The laser has come a long way since Albert Einstein came up with the theory of stimulating radiant energy a century ago. In medicine, it has been widely used for decades. In dermatology, laser therapy continues to change the face of skin treatment.
In this episode of San Diego Health, E. Victor Ross, MD, a dermatologist and director of the Scripps Clinic Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology Center, joins host Susan Taylor to discuss the evolution of cosmetic laser dermatology. Dr. Ross explains how laser therapy today is safer and more convenient and effective in the treatment of everything from acne scars to spider veins and wrinkles.
Laser therapy today is used for aesthetic purposes and to treat a wide range of skin problems.
“Almost anybody is a candidate for something with laser,” Dr. Ross says.
“The lasers we have today are uniquely suited to different conditions,” Dr. Ross adds. “We have lasers that treat red and brown spots well. We have lasers that do tone and texture very well. We have lasers for acne scars.”
Laser skin treatment today is also an outpatient procedure with a short recovery time.
Pain levels vary. “For some procedures like a deep laser peel we have to give you numbing injections. But for 95 percent of what we do, it’s just Tylenol and some numbing cream. It takes about 20 minutes,” Dr. Ross says.
Skin conditions treated with laser therapy that are discussed in the video include:
Laser skin resurfacing helps reduce wrinkles in the most noticeable places.
“We treat the wrinkles that people typically have between their eyes and around their eyes with what’s called a neuromodulator (a wrinkle-relaxing injection). The most well-known is Botox,” Dr. Ross says.
“For lower face wrinkles, we use a laser that tightens the skin and fillers to lift it a bit,” Dr. Ross adds.
Laser treatment for acne scars varies.
“Many people come in and still have active acne. So we try to stop any active acne and then we talk about two big choices,” Dr. Ross says.
“One choice is a more aggressive procedure, which is an open wound (procedure), where you have to take seven or 10 days off,” he says. “The other is what we call a non-ablative laser where you just look sunburned afterward.”
Spider veins are tiny red, blue or purple veins near the surface of the skin that often take on the look of a spider's web.
“Spider veins are addressed two ways,” Dr. Ross says. “Normally we combine two therapies. One is called sclerotherapy where we inject a solution into the vein through a small needle, and the other is laser therapy where the laser simply vaporizes the vein and makes it go away.”
Laser therapy can provide results similar to facelifts without the actual surgery, “but we are far away from where we should be,” Dr. Ross says.
Kybella is a non-surgical approach that is used to remove fat below the chin.
“It’s a chemical that is injected into fatty areas. It’s only FDA-cleared now for the neck,” Dr. Ross says.
Tattoo-removal lasers have also improved, but remain most effective for black tattoos and less effective for colored tattoos, according to Dr. Ross.
“Color is the primary reason why we have trouble treating some tattoos. The other thing is location. Generally speaking, the more south you go on the body, the harder it is to treat a tattoo,” Dr. Ross says. “Things just heal better on the upper part of the body.”