Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Lasers (But Were Too Freaked Out to Ask)

We’re not going to lie—the thought of skin lasers makes us a little skittish. But after hearing that these treatments are the driving force behind Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian’s flawless complexions, we were intrigued. With a long list of questions, we called up Dr. Robert Anolik, a dermatologist from Dr. Brandt Dermatology Associates, to find out what the deal is with these raved-about in-office procedures. Turns out lasers are not only an effective way to improve the surface and tone of your skin—if you can afford them—they’re also not as scary as you think. Thankfully there are less pricey alternatives, too.

What are the benefits of laser treatments?

Lasers tackle some of the frustrating skin problems that many of us suffer from, including sun damage, age spots, and even ruddiness, quickly and effectively with minimal recovery time. According to Dr. Anolik, they can also minimize the appearance of wrinkles and acne scars.

What do lasers actually do?

Most skin resurfacing treatments are performed with one of two popular lasers: the Clear + Brilliant Laser, a gentle one great for routine maintenance and brightening, and the Fraxel Dual Laser, a more aggressive variation used to correct skin issues like deep lines and acne scars. Other lasers include the VBeam, which is used to target broken blood vessels, and Ruby, which concentrates on skin pigment molecules to treat hyperpigmentation.

During a resurfacing treatment, lasers are set to a specific wavelength safe for your skin type and applied to the face in a grid-like pattern. As the laser heats up small water particles on the layer of skin called the dermis, they trigger a healing response in the surrounding collagen fibers, which leads to the creation of new, healthier collagen. The result: brighter, more youthful looking skin.

Does it hurt?

The Clear + Brilliant Laser can cause a bit of discomfort, which is why half of Dr. Anolik’s patients choose to apply a numbing cream 15 minutes before their treatment. For the Fraxel Dual Laser, which is more aggressive, patients are required to wear a numbing cream for an hour before sitting down for treatment.

What’s the recovery process like?

When the laser’s heat is absorbed into your skin, it triggers a healing response. The great news is that this leads to new, healthy cells. The bad news is that this will result in some inflammation, meaning pink, sensitive skin. “[Inflammation] is often an indication that the response that we want is happening,” explains Dr. Anolik. So if you emerge from your derm looking a little red, don’t panic. For the Clear + Brilliant treatment, patients should expect five hours of recovery before heading back out into the world. The Fraxel Dual treatment leaves patients with dry, irritated skin for up to five days.

So, what are the risks?

“The risks are extraordinarily low when these procedures are done properly,” says Dr. Anolik, who stresses that anyone interested in laser treatments should seek out a board-certified dermatologist, who will be able to select the correct laser and wavelength for your skin type and specific issues.

How much does it cost?

The short answer is a lot. For a full face treatment, the Clear + Brilliant will run you $1,000, and the Fraxel Dual treatment costs about $1,250. Treating smaller areas like the forehead will cost $500 to $800. For maintenance and mild brightening, Dr. Anolik advises seeing your dermatologist three to four times a year. For those addressing more serious conditions like scarring, he says, some patients opt for monthly treatments.

Are there other ways to get similar results?

If you can’t afford (or don’t want to go) the laser route, the next best option is an effective at-home treatment designed to target your problem areas. Dr. Anolik recommends using a targeted serum from Dr. Brandt’s Laser FX series, an antioxidant-rich moisturizer like the xyy face cream, and SPF on a daily basis. The Laser FX products, released this year, include three different serums that target common issues treated with lasers in the office: Bright addresses dark spots and dull skin with Vitamin C, Perfecttargets wrinkles and fine lines by boosting collagen production, and Lift helps to firm sagging skin by strengthening collagen fibers.

Original article featured on BirchBox.com from Maura M. Lynch

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