Whether you have wrinkles you’d like to erase, breakouts to clear up, a tattoo to remove or body hair to eliminate, chances are there’s a laser treatment for that. Compared to more invasive surgical procedures, laser treatments have minimal side effects, less downtime and are often more affordable. And with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian touting the marvels of these non-invasive procedures, it’s no wonder women everywhere are heading to their favorite med spa to see what’s what. Light therapy has been used for its therapeutic benefits as early as the ancient Egyptians, but as the technology evolves, so have the results. Today’s lasers offer better results because they use low-powered light, causing less downtime. Read on to learn about what you can expect from these cosmetic laser treatments and get the latest information from local experts. As with any cosmetic procedure, it’s important to do your homework and learn the pros and cons of these treatments.
“Getting an evaluation before a laser treatment is critical,” says Dr. Tara Margarella, a cosmetic surgeon at Blue MedSpa. “You need to make your expectations known so that you can get the best results.”
LASER SKIN REJUVENATION
Many med spas that offer laser procedures will use terms like “rejuvenation,” “resurfacing” or “tightening” interchangeably because they fall under the same umbrella. This treatment, which works to improve the overall appearance, texture and clarity of the skin, can be broken down into two categories: skin tightening and skin resurfacing. Consider how sensitive your skin is, how long you want the results to last and how much money you want to spend when deciding on which treatment you want.
Purpose: To reduce wrinkles and loose skin for a more youthful appearance.
How it works: Laser skin tightening involves heating the collagen under the skin’s surface, causing it to tighten.
• What to expect: To minimize any discomfort, your esthetician will use a topical numbing agent and cryogen skin cooling system. The laser portion of the treatment takes 20 to 30 minutes, and most people need three to four treatments spaced three months apart. Results can last up to two years.
• Cost: $500 - $3500 per session.
• What the experts say: “We use the Candela GentleMax Laser because it is safe and effective for every skin type,” says Sharilyn Berg, licensed medical esthetician and manager at Nirvana Med Spa. “I follow up with a soothing mask to reduce the erythema (redness) and do not apply ice, because I believe this minimizes results.”
• What to expect: Since lower individual energy levels are used during this treatment, you feel less discomfort and have a faster recovery time compared to single-wavelength lasers. For the best results, you’ll need six to eight sessions at one-month intervals. You may leave the office looking red, but this won’t last more than 24 hours after the procedure.
• Cost: $400 - $700 per session.
• What the experts say: “This is a very powerful laser that can produce temporary redness so appointments have to be worked around your schedule accordingly,” explains Alethea Tinkle, founder of Bella by Alethea. “Often clients will do a single procedure in January to start the new year with all new fresh skin.”
Purpose: To reduce wrinkles, scars and blemishes, and improve aged or sun-damaged skin.
How it works: Your esthetician uses a laser that sends short beams of light into the skin to remove the outer layer, or the epidermis. When the treated area heals, the new layer of skin that appears is smoother and firmer.
• What to expect: Treatment time may range from 15 to 45 minutes. Some patients see hyperpigmentation (brown spots) that peel off in about 10 days. Avoid the sun for a day or two following treatment, as you will be more sensitive to developing a burn. Most patients need between five and eight treatments at three-week intervals.
• Cost: $200 - $500.
• What the experts say: “The most popular treatment we offer is IPL,” says Lyn Ross, President of Institut’ DERMed Spa. “The number of treatments will vary according to the amount and type of pigment or other lesions to be treated. Age spots and blood vessels require one to three treatments. Rosacea may require four to six, however the benefit is long lasting.”
Micro Laser Peels
• What to expect: Immediately after the procedure, your skin may become red and irritated, but many patients get their micro peel on a Thursday or Friday and return to work on Monday morning with no signs of the treatment. Most people require one to six treatments, depending on the condition of their skin.
• The cost: $300 and up per treatment.
• What the experts say: “Essentially, a micro laser peel is a step between microdermabrasion and heavier chemical peels,” says Patricia Daniel, co-owner and laser director at Laser Lights Cosmetic Center. “Because the top layer of skin is removed, the body’s natural healing processes take over and revitalize the skin, producing lustrous skin with more even tone and texture.”
Fractional CO2 Laser
• What to expect: The procedure can take between 30 minutes and two hours. Your doctor may use a topical anesthetic, but most patients say the discomfort is minimal. Immediately after the procedure, your skin will look pink and puffy and may be extra sensitive to sunlight for up to a year.
• Cost: $2,500 - $4,000.
