Laser technology has brought several major advantages to the field of medicine over the past 25 years. We can treat disease with smaller or no incisions, we can read vital signs instantaneously, and YES, we can improve the cosmetic appearance of the face (among other areas).
Probably not surprisingly, the cosmetic use of lasers has been expanding more rapidly than most physicians' knowledge on the subject. It is not unusual to attend a plastic surgery conference and hear a surgeon ask a laser salesperson, "So, what does THIS one do?" This type of question is usually followed with a barrage of marketing information that would make even the most focused individuals glaze over.
But really, is there a significant difference between all of the different lasers???
Although I would love to give a simple answer to this question, the reality is that lasers are very complex tools whose performance are dependent not only how they work, but on who is using them.
But WAIT! Before I dive deeper into an already very deep pool of information, let me break it down more simply: Lasers have limitations and so do their operators. As a cosmetic surgeon of the face, I treat lasers as devices similar to any other surgical instrument. I have a high understanding of the lasers I use and I can tailor their settings and applications to meet the goals of my patients.
The trouble, many times, is that most physicians can't afford to own every laser (they carry heavy price tags that range from $35,000 to $250,000 apiece) and therefore have to make the best with what we have. This means that many physicians are forced to choose between sending a patient away or trying to accomplish something with the lasers they own that might be beyond what the device or operator can accomplish.
The right thing to do, obviously, is for physicians to tell patients upfront if their devices or expertise cannot safely help them reach their goals. As a patient, you can ask exactly what device they plan to use and if this method is common to their practice. Be vigilant, check facts on the internet and even with a second opinion. Lasers have many advantages, but they are also potentially dangerous and should be treated with solemn respect.
As a last note, be aware that many "fad" lasers exist in the medical spa market. Sure, laser hair removal is fine, but many new "non-medical" lasers are being employed outside a physician or surgeon's office under the pretense that it will give dramatic results. The fact is that most of these fad devices are safe but minimally effective. This is because in order for them to be safe in the hands of the non-physician, these devices cannot reach the depths of skin required to make a real difference.
When it comes to long-term results with laser skin treatment, start by talking with a surgeon or physician and formulate a plan that will help you reach your goals. Of course, I perform consultations for laser skin treatment, and this includes a complete cosmetic facial assessment with computer imaging. Contact my office to find out more!