Non-ablative laser skin rejuvenation is a recent form of laser technology introduced to treat wrinkles and scars. This new laser system is believed to promote the synthesis of new collagen in the dermis without ablating or removing the overlying epidermis, thus sparing patients a prolonged downtime and healing period. This also minimises the potential complications such as infection, scarring and post-inflammatory pigmentary changes. The improvement is more gradual and subtle than compared to the ablative lasers.
Non-ablative lasers are used for mild to moderate wrinkles and scars. It is not effective for deep wrinkles or movement-related wrinkles such as frown lines and “crow’s feet”.
Deep pitted scars such as those from acne or chicken pox will not respond as well as superficial distensible scars. Non-ablative lasers can be combined with other forms of treatment such as scar revision, chemical peels and botulinum toxin injection where indicated.
Presently there are several lasers which can be used for non-ablative skin rejuvenation. They can be broadly divided into two groups. Some of these are lasers traditionally used for the removal of skin pigment or blood vessels e.g. Q-switched Nd:YAG laser and pulsed dye laser.
The second group consists of lasers which are specifically manufactured for the sole purpose of non-ablative laser procedure by stimulating collagen synthesis e.g. 1320 nm Nd:YAG laser (Cool Touch), 1450 nm diode laser (Smooth Beam), 1540 nm erbium-glass laser (Aramis) and the long pulsed 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser (Vantage).
To achieve significant noticeable results, it has been reported that multiple treatments are necessary. The skin should be treated at intervals of four to six weeks, for a total of four to six times to achieve the best results.
An anaesthetic cream is applied on the area to be treated one hour before the treatment to minimise discomfort. A stinging or poking sensation may still be felt. Most of the time, treatment is very well tolerated. There is no need to take painkiller.
The risk of side effects is low. Possible side effects include redness which lasts one to two days, blistering and temporary darkening of the skin (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). The treatment is associated with very little downtime and the patient can resume daily activities almost immediately.
There is no special skin care required after the laser treatment. If there is marked redness, the doctor may prescribe a mild steroid cream or moisturiser for a few days. It is also advisable to use sunblock for a week after the laser to minimise post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Scars and wrinkles can never be completely eradicated. Non-ablative laser may improve the appearance of scars and fine wrinkles only. The degree of improvement is variable and depends on the severity of the scars/ wrinkles.