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Lasers and Lights--A Technological Revolution

By: Jeffrey Dover, MD, and Amy Kamin
Posted: June 6, 2008, from the January 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

The effects of the world’s technological advances surround us. The result is an ability to do almost anything faster, more efficiently and very precisely. You can tackle and complete complicated tasks with the assistance of modern equipment. Major technological advances are most prevalent in medical science where patients are benefiting from this in the treatment and management of their health care needs. Technology has given patients the opportunity to have procedures performed with little or no anesthesia, less risk of infection, minimal recuperation time and better results. In cosmetic surgery, where a purely aesthetic improvement is the goal, justifying the possible risks that are associated with surgery always has been more difficult for the patient. Technological advances such as lasers, light sources, radio frequency and infrared devices have dramatically reduced procedural risks while increasing the likelihood of excellent results.

Youth: The driving force

Today’s youth-based culture, where attractiveness is defined by looking young and healthy, is certainly the driving force behind the extreme popularity of cosmetic procedures. Combined with dramatic technological breakthroughs, the options afforded interested individuals are numerous, especially in the area of facial rejuvenation. The facelift, the ultimate cosmetic surgical procedure, was first performed by Eugene Holland in Berlin in 1901, and its popularity has increased dramatically throughout the 20th century. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), there were 150,401 facelifts performed in the United States in 2005. Compared, however, to less invasive facial rejuvenation procedures, this is a relatively small number.

Just a few years ago facelifting was the only procedure available for the woman who wanted to rejuvenate her facial appearance. Laser and light facial rejuvenation is a relatively new procedure. There were 475,000 such procedures performed in 2005. The availability of cosmetic procedures without incisions that produce a clear complexion and skin that glows, minimizes lines and wrinkles, and tightens skin and reduces the overall look of aged skin has been revolutionary.

The facts

According to Michael Moretti, editor of the Aesthetic Buyers Guide, there were more than 30 million light-based treatments performed in 2005. These procedures generated more than $8.5 billion in gross revenue for physicians and more than $707 million in equipment sales for the technology manufacturers. The skin rejuvenation procedure volume is predicted to increase to more than 90 million treatments in 2010. This will generate $15.2 billion in revenue for physicians and more than $1.1 billion in equipment sales.

Lasers and light sources can treat the skin’s defects and create improvement without changing a person’s original facial shape or outward appearance. This technology precisely targets only the damaged skin, not the healthy skin. The very low risk of side effects makes it highly advantageous over traditional surgical techniques. The speed of a procedure is accelerated; the skin is not cut, bleeding is rare, infections uncommon, and the recovery time very short or nonexistent. This has resulted in an explosion in the numbers of individuals seeking cosmetic services. Due to the ease of these procedures, patients are likely to be more decisive about selecting these treatments, tend to do more procedures on more body parts, and when needed, have more frequent maintenance treatments.

The technology