Adelaide Plastic Surgery

Laser Resurfacing & Rejuvenation

Laser Resurfacing

Laser rejuvenation, sometimes also known as ‘resurfacing’ or ‘laser peel’, we use either a Sciton erbium or Ultrapulse laser to remove areas of damaged or wrinkled skin on your face, patiently, layer by layer. By peeling away the outer, damaged layer, we can discover the new you underneath.

Laser Resurfacing

On this page, we’ll give you a general understanding of: when it can help, whom it can help, how it’s performed and what results you can expect. What this cannot do, of course, is give you details specific to your individual case.

For that, you should consult with one of our friendly plastic surgeons and ask them anything you’re unclear about.

What can laser resurfacing achieve?

Most commonly, this is to minimise the appearance of fine lines, especially around your mouth and eyes. However, it’s also effective in treating facial scars or areas of uneven pigmentation (colour).

We can perform laser resurfacing on your whole face or we can just target specific regions, and we’ll often use it in conjunction with another operation, such as a facelift or eyelid surgery.

When healing is complete, your face will have a more youthful appearance.

Who will this treatment benefit?

Laser resurfacing is suitable for both women and men of all ages. But the ideal candidate will have fair, healthy and non-oily skin.

If you have olive, brown or black skin, it may increase your risk of a change in pigmentation, no matter what type of resurfacing method you undertake. One of our plastic surgeons can evaluate your skin characteristics and make a recommendation accordingly.

This procedure may also not be appropriate if:

  • you’ve taken the acne drug called Roaccutane in the past 12 to 18 months, as you will be prone to abnormal (keloid-like) scarring; or
  • you have active skin infections on the treatment area.

How laser resurfacing works

Our surgeons use a beam of laser energy to vaporise the upper layers of damaged skin to a precise level of penetration. So, for superficial or medium resurfacing, the laser can be limited to the epidermis and papillary dermis; for deeper resurfacing, we can also remove the upper levels of the reticular dermis. In this way, by varying the penetration, we can treat specific spots or wrinkles.

At the same time, a controlled amount of heat from the laser also stimulates your collagen, which contracts or tightens the skin.

Laser resurfacing versus other procedures

All resurfacing treatments work the same way, essentially. First, the outer layers of damaged skin are stripped away. Then, as new cells form during the healing process, a smoother, tighter, younger-looking skin surface appears.

Now, it’s clear that laser resurfacing may offer advantages over other resurfacing methods:

  • it’s precise;
  • there can be little (if any) bleeding and bruising; and
  • you experience less post-operative discomfort.

However, in some cases, a chemical peel may still be a better choice. Laser resurfacing is actually a very invasive procedure. And, the more aggressive the resurfacing procedure is, the more prolonged the recovery is likely to be.

For light resurfacing, therefore, a superficial chemical peel or superficial laser resurfacing can offer a shorter recovery time. The downside is that these lighter procedures may need to be repeated a number of times to achieve results comparable to those from laser resurfacing.

A reality check on your expectations.

Before you decide to have laser resurfacing, consider your expectations and discuss them with your plastic surgeon. After all, let’s be honest: laser resurfacing can certainly enhance your appearance and give your self-confidence a boost, but it won’t completely remove all facial flaws. And it certainly won’t prevent you from ageing. Inevitably, the lines that result from your natural facial movements – smiling, squinting, blinking, talking and chewing – will recur.

Nonetheless, after your treatment, we can suggest ways to help you preserve the results you gain like, for example, protecting yourself from sun exposure and using maintenance treatments, such as light chemical peels or medicated facial creams.

What are the risks?

The good news is that when laser resurfacing is performed by a qualified, experienced plastic surgeon, such as ours, complications are infrequent and usually minor. However, because individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, their physical reactions and their healing abilities, the outcome is never completely predictable. Any surgery must carry some uncertainty.

Risks associated with laser resurfacing include:

  • burns or other injuries from the heat of the laser energy;
  • scarring;
  • obvious lightening or darkening of the treated skin; and
  • the potential to activate herpes virus infections (cold sores) and, rarely, other types of infection.

The most common risk associated with laser resurfacing, however, is prolonged redness: in extreme cases, this can take many months to fade. Even if not to this extreme, your new skin will still be paler than any that hasn’t been lasered, so we need to take care to minimise the lines of demarcation.

Finally, if your healing is delayed or seems somehow abnormal, or if we see any evidence of unusual pigmentation or scarring, we may have to carry out additional corrective treatment.