• What the experts say: “The Fractional CO2 laser is one of our most popular anti-aging lasers,” says Dr. Alan Gardner of Gardner Dermatology & Med Spa. “Patients love the tightening effect this laser offers without having to go through invasive surgery.”
LASER TREATMENTS FOR THE BODY
If you thought laser treatments were only for your face, think again. Today’s state-of-the-art procedures can treat a range of issues from cellulite to varicose veins, as well as unwanted body hair and even tattoos.
Purpose: To help with cellulite reduction and body reshaping.
How it works: Controlled heat is delivered 1 to 3 centimeters under the skin where stubborn fat cells tend to be. The laser works to melt the fatty pockets, disband the rigid connective tissue and tighten the skin.
• What to expect: A session lasts between 30 minutes and one hour, and most patients see improvement after five to seven treatments. Ten to 15 sessions are recommended, but the results are temporary and most patients need monthly maintenance sessions.
• Cost: $100 - $200 per session.
• What the experts say: “It’s great for the thighs, back of the arms, neck area, buttocks or stomach,” Tinkle says. “Patients say TriActive is very comfortable and feels like a massage.”
• What to expect: In general, people see results after six treatments, but clients who want to lose larger volumes may opt for eight or more sessions. Each treatment takes between 20 and 40 minutes, and should be scheduled seven to 14 days apart. Exilis is because of the cooling mechanism inside the laser that prevents the skin from getting overheated.
• Cost: Price averages between $750 to $2,000 per session, depending on which areas are treated.
• What the experts say: “Fat reduction and skin tightening with Exilis is our most popular treatment,” says Dr. Jerry Cooper of Atlanta Dermatology and Laser Surgery. “It is a pleasant experience, and we have been generally pleased with the results.”
• What to expect: The entire procedure takes about an hour. Your doctor will inject a numbing medicine under the skin, so you’ll feel nothing. You’ll wear compression garments for a week following the procedure, and you’ll have some soreness for four to six weeks. Most patients see improvements in three months, and results continue to improve for up to a year with this FDA-approved laser treatment.
• Cost: $4,000 - $7,000, depending on the size of the area treated.
• What the experts say: “Compared to other cellulite treatments, this is a one time treatment,” says Dr. Jay Kulkin of Women’s Institute for Health (WIFH). “Cellulaze changes the architecture of lumps and bumps, releases scar tissue and tightens skin by making more collagen. Over 80 percent of the women we’ve treated are satisfied with the results.”
Laser Vein Removal
Purpose: To treat the appearance of varicose veins
Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA)
• How it works: A laser is threaded into the catheter and heats the lining of the vein. Then it is slowly pulled out of the vein, damaging it and causing it to shrink and seal shut. Once this happens, blood can no longer flow through the vein, eliminating the pressure in the vein that caused it to bulge. There is no incision other than a small puncture where the catheter was inserted.
• What to expect: EVLA is a 45-minute procedure, and it is done under local anesthesia. You may experience some mild soreness and bruising in the week following the procedure, and compression stockings are also required for a week or two following EVLA.
• Cost: Price ranges from $3,000 to $3,500, but insurance typically covers this treatment.
• What the experts say: “This is our most popular procedure,” says David Martin, president and CEO of VeinInnovations. “This is a one time treatment, and has about a 95 percent success rate.”
Purpose: A laser treatment for psoriasis and vitiligo (a skin condition in which there is a loss of pigment from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches).
XTRAC Laser Treatment
• How it works: Concentrated beams of laser light are delivered directly to the targeted areas from a fiber-optic system that is placed directly on the skin and moved across the area. The high-exposure laser energy treats active lesions while leaving healthy skin intact.
• What to expect: Treatment sessions last from five to 30 minutes depending on amount of skin involved. Most patients don’t experience pain during treatment, but your skin may feel like it has a mild sunburn for a few days after the procedure. Most patients require 10 sessions.
• Cost: Pricing varies, but treatment is covered by all major insurance companies for psoriasis, and some cover it for vitiligo as well.
• What the experts say: “XTRAC is great for patients with plaque psoriasis and vitiligo because it is safe, does not expose healthy skin to treatment, doesn’t thin the skin and it has no dangerous health risks,” Dr. Gardner says. “We hear from patients all the time who tell us how grateful they are for XTRAC and how much it has given back to them in their everyday lives.”
Purpose: To remove or reduce the appearance of acne on the skin.
• How it works: The Isolaz vacuum applies gentle pressure to your pores to extract dirt, blackheads and excess oil from deep pores, while the laser’s light helps destroy acne-causing bacteria. The laser treatment works by slowing down sebum production (oil) and killing the bacteria that contribute to acne.
