Lasers Are Confusing—what Type of Laser Resurfacing is Best for the First Signs of Aging?

Attention all doctors who have experience using multiple laser-resurfacing modalities: between C02, erbium, fully ablative, fractionally ablative and non-ablative, which laser/combination of lasers is best for the first signs of aging? Specifically, I'm an early-30s, fair-skinned woman interested in smoothing fine lines (forehead, lip region) and preventing further facial deterioration overall. I don't mind a week (max) of downtime per year. Which specific equipment should I be seeking out? Thx!

Doctor Answers 8

Laser for Early 30's

Aesthetic light (lasers and IPL) can be helpful for facial aging, even for patients in their early 30's.  There are several factors to help determine which modality is best for you:

  • Skin type (Coloration)
  • Signs of aging (Brown spots, texture, fine lines, irregularities, etc)
  • Downtime

There are so many name brands of lasers but be more particular about the wavelength and modality of the laser.  In general, patients in their early 30's often seek quicker recovery procedures with less overall risk.

Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 91 reviews

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Try Dermapen for skin resurfacing

Lasers are great, but if you're in your early 30's, you probably don't have the severity of damage that requires a laser. Dermapen is a micro-needling procedure. Instead of using laser heat energy to stimulate a rejuvenation of collagen, it uses tiny needles to create a stimulus to the skin to rejuvenate collagen. It's very comfortable and the downtime can be controlled based on how the procedure is done. Remarkable results can be achieved with a series of no-downtime treatments. I've been very impressed with this technology.

Kimberly Finder, MD
San Antonio Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Laser resurfacing for early signs of aging

Great question and i enjoyed reading the other answers which i agree with and also disagree with. I lecture about this very often and you can see a few webinars i have done on this topic on the sciton website. 

In short - choice of laser or other technology depends upon patients degree of damage (wrinkles etc), skin color, downtime and budget. in your case with fair skin, beginning signs of aging and a weeks downtime there are a number of devices that would give you the intended result. modern day lasers and devices are not like the on/off switch of mid 90's devices. the settings can be adjusted for depth, thermal damage and area of coverage. obviously we need to examine you first- but in our office with the conditions you gave i would do a medium depth tunable erbium (sciton) laser peel or a combination light full erbium peel with fractional as well (micropeel/fractional combo) or fractional co2 or ematrix  (syneron - fractional radiofrequency) or even a medium depth chemical peel. as you can see there are a number of options that work for u. seek out an experienced office with multiple devices

Jason Pozner, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

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Early aging - does this require lasers or would other options be better?

There are certainly plenty of options for laser treatments. You "could" be a laser or eMatrix candidate (eMatrix is Radio Frequency and not laser so it reduces any risk of post treatment pigmentation); or you could be a candidate for simpler options like retinoid creams, antioxidants or simply a good skin care program.

Forehead lines can be smoothed with Botox or one of the other relaxers and the lines are more than likely caused by muscle contraction so laser wouldn't solve that problem.

Lip lines at your age are more often caused by the contraction of the muscles around your mouth. Watch your mouth action in a mirror when you are talking. If you tend to purse your lips strongly, the vertical wrinkles begin to get etched in. Laser may smooth them to some extent, but if the cause is dynamic (action-caused) then even with laser you will see them return.

Your best first option would be to visit a good cosmetic dermatologist and discuss both what you want to accomplish and the different levels of available corrective choices. Starting small is sometimes a better decision.


Laser Resurfacing Options for Aging Skin

Thank you for your question. There are multiple laser resurfacing devices that work well in the right candidates and in the right hands. But these also have to be balanced with their side effect profile. At this time, the safest and most effective will be fractionated C02 or Erbium with about a week of downtime, depending on the settings and number of passes.  I would also recommend being treated under the supervision of a Board Certified Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon for best results and safest treatments.  I hope this helps!

Yes, all the lasers are confusing.

Not surprisingly, some doctors are confused too.  The primary goal of the laser companies is to sell lasers.  Every salesperson thinks he/she has the best laser, until they change jobs to another company.  In my humble opinion, the most effective laser for deep wrinkles is a carbon dioxide laser, fractionated or non-fractionated.  For somebody your age with fine lines and probably some uneven skin coloration I prefer nitrogen plasma resurfacing.  It is called Portrait.  I really like the quality of the skin you get.  It really can rejuvenate the skin.  Resurfacing takes about a week or so to heal.  Below is a link to some photos on my website and my Youtube video on the subject.

Stuart H. Bentkover, MD
Boston Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Which Laser Resurfacing

Hi Lauren.  We do not think you will accomplish your goals with the areas you want to treat and the downtime you are willing to accept.  Most lasers that have 5-7 days of downtime are used in a series of at least 2- 3 treatments.  We are sure you will find a practitioner to offer 1 treatment (fractionated or even traditional Erbium) with expectations for improvement, but the problem is the less treatments you have, the more limited the results will be.  This would only be in relation to lip lines.

The forehead is not a great area to expect improvement for fine lines because the lines are cause by muscle contraction.  This area is better treated with Botox or Dysport.

Harold J. Kaplan, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.