Skin Lasers Intro 101
There are many model names and terminology when it comes to laser machines for therapeutic and aesthetic treatment of the skin. Q-switched Nd:Yag, Long Pulse Nd:Yag, Erbium Yag, CO2 are examples of the types of laser machines available. It can be overwhelming when a lay-person wants to do research on the most suitable laser for his/her own skin condition, after being bombarded by the above terms. To help you with that, below are some easy-to-understand, concise information you will ever need.
There are basically 2 main types of skin lasers : ABLATIVE and NON-ABLATIVE.
Ablative lasers have laser wavelengths that allow their energy to be absorbed by water. When an ablative laser is fired on skin, they will cause a ‘vaporisation’ effect on the fired tissue. Therefore, they will do obvious instant remodelling of the skin cells and collagen (which contain a high percentage of water) by stimulating damage and subsequent regeneration of the skin in a controlled manner, hence the term ‘ablative’. Ablative lasers usually have some downtime involved, depending on how high the doctor decides to tune the energy to.
The HIGHER THE ENERGY fired, the LONGER the downtime.
The DEEPER THE LASER fires, the LONGER the downtime.
The MORE AGGRESSIVE THE MODE of laser, the LONGER the downtime. (e.g CO2 Laser is more aggressive than Erbium: Yag and Nd:Yag)
Non-ablative lasers have specific wavelengths which are only absorbed by certain specific elements (known as chromophores). For example, pigment lasers have a wavelength and pulse duration that makes them only absorbed by melanin ( the pigment producing component of our skin). Hair removal lasers have a wavelength that is absorbed only by the hair follicles. Long pulse Nd:Yag lasers create a heating effect of the collagen and subcutaneous tissue, stimulating new collagen production.
The other tissues that the laser pass through on the way to reaching these targeted elements are not affected by the laser beam in any way (unless there is an overheating of the laser at a certain spot for too long).
These lasers have no downtime at all, being ‘non-ablative’. Therefore, one would not expect a textural change from these lasers. One may expect lesser hair follicles, or lightening of pigments, depending on what wavelength the laser is.
Mode Of Laser Beam Production
The funny-sounding terms that precede the laser, like Q-switched Nd:YAG, Erbium YAG, CO2, are just the ways that the laser is produced. For example, a CO2 laser beam is produced using a CO2 gas discharger through a beam of reflectors. This terms are more for the doctors and manufacturers to have a common ground of reference, and are not so important for the average client.
Generally, CO2 Lasers are more aggressive than Erbium Yag Lasers, and Erbium Yag Lasers are more aggressive than Nd:Yag lasers.
What Is Fractional Technology?
Fractional laser technology is a term to denote that only ‘part’ of the skin is fired upon by the laser during every shot. All ablative lasers have a fractional firing mode nowadays. The laser beam is ‘fractionated’ from one focused beam into multiple small channels of weaker energy, leaving equal space between the laser channel beams.
These allow the unfired skin to aid as healing reservoirs to speed up the recovery of the parts of the skin that were acted on by the lasers. It is the preferred way of using Ablative Lasers nowadays. The first lasers used for skin did not have such technology, thus, they would work on 100% of the surface that they fire on, causing prolonged downtime. (Early days of CO2 Lasers treatment for Acne Scars caused a downtime of close to 1 month!)
Which Laser Treatments Should I Choose?
For textural issues like rough skin and acne scars, ABLATIVE lasers are needed, because the scar tissue needs to vaporised and the structure of the skin needs to be renewed.
For issues like pigmentation, hair removal and collagen-stimulation, NON-ABLATIVE lasers are the best option.
Where Can I Find A Doctor With Such Lasers?
At The Knightsbridge Clinic, we have both kinds of lasers to cater to all skin conditions. Whatever your skin issue, we have the right laser treatment for you. After consultation, he will tailor the right laser treatment at the appropriate energy level and downtime to suit your schedule and budget best.
For ablative lasers, we have the Pixel Pro Laser from ALMA LASERS.
For non-ablative lasers, we have the Minimise Laser Peel, Snowlase (pigment laser), Regenlase (collagen-producing laser).