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How Dermatologists Use Lasers and Other Light-Based Devices

Rocket projected onto the Washington Monument during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

As we celebrate the spectacular achievement of the moon landing 50 years ago, we can reflect on the technological advances that have had an impact on dermatology. In the half century since Dr. Leon Goldman pioneered the medical application of lasers, they have become integral to state-of-the- art dermatology practices. So how do dermatologists use lasers and other light-based devices?

Uses for Laser, Light and Energy-based Devices

Remove unwanted hair

Lasers remove unwanted hair from the face and body by targeting the pigment of the hair and damaging its follicle so that hair growth is slowed. In order for lasers to be effective, the hair must be treated while in its “active growth” phase. This is why multiple (usually six to eight) treatments, spaced four weeks apart on the face, and as much as eight weeks apart on the body, are needed to achieve good results. The same lasers are also effective for excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis. Note: Only specific lasers are appropriate for darker skin types, and those with tanned skin should avoid the treatment.

Do away with those age spots

Sun damage and aging can result in unwanted brown spots, called lentigines, on sun-exposed areas such as the face, chest and hands. Those spots can successfully be treated with Q-switched lasers and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) devices. Several treatments may be required to achieve optimal results.

Treat redness and broken blood vessels

Lasers are effective at treating skin redness from conditions such as rosacea as well as benign vascular growths such as angiomas and broken blood vessels that can occur from sun damage. The treatment works because lasers at certain wavelengths can target hemoglobin that is found in blood. Typically one to a few treatments may be needed for optimal results. It is important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen after the treatment.

Banish those breakouts

Lasers and light-based devices can successfully treat mild to moderate acne. While conventional methods to get rid of acne include topical and oral medications, such as antibiotics and retinoids, the use of photodynamic therapy can be effective in achieving long-lasting clear skin. Photodynamic therapy combines the use of a photosensitizing chemical that is absorbed both by the oil glands and the bacteria that produce acne – followed by a light source or laser to activate the chemical. This results in shrinkage of the oil glands and killing of the bacteria.

Refresh and rejuvenate

A newer generation of devices today allows for skin resurfacing that removes the top layer of skin to eliminate signs of aging and photodamage such as fine lines, wrinkles, crepiness and brown spots as well as reducing enlarged pores – all with minimal downtime.

Soften the look of scars

Lasers can improve the appearance of scars – whether they were caused by acne, trauma or surgery. Some devices – like the pulsed dye laser – can help reduce the redness associated with scars. Fractional resurfacing lasers can successfully improve a scar’s texture and tone. Depending on which device is used, there may be a period of downtime following the treatment and a need for several treatments.

Take care of that ‘turkey neck’

With age comes a loss in collagen, which can result in loose skin on the neck and under the chin – affectionately known as “turkey neck.” Fortunately, there are non-invasive technologies that utilize ultrasound and radiofrequency to stimulate collagen production – resulting in skin tightening and lifting. These treatments also can be used for wrinkles on the décolletage, that crepe-paper look on the upper chest.

Rethink the ink

Fortunately there are options for those 20 percent of people who experience tattoo regret. Q-switched lasers have been used for decades to heat up and destroy the tattoo ink particles, usually over multiple treatments. Newer technology using ultra-short bursts of energy can achieve the same results in fewer treatments.

If you think one of these treatments could be right for you, contact us to schedule a consultation. Located in Chevy Chase, MD, our dermatology office serves the greater Washington D.C. area.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Infini Wrinkle Reduction

Infini is a technology developed for surgical scar improvement that can also enhance and rejuvenate aging skin, providing consistent results and low downtime.

One of the many benefits of Infini is that it can be used at any time of the year and on any skin. Infini does not directly affect the epidermis. It is a non-invasive procedure that addresses both post-operative scars and the skin laxity such as wrinkles and textural changes that are a consequence of sun exposure.

Q: What is this procedure good for?
A: Overall skin rejuvenation; fine lines and wrinkles, improving tone and textural changes- especially “crepey skin”, sagging skin, acne scarring

Q: What parts of the face/ neck can it improve?
A: Brows, crows feet, upper lip, neck and chest

Q: How does it work?
A: Energy delivered into the skin stimulates the natural growth of collagen and elastin—natural  “scaffolding.”

Q: Why is radio-frequency an important addition to microneedling?
A: The radio-frequency delivered via gold-plated microneedles is a powerful stimulant for new collagen production.

Q: What preparation is involved?
A: Application of a topical numbing cream in the office for approximately 2 hours

Q: How long is the procedure?
A: About 30 min

Q: What is the downtime?
A: There is redness and swelling for approximately 48 hours, which may take up to a week to resolve. Make-up may be applied after 48 hours

Q: How quickly will I see results?
A: It takes a few weeks to begin to see results. Improvement continues over a period of up to 6 months

Have questions or want to make an appointment at Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington? Click here to contact us.

How Chemical Peels Rejuvenate the Skin

Sun exposure can cause discoloration of the skin as well as roughness and wrinkling. This damaged skin can be repaired to a large degree with a variety of rejuvenating treatments.

One of the methods that restores the skin’s natural beauty without significant downtime is a chemical peel. Peels are a great way to brighten the skin and reduce discoloration.

History of Chemical Peels

Interestingly these procedures have been performed for centuries.  The ancient Egyptians used acids to peel the skin as early as 1550 B.C. Dermatologists have been doing the modern day version for more than half a century. The procedures we use today have been greatly refined, and so has our approach to using them.

Modern Chemical Peels

Peels can be tailored for skin type and the type of skin damage. It’s not a “one size fits all approach to anti-aging. Peeling agents include an alphabet soup of  some combination of the following: salicylic, retinoic, mandelic, phytic, and tricholoracetic acids. We choose an agent or agents based on the tone and condition of the skin as well as the desired outcome.

Today’s chemical peels often infuse the skin with ingredients that encourage its own natural processes such as building collagen to diminish wrinkles and improve tone. They can also be combined with other procedures such as microneedling to enhance the penetration of active agents.

Different Types of Chemical Peels

Here’s a primer on peels.  A light peel, commonly called a lunchtime peel, gently exfoliates only the outer layer of skin. This treatment can improve mild discoloration as well as refresh the face, neck, chest or hands. Regular light  peels for acne work well with other treatments and can help reduce the need for prescription oral antibiotics. Light peels are also an excellent solution for patients of color looking to lighten the skin.

To get the results you seek from a light peel, you will need multiple treatments, depending on your goals. Melasma or hyperpigmentation on the face will require several sessions of chemical exfoliation to eliminate the pigment.

A medium peel penetrates the outer and middle layers of skin to improve age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, freckles and moderate skin discoloration. It also can be used to smooth rough skin and treat precancerous skin growths such as actinic keratoses.

Deeper peels are also designed to penetrate the middle layer of skin to remove moderate lines, age spots, freckles and shallow scars.

Preparing for a Chemical Peel

Preparation for a peel is as important as the peel itself.  You may be given instructions on a skin care plan- especially if you have darker skin tones- for the 2-4 weeks preceding a peel. After your peel you we will tell you how to care for your skin, when it’s safe to begin wearing makeup and what you should be using to maintain the benefits of your peel.

Peels are a customizable approach to healthy anti-aging and a natural aesthetic.

Contact us with questions and to book your appointment.