Lasers! You can use them to cut things, you can use them to point at words, and you can use them to treat about a million different skin-related things. These are just the ones I found on the AAD website:
Birthmarks, melasma, hyperpigmentation, freckles, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, wrinkles, fine lines, scar reduction, skin tightening, rough texture, enlarged pores, skin rejuvenation, loose skin, facial redness, warts, cellulite, some skin cancers, oculodermal melanocytosis (nevus of Ota), keratosis pilaris, solar lentigines (age spots), telangiectases (broken capillaries), varicose veins, hair regrowth, hair removal, tattoo removal.
There are different types of pigment and red marks, skin texture, loose skin, hair removal, AND hair regrowth, and tattoo removal… so how does it work and does it hurt?
I’m going to be highlighting ethnic/melanated skin in this post, which is especially tricky to treat, and my own experience with getting a set of Picosure Focus treatments: what’s involved, how it actually feels, whether it’s painful, and the results.
Skincare products are great, but there’s a limit to how much they can do, and how quickly they can work. In-clinic treatments can be a better option for a lot of things, and laser treatments are one of the most popular.
As you can tell from the giant list above, lasers are incredibly versatile. This isn’t a complete list, and lasers aren’t necessarily the only or the best treatment for a lot of these, but it gives you an idea of the massive range of conditions we’re talking about.
WHAT IS A LASER?
LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and a laser is a machine that shoots out light. But it’s not the same as a torch – the light has special properties that make it really good for skin treatments.
The light is very aligned and in sync, which means a laser’s light is very energetic and focused into a tiny area. It’s one color – the light is a specific wavelength.
Having just one colour of light means you can target and destroy specific things in the skin, with minimal damage to everything else.
HOW DO LASERS WORK?
When you shoot light into skin with a laser, something in there will absorb the light.
When stuff absorbs light it can convert to other forms of energy, like heat. If you put a black thing and a white thing in the sun, the black thing heats up more because black dye absorbs more light energy and turns it into more heat.
PICOSURE FOCUS TREATMENT
The Picosure Focus Treatment has two special features:
Super short light blasts
First there’s a really short pulse duration. The “pico” part refers to picoseconds – this laser fires very short bursts of light into skin that last less than one billionth of a second (< 1/1000000000 sec). This means there isn’t really much time for heat to build up and damage the surrounding bits of skin and trigger rebound pigment.
It’s kind of like when you take something really hot out of the microwave and you’re too lazy to get a towel – if you go really fast and you don’t touch it for too long, there’s not enough time for heat to build up in your skin and burn you.
It also turns out that really short laser pulses work a bit differently in the skin. Traditional lasers mostly work by heating up pigment until it breaks (photothermal). But with picosecond lasers, the light turns into sound (photomechanical) instead of heat, and the pressure waves from the sound mechanically shatter the pigment particles. So you can get really effective breaking up of pigment, without the same amount of heat and that risk of rebound pigment.
These pressure waves also have a skin rejuvenating effect. They stimulate collagen and elastin in the dermis, which means you get plumper skin, and smoothing out of fine lines and wrinkles and shallow scarring. And because melanin is what turns the light into pressure, it actually works better on melanated skin.