• What to expect: Treatments on the face can take 15 to 20 minutes, but areas on the body may take longer. There may be mild redness that lasts less than an hour, but you can return to your normal activities immediately. Most people require a series of four treatments at one to two week intervals.
• Cost: Price varies depending on the area(s) treated.
• What the experts say: “Patients often use this half hour treatment as a way to quickly clear up a bad breakout on their face, chest or back,” Berg explains. “It is a tool that needs to be coupled with proper skincare. There is no cure for acne, but you can control it.”
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
Purpose: To remove unwanted hair from the body or face. Brand names for this laser include Light Sheer, IPL, Yag, Duet or Cool Glide.
• How it works: Beams of highly concentrated light penetrate the hair follicles and destroy the hair within the follicle. Each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat many hairs at the same time.
• What to expect: Depending on the area being treated, a session may range from 15 minutes to an hour, and should be scheduled every four to six weeks. Your skin may look and feel sunburned for a day or two, and over the next month, the treated hair will fall out.
• Cost: Price varies depending on the area(s) treated.
• What the experts say: “Contrary to popular belief, we can treat all skin types, but the easiest to treat has dark hair and light skin,” Dr. Cooper says. “The laser targets pigment in the hair root, so those with light blonde or white hair are less likely to respond to laser treatments. You can never permanently remove every hair, but any recurrent hairs will be fewer and smaller in size.”
LASER TATOO REMOVAL
Purpose: To permanently remove tattoos in an non-invasive way. For this procedure, a Q-switched laser (quality-switched laser) is typically used. Brand names include Astanza, RevLite and MedLite C Series, just to name a few.
• How it works: The laser delivers energy that breaks up the dyes, then the broken down ink is absorbed by your body.
• What to expect: Tattoo removal requires a series of seven to 10 treatments done every six to 10 weeks. The treatment is uncomfortable, so technicians often use a cooling machine to numb the skin.
• Cost: $200 and up per session.
• What the experts say: “Because you don’t know what ink the artist used or how much they used, you don’t always know how much of a reduction you’ll get,” Dr. Kulkin explains. “It requires different lasers for different colors because not every wavelength will attack every color.”
American Society of Plastic Surgeons - www.plasticsurgery.org
Atlanta Dermatology and Laser Surgery - www.atlantadermatologyexperts.com
Bella by Alethea - www.beautybyalethea.com
Blue MedSpa - www.bluemedspa.com
Gardner Dermatology & Med Spa - www.gardnerdermatology.com
Institut’ DERMed Spa - www.idermed.com Laser Lights Cosmetic Laser Center - www.atlaserlights.com
Nirvana Med Spa & Laser Centre - www.nirvanalasercentre.com
Saint Joseph’s Vein Center - www.myveincenter.com
VeinInnovations - www.veininnovations.com
ViIlage Podiatry - www.vpcenters.com
Women’s Institute for Health (WIFH) - www.wifh.com
All About The Feet
Cellulite and wrinkles aren’t the only issues that lasers address. A growing number of podiatrists are using lasers to treat toenail fungus, warts and other foot problems. Dr. Anthony Gatti of Village Podiatry weighs in on the uses of lasers in podiatry.
How are lasers used in podiatry? Laser procedures have been successfully used in podiatry for the treatment of multiple foot problems that require removal of diseased or damaged tissues, and is now being used for disease prevention, musculoskeletal disorders and also cosmetic treatments. In podiatry, we frequently employ the laser to treat warts, ingrown toe nails, superficial skin cancers, spider veins, fungus and small varicosities in addition to selective nerve surgeries.
What does laser nail treatment involve when treating a fungal infection?
We use a sterile medical pedicure process prior to laser treatment to thin the affected nails and remove any loose nail or debris. This allows the laser treatment to better penetrate the nail for optimal effect. Our process is not finished with the laser treatment, as our patients are advised on ways to prevent further fungal infection of the feet and nails. This includes methods to keep the shoes sanitized.
How many sessions does it require?
The amount of treatment sessions will depend on how severely affected the nails are from this disease. Patients should be wary of salons promising a cure with one laser treatment. If a nail has been diseased for 20 years, there is no laser treatment in the world that will rid the fungus of the nails.
What types of results do your patients see after laser nail treatment?
We are experiencing a nail clearing of fungal infections—six to 12 months after laser treatment—in excess of 80 percent. Fortunately, laser treatment requires no blood tests to monitor liver function, and there are no risks or complications with laser treatment of fungal toenails.