Fractional CO2 Laser Chicago

What is a CO2 Laser?

CO2 lasers have been used for many years in Medicine. This specific wavelength of light is well absorbed by water. Because of this characteristic they have been used in surgery as a cutting device and in skin rejuvenation and resurfacing. Our skin is 80% water and the CO2 wavelength is attracted to this. In the earlier years when this laser was first introduced for skin rejuvenation, the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, was vaporized or ablated. By removing this entire layer, new tighter, brighter skin replaced the old. Patients had increased collagen production, with a tightening effect, abnormal pigment was removed and wrinkles were markedly reduced. Unfortunately, the “down time” of this treatment was well over 2 weeks, with residual redness lasting as long as 3 months in some patients. Complications also occurred too frequently and the area of treatment was limited to only facial skin. The tightening and resurfacing accomplished with this laser are still considered the gold standard, due to the remarkable results achieved, despite the complications that can occur. With progress of technology, we now have an alternative that can accomplish similar results with a very low risk and complication profile. This new laser uses the same CO2 wavelength in a fractional manner.
In fractional laser resurfacing the laser beam is broken up or fractionated into many small micro beams which separate as they hit the skin. Think of this as Pixels in digital photography or the board in a checkers game. We create thousands of tiny microscopic laser wounds, spaced evenly across the skin, but leaving areas of healthy untreated skin between them. This untreated skin donates migrating cells that quickly heal the injured skin from the sides, not just the bottom. This process, called re-epethielation, occurs over 4 to 5 days, instead of 2 weeks, as in the traditional CO2 laser. The new skin is tighter, the texture finer, pores are decreased in size, and pigmentation markedly improved.

How many treatments will I need?

Unlike traditional ablative CO2 laser treatments, more than one treatment may be needed to obtain the optimal results. Each treatment is individualized. The percent of skin coverage chosen will determine if one or two treatments will be necessary. In many patients one treatment can accomplish dramatic improvement.

Is this treatment painful?

The “pins and needle”, heat sensation felt during this treatment is tolerated by many patients. To relieve any discomfort, a combination of oral pain medication, topical anesthetic, and anesthetic injections can be used. The treatment is completed in 30 to 40 minutes.

How soon can I return to my normal activities?

This intense treatment will require some “down time”. Since we are ablating and removing some of the top layers of the skin, 3 to 5 days will be needed to allow the new skin to grow and heal. After a few days of your face appearing sun-blistered, the skin will gradually repair and rebuild. In these first few days, topical ointments are applied. Once the new layer of skin forms and peeling is complete, the skin will appear red for up to 2 weeks. Make-up can be applied to hide this.

Can this laser be used on other skin surfaces?

Yes! This laser has been found safe on all skin surface, including neck, arms, hands, chest, and back.

How long will the results last?

The skin will continue to repair and rebuild itself from the inside out over the next several months. This will allow for stimulation of new collagen to occur, resulting in a tighter, smoother, more uniform surface appearance. The changes that occur in the epidermis and dermis are permanent. Good skin care and sun-protection will help maintain the results for years.