How to reduce the risks

Not every practitioner who offers laser resurfacing has the same level of experience, skill or qualification. So, the simplest way to reduce these risks is by choosing a qualified plastic surgeon. For further reassurance, every one of our surgeons at Adelaide Plastic Surgery has also undertaken specialised training in laser surgery.

One further tip is to find out whether your surgeon has clinical privileges to perform laser resurfacing at an accredited hospital.

What will happen at your initial consultation?

This is a time for frankness: both for you and your surgeon. Discuss your expectations explicitly and don’t hesitate to ask any questions. In return, you can expect to answer questions on your medical history and anything that could influence the procedure and results, including:

  • any abnormal skin condition diagnosed or previously treated;
  • medications you are taking or have taken in the past;
  • previous skin injuries; and
  • previous operations.

Your surgeon will perform a routine examination and photograph the area to be treated. He or she should then explain the procedure in detail, along with its risks and benefits, the recovery period and the costs.

Depending on your situation, your surgeon may finally recommend a pre-treatment plan to prepare your skin for resurfacing.

Financial considerations

Laser treatment can be expensive and it’s usually not covered by medical insurance when it’s purely cosmetic. On rare occasions, this procedure can be used to modify scars or remove pre-cancerous skin growths. If so, these conditions could meet the criteria for the ‘medical necessity’, usually required by the Health Insurance Commission before a medical rebate can be paid. Our surgeons will inform you if you meet these criteria.

Will I need an overnight stay?

Depending on the extent of the laser resurfacing, it can be performed in a surgeon’s office-based facility, an outpatient surgery centre or hospital. Undoubtedly, you’ll be admitted to either a day-surgical centre or hospital for a more intensive resurfacing procedure or when it’s combined with other surgical procedures.

At Adelaide Plastic Surgery, we use Adelaide Day Surgery on North Terrace.

What happens during the procedure?

Laser resurfacing is relatively quick, taking anywhere from a few minutes to 1½ hours, depending on the extent of the problem. This also determines if the procedure needs to be performed under local anaesthetic or a full general-anaesthetic.

When the imperfections are especially deep, your surgeon may even recommend that the resurfacing be performed in two or more stages.

During the procedure, the activated laser is carefully passed back and forth over your skin until the surgeon reaches the level that will make the wrinkles or scars less visible.

When complete, your surgeon may treat the resurfaced skin with protective creams or ointments, which need to be applied until fully healed.

While you’re making plans beforehand, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your laser treatment. Also, as you may not wish to venture out for a little while, make sure you either have a helper or stock up well on food and essentials beforehand.

What are the side effects?

In the immediate post-operative period, you’ll probably be asking yourself “why did I do this?”. Don’t panic: Adelaide Plastic Surgery has a team of well-trained and experienced nursing staff who will help you get through it.

Straight after your treatment, you are likely to experience some mild swelling and discomfort. However, you can control this with cold packs and medications, which your surgeon will prescribe along with instructions on how, gently, to wash and care for your healing skin.

During this phase of healing, it is very important not to pick the crusts off the treated area in order to avoid scarring. Most of the crusting goes after about 10 days. Redness, however, may persist for several weeks.

Your new skin will usually remain bright pink to red in the weeks following the procedure. After seven to ten days, you can usually apply make-up to conceal this temporary colour change safely. However, some pinkness may remain for up to six or more months.

How to improve your post-operative recovery

At the time of the procedure, we will give you full and specific instructions on how to care for your skin to help it heal. Your surgeon may also instruct you to follow a specific maintenance regimen of long-term skincare to maximise the benefits.

Above all, in the months following treatment, it’s important to protect the treated area from the sun until all the colour has returned to normal. Using sun protection regularly will help you maintain the results and reduce the chance of any new sun damage to your skin.

If you must be in the sun, apply a strong sun block with an SPF of 30 or higher and shade your face with a hat or visor. If resurfacing was performed around your eyes, it’s also best to wear good quality sunglasses with UVA and UVB filters.

The pay-off

The final result from laser resurfacing may take several months to appear fully. However, once the pinkness fades, our patients usually notice a significant improvement in the quality of their skin and a fresher, smoother appearance.

As with other methods of skin rejuvenation, laser treatments can be repeated, usually. Far better, however, to protect yourself from the sun and follow the skincare regimen recommended by your plastic surgeon, to maintain your rejuvenated look for as long as possible.

View our post-operation information here

Procedure Video

Our Laser Rejuvenation Surgeons