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What's New in Laser Technology

By: Deborah Sarnoff, MD
Posted: June 26, 2008, from the July 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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The flashlamp pulsed dye laser (PDL) is still highly regarded for treating broken blood vessels, port-wine stains and various red blemishes. Improvements in cooling the skin have resulted in increased efficacy without significant bruising. One recent newsworthy development is the introduction of a system that employs two lasers in one—a PDL and an Nd:YAG—in a sequential fashion. The PDL is attracted to the hemoglobin in the blood and converts it to methemoglobin, which is the perfect target for the Nd:YAG. Effectively, this delivers a one-two punch to blood vessels, synergistically increasing effectiveness and diminishing side effects.

Lasers for acne

A combination therapy featuring a vacuum and a painless laser is used to deeply cleanse and purify pores from the inside out. The FDA has recently cleared this device to treat pustular and comedonal acne, as well as mild to moderate acne vulgaris. People who have tried the equipment have reported a visible reduction in pore size, improved skin tone and texture, and an overall radiant and healthier-looking complexion.

Another big breakthrough in light therapy for acne has been the FDA clearance of hand-held phototherapy devices for the at-home treatment and prevention of acne and blemishes. The beam of light destroys bacteria that causes acne. One of these systems consists of a blue light (414 nm LED) and a red light (6660 nm LED). The blue light has proven to be effective for acne and blemishes, and the red light promotes skin rejuvenation and collagen formation. These types of devices do not replace professional spa treatments, but are adjuncts for overall better results and increased client satisfaction. It is relaxing, easy to administer, and clients can supplement professional spa treatments in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

Microablative fractional resurfacing

A decade ago, CO2 laser resurfacing was widely popular for the treatment of acne scars and deep wrinkles. Although it is still highly regarded in tissue tightening and facial rejuvenation, clients pay the price in terms of pain, downtime and wound care. Complications, such as infection, scarring and permanent pigmentation changes, have limited its clinical use. The biggest breakthrough during the last few months has been the introduction of microablative fractional CO2 resurfacing. Using this technique, the laser beam delivers light in a stippled fashion, ablating miniscule areas without damaging the surrounding skin. The laser gently vaporizes the skin in a polka-dot pattern, sparing the bridges of normal skin that lie in between the areas that are zapped by the laser. The bridges of skin that remain untouched by the laser are the key to rapid healing, because the entire epidermis is not ablated by the laser. With one system, clients can see tissue tightening, and textural and pigmentary improvement with only four to five days of downtime. As an added bonus, areas other than the face, such as the neck, décolletage and hands, can be safely treated with no lines of demarcation.

A bright future

Modern laser technology continues to evolve in ways that benefit both professional practitioners and clients. And although most of these devices can only be operated or prescribed by medical personnel in most states, spa professionals need to be familiar with them in order to keep clients informed and help them make educated decisions when it comes to more medically based treatments.