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Most Common Lasers Used in Medical Aesthetics

Lasers used in cosmetic surgery

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser

The CO2 laser system works on 10600 nm wavelength and can be used in several ways: “focused” for cutting skin without bleeding; “defocused” for superficially vaporizing skin; and “ultra pulsed” for facial resurfacing. By delivering very powerful, rapid pulsing or scanning of the latest generation of CO2 lasers, laser surgeons are able to resurface the skin for cosmetic improvement. This technique removes fine lines and wrinkles of the face, smoothes acne scars, and rejuvenates aging and sun-damaged skin as it contours the skin surface. When the CO2 laser’s energy is defocused and not continuous (pulsed), the dermasurgeon can treat warts, shallow tumors and certain precancerous conditions. When the CO2 laser energy is continuous and focused into a small spot of light, the beam is able to cut the skin. It is used in this way to remove skin cancers, to treat a variety of non-vascular and pigmented lesions and for eyelid operations. This technique is also used to remove warts and for some surgical incisions.

Erbium (Er:YAG) Laser

The erbium:YAG 2940 nm (Er:YAG) laser produces energy in a wavelength that gently penetrates the skin, is readily absorbed by water and scatters the heat effects of the laser light. These properties enable laser doctors to remove thin layers of aged and sun-damaged skin tissue with exquisite precision while protecting healthy surrounding tissue. The Er:YAG laser is commonly used for skin resurfacing to improve moderate facial wrinkles, mild surface scars or splotchy skin discolorations. Newer Er:YAG lasers have an extended pulse duration that allows them to act in a similar manner to the CO2 laser.

Yellow Light Laser

Through the use of an organic dye, short pulses of yellow-colored light (578 nm) are produced. A popular yellow light laser is the pulsed dye laser. Because yellow light is more precisely absorbed by the hemoglobin than other colors, these lasers are effective in the treatment of blood vessel disorders, such as port wine stains, red birthmarks, enlarged blood vessels, rosacea, hemangiomas and red-nose syndrome. Certain yellow light lasers may also be used to treat stretch marks and are safe and effective for infants and children.

Green Light Laser

The green light (511 nm), in contrast, is used for the treatment of benign brown pigmented lesions, such as café-au-lait spots, the “old age” spots commonly found on the backs of the hands and lentigines or freckles. Green light lasers are also used for the treatment of small blood vessels on the face and legs.

Red Light Laser

The red light spectrum produced by the ruby or alexandrite light laser is emitted in extremely short, high-energy pulses due to a technique known as Q-switching. The Q-switched ruby or alexandrite laser systems were initially used to remove tattoos, but are now commonly used to treat many brown pigmented lesions, such as freckles or café-au-lait spots.

When the pulse duration of the ruby or alexandrite lasers is lengthened, it is effective in removing unwanted hair for long periods of time, sometimes even permanently.

Q-Switched Neodymium YAG (Nd:YAG)

Delivering infrared light, it is used to remove tattoos and deep dermal pigmented lesions, such as nevus of Ota. This laser can also be tuned to produce a green light for the treatment of superficial pigmented lesions like brown spots, as well as orange-red tattoos.

KTP

The KTP emits a green light and is capable of treating certain red and brown pigmented lesions. When the pulse duration is lengthened, the Nd:YAG laser is also effective in removing hair and an inflammatory condition termed pseudofolliculitis barbae for months and sometimes permanently. This is particularly useful in the treatment of dark-skinned patients.

Non-Ablative Lasers and Light Sources

Instead of heating and removing the top skin tissue, non-ablative (non-wounding) lasers work beneath the surface skin layer to improve skin tone and texture and minimize fine lines with few side effects and a speedy recovery. Light-based devices that produce a broad spectrum of light (wavelengths) with computer-controlled parameters of energy delivery (Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL) can be adjusted according to a patient’s skin type and condition. This technology is primarily used for the treatment of benign red and brown lesions, hair removal and facial skin rejuvenation.

Laser Hair Removal and Leg Veins Removal

Laser technology is presently being utilized for efficient and long-lasting body hair removal. The laser energy causes thermal injury to the hair follicle, stunting hair growth. Several laser hair-removal systems, including the diode laser, the long-pulsed alexandrite and Nd:YAG lasers and the IPL, are being used successfully with long-lasting results.

Until recently, lasers were used primarily for superficial facial veins. Thanks to the newest technologies, leg veins may be effectively treated with a variety of lasers and intense pulsed light systems.

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