5 Ways to Fix Your Skin With a Laser
“Since lasers take aim at pigment, like brown spots and red blood vessels, a suntan or burn can compete with those targets, absorbing the device’s energy and elevating the risk of discoloration,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Robert Anolik. Our emerging autumn pallor, on the other hand, is a dream backdrop for erasing these five imperfections in a flash.
“No matter how vigilant you were over the summer, you likely developed at least a few new brown spots,” says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a dermatologist in New York City. Docs can wipe them out, often in a single session, with a Q-switched ruby or Nd:YAG laser. They require no anesthetic; feel vaguely like a rubber band snapping the skin; and yield thin, purplish scabs, which fall off within a week to reveal untarnished skin. The cost? $500 to $900 per treatment.
2. Broken Vessels and Red Marks
From squiggly red lines and ruddy cheeks to old bug bites that refuse to blanch—all can be taken out (or at least minimized) with vascular lasers, like the Excel V and the pulsed-dye Vbeam, usually in one to four monthly visits, at roughly $500 to $900 each. These tools target the oxyhemoglobin in blood, which absorbs their energy, generating enough heat to vaporize the vessels responsible for redness. According to New York City dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas, “It’s much easier to treat discernable broken blood vessels than background redness, because larger vessels take in more energy.” So if you’re battling the rosiness of rosacea or chronic sun damage, don’t expect it to relent completely. As for the spidery tangles marring your ankles and calves, Dr. Anolik says sclerotherapy injections are still superior for dissolving vessels below the waist.
3. Uneven Tone and Dull Texture
Derms’ most dependable workhorses for sun-ravaged skin are fractional lasers, which emit light in a pixilated fashion, wounding select columns of skin while skipping others to fast-track recovery. A few rounds of Fraxel Dual ($700 to $1,600 a session) will give the ultimate refresh by “restoring collagen that has been weakened by the sun while simultaneously exfoliating skin to cast off pigment and old piled-up cells,” says Dr. Anolik. Within a week or two, skin is smoother and more even-toned; lines and pores gradually diminish as new collagen grows. “Another major advantage of the Dual is that it can be used safely on the delicate neck, chest, and beyond,” says Dr. Waldorf, since the device leaves some sebaceous glands and hair follicles intact to promote healing. Expect two days of pinkness followed by a few days of dryness and flaking. For skin that’s more dull than damaged, the Clear + Brilliant laser ($600 to $1,200 a treatment)—essentially a dialed-down Dual—restores radiance and gives a mild collagen boost with only one day of downtime.
Coming off months of hellish humidity and zinc-slicked skin, the acne-prone among us can pretty much count on a fall flare-up. Enter the Isolaz: While not technically a single-beam laser, this device combines pore-clearing suction with multiple wavelengths of light that kill zit-causing bacteria while fading both the pink and brown marks that pimples leave behind. The number of treatments depends on the severity of one’s acne, but bet on three over the course of two months, at roughly $500 a session. To bolster results, ask your derm to do a mild chemical peel immediately following the Isolaz, as “pores are wide open and the acids can penetrate deeper,” says Dr. Anolik.
5. Scars and Tattoos
A new technology is promising to smooth away divots left by pimples past. “Picosecond lasers approach scars in a completely different way,” says Dr. Anolik, who coauthored a study on one such device called the PicoSure, reporting a 25 to 75 percent improvement in acne scars after six treatments. While most lasers use heat to stimulate new collagen to fill in scars, picosecond lasers send a vibration down into the deeper layers of skin to trigger collagen growth and repair, he explains. The 10-minute procedure leaves skin pink for a few hours and costs $800 to $1,500. Picosecond lasers also happen to be go-tos for removing tattoos (those oft-regrettable late-night summer souvenirs), as they swiftly “extrude ink from the skin until the tattoo eventually turns white and scabs over,” says Dr. Chapas.