I know what patients look like right afterwards (too red and raw to go out for about a week) and what they look like after three months (fully healed and gorgeous) -- but what do they look like in the middle, when you are still healing, but don't have to stay indoors?
How Does Skin Look a Month After Laser Resurfacing?
Doctor Answers 10
Post-Laser Skin Resurfacing Appearance
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What to Expect After Laser Resurfacing
This is a great question. You are correct that the first week after a deep laser resurfacing procedure requires a week's downtime. The skin is very delicate, red and denuded. Over the next few weeks, the treated skin can appear pink and this pink skin can last for several months (so expect to be slighlty pink in one month). I normally explain to my patients that they can appear rosy for a few months after resurfacing but the rudiness will eventually subside. This mild discoloration can easily be covered with make-up. Remember pink is good, means there is healthy new skin!
Skin A Month After Laser Resurfacing
As you stated, the skin is red and raw appearing for about a week or so. This redness gradually reduces over time until it usually completely abates within several months. In the meantime, the face is pink. In other words, the redness gradually reduces, day by day and week by week. You can cover the pink skin with make-up.
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Facial resurfacing recovery
the answer to your question depends on which laser or device is being used to resurface, the depth of the treatment, the density of the treatment, was there overlapping or stacked pulses, etc. Fraxel Restore, the nonablative laser, can create significantly different convalescence among patients depending on the energies used for superficial photodamage or deeprer acne scarring. Usually after a week there are no residual changes. Fraxel Repair, or ablative fractional carbon dioxide laser can leave redness that fades to pink and finally clears in several months. Portrait plasma technology creates fast healing and the pink color can last for two months or slighly longer. Superficial, medium and deep chemical peels also create different results. In general, after the pink color is gone at rest, expect for a few more months that the reddish hue can return temporarily after being exposed to a hot environment, stepping in from the cold weather, coming out of a shower, after eating spicy food and drinking alcoholic beverages, possibly red wine being the most stimulatory for this color change. Once there is complete reepithelialization (new skin) makeup can be used to hide the redness.
Skin color after laser
Yes, the skin is very red and raw after a deep laser peel, and then the color gradually improves over several months. The deeper the peel the redder the skin the longer the redness stays, and then the potential for hypopigmentation( light skin)
Healing varies based upon the patient
Everyone heals differently and there can be variations based upon the laser or the laser energy used.
In general, most patients will be red, raw and crusty during the first week, just like you mentioned. During the second week, the skin is red and fragile and still requires extra moisturizer and strict sun protection. Usually the redness subsides in about 2-4 weeks.
Variations occur based upon more intense treatments, the more aggressive the treatment or the deeper the treatment, the better the results, but the longer the healing time; the skin type ( fair-skinned patients tend to be red longer).
Newer laser systems, fractionated CO2 lasers such as the Lumenis Total FX or Fraxel, can shorten the healing time for most patients. THe peeling happens quicker (usually 5 days) and the redness dissipates quicker ( around 10-15 days).
Healing after skin resurfacing
Each and every person heals differently. For example, patients have a certain skin type which is classified by the way it reacts to the sun (Fitzpatrick skin type). Your Fitzpatrick skin type is a very important factor in how aggressive your surgeon can be and how you will heal. Also, patient's with red hair will typically have a prolonged inflammatory phase in their healing and will have a longer period of a reddish hue to the skin.
It also depends of the type of laser used (ablative vs. fractionated vs. nonablative). For ablative lasers, Erbium lasers heal more quickly and with less redness than carbon dioxide lasers....ON AVERAGE...as long as the depth of penetration of the Erbium laser stays within suggested guidelines (300 microns or papillary dermis). Carbon dioxide lasers will generally cause more postoperative erythema (redness) which can persist for several months. Fractionated lasers will heal much more quickly because they perserve more of the healing capacity (pilosebaceous units) of the skin. With fractionated lasers, most patients can return to make-up (mineral make-up is suggested) in about 5 days with some postoperative redness for several weeks. Nonablative lasers will require very minimal downtime.
Skin care is vital for any recovery period and the quality of the skin care can make a significant difference in your recovery period.
Finally, sun exposure after laser resurfacing can be very detrimental to your healing. It is absolutely crucial to avoid any sun exposure after laser resurfacing for an extended period of time.
I have a book of before an after photographs which I show to all my potential patients. We have a series of pictures which show the daily healing after laser resurfacing and then the healing at week and monthly intervals. My patients find this very helpful.
Healing after laser resurfacing depends upon depth and type of laser
Laser resurfacing has improved significantly since its development 15 years ago when the procedures were generally all done with full field carbon dioxide devices with deep depths of resurfacing.
Current devices - erbium, YSGG and carbon dioxide allow superficial as well as deep depths and the ability to do fractional treatment (a % of the area - ie 20% coverage). The more superficial depths and the fractional treatments heal much faster than the deeper treatments and patients may look good in a few days. The key is to go to an experienced laser practicioner who can assess your skin pathology and treat appropriately.
Interim appearance after Laser resurfacing
Having done well over a thousand laser resurfacing procedures in the last sixteen years, I will tell you that no two people heal the same so these are general guidelines. Typically, at 10 to 14 days, your skin goes from bright red and raw to pink in color. Over the next two to four weeks, the intense pink lessens to a medium pink. Over the next month, the pink starts fading with blotchy pink areas. Finally, at about 3-4 months, the pink subsides to skin color. However, I've seen some patients take up to six to eight months for the pinkness to go away. I hope this information helps.
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.