Wrinkles. Cellulite. Even stretch marks. There’s a laser treatment to beat just about anything. So do they work – and does it hurt?
All of a sudden they’re the talk of the beauty world, with a host of celebrity endorsements from Trinny Woodall and Anna Friel to the more unlikely Gordon Ramsay.
And this week yet another laser treatment was launched – this time to erase unsightly stretch marks, the tell-tale white streaks caused by weight fluctuation and, most commonly, pregnancy.
In this case, the laser works by creating heat within the affected tissue which kick-starts a natural healing process that stimulates the growth of fresh, healthy tissue. The result? Smoother, scar-free skin.
Zap! Lasers can now treat just about any beauty problem – if you can afford it
But stretch marks are only the latest in a long line of imperfections that can be zapped away by laser.
From body hair and acne to excess flab and spider veins -whatever the problem, there is a laser procedure designed to help.
A laser is an intense beam of light that can transfer its energy through the skin to a specific part of the body. The strength of the laser, and the frequency of the light used differs depending on the type of tissue it must target.
‘One major advantage of lasers is they are non-invasive, so there will be no surgical scarring. There is little downtime and minimal side-effects. For skin resurfacing and rejuvenation, laser treatment can deliver much more advanced results than a traditional chemical peel or micro- dermabrasion.’
However, he warns: ‘It’s important that the laser is used by a trained professional as they are very powerful and could cause serious damage, such as scarring, burning and bleeding, in the wrong hands.’
So what can lasers achieve, and how can you find the best treatment for you?
Body beautiful: Lasers can combat cellulite and stretch marks
Lasers can be used to remove the upper layer of ageing skin, resulting in fresh, new skin, with fewer surface wrinkles.
The laser also stimulates the cells that produce collagen, the substance that makes skin appear plump and youthful. ‘There are two types of lasers, “ablative” lasers which remove the top layer of skin, and non-ablative.
‘These are gentler, less painful and you have much less down time, but they are also less effective and you’ll need more treatments to get a good effect.’
An example of an ablative laser treatment is TALC which promises a new, pearlier complexion after one 40-minute treatment. It hurts, and skin will appear bright red and can feel sore and hot for up to a week and will peel off, but it can help reduce wrinkles.
The newest non-ablative lasers are ‘fractional’ ones that treat only 30 per cent of the skin at a time. These work by using fine pinpricks of light energy to drill hundreds of microscopic holes into 30 per cent of the surface of the skin, leaving 70 per cent intact.
This triggers an immune response which plumps and renews the skin, helping with scarring, lines and red and brown discolouration of the skin, while the undamaged areas speed recovery and reduce redness.
The best known fractional laser, and Trinny Woodall’s favourite, is Fraxel. This treatment uses a laser to tighten and lift the skin, especially around the jawline.
This uses a short light wavelength to target superficial skin problems such as sun spots, freckles and redness as well as a longer one to stimulate collagen and improve wrinkles, reduce pore size and, by heating the deep layers of the dermis, tighten sagging skin.
The results tend to be more dramatic than the previous treatment and it is one of his most popular procedures. However, it is expensive, at £750 a session or £2,000 for a course.
All patients will be very red for a few days afterwards and skin will often peel. More severe side-effects of Fraxel can include extreme swelling, acne breakouts, infections, long-lasting bumpiness under the skin and even pinpoint holes in the skin. An experienced and qualified doctor is essential.
Tenterden Aesthetic and Laser clinic has introduced a new fractional laser, the Harmony Pixelated Laser, which can treat sun-damage, age spots, redness caused by rosacea acne and melasma, the hormone-related dark patches caused by pregnancy.
LASER SMILE TREATMENTS
Bright whites: Treatments using lasers are a quicker and less painful alternative