skin to address your specific concerns. Erbium lasers interact with water in the body to intentionally damage the skin cells. This jump-starts the body’s healing processes, increases the production of collagen and elastin, and generally triggers the production of healthy, new skin cells. After treatment, you may be given bandages or dressings that need to be applied to ensure proper healing and reduce the risk for side effects. Make sure to follow all aftercare instructions to achieve the best results.
Are There Side Effects to Erbium Laser Resurfacing Treatment?
The most common side effects are mild swelling and some discomfort in the first few days after your erbium laser resurfacing treatment. Some patients also experience redness that can last throughout the healing process. Healing may take one to two weeks, depending on the individual. As the skin begins to heal, you may see some flaking or peeling like what you would see after a bad sunburn. Take care to avoid pulling or scratching at any peeling areas as you may unintentionally damage your skin, which leaves you at risk for scarring and infection. Instead, allow the skin to be shed naturally. Apply moisturizer regularly to improve comfort throughout the healing process.
Make sure to follow all instructions from your dermatologist which could include using special facial cleansers, skipping your trip to the pool or gym, and foregoing makeup application to ensure fast, comfortable healing after treatment. Most importantly, the skin is likely to be sensitive to sunlight, so you’ll need to minimize your time outdoors and apply sunscreen regularly if you do need to be outside.
Some patients develop an infection after erbium laser resurfacing, so for those who are prone to skin infections, a dermatologist may prescribe antibiotic pills or creams to reduce this risk. In rare cases, often as the result of improper application, patients may experience burns, scarring, and hyper or hypopigmentation. These situations can be serious, and you should work with your dermatologist and other medical professionals as necessary to ensure you receive the right care.
How Long Does Erbium Laser Resurfacing Treatment Last?
Following treatment, it can take two to three weeks for patients to completely heal and see the unfolding results of their procedure. Depending on the treatment depth, some redness may also persist for two to three months. Most people will need to have more than one initial erbium laser treatment to achieve their desired result, and a dermatologist will work with patients to determine the best course of action. Once the patient achieves their desired result, additional treatments may be necessary to maintain these results. In the case of addressing specific areas of scarring or discoloration, maintenance sessions are unlikely to be recommended. However, for individuals who choose erbium laser resurfacing to combat the signs of aging or generally improve their skin’s overall appearance, regular retreatment sessions are essential to maintain the results. Unlike other resurfacing treatments, lasers go a little deeper into the skin, and the results will last a bit longer. Your dermatologist will likely want to monitor your body’s response before recommending a frequency for your maintenance sessions, but depending on the individual, retreatment is often scheduled once or twice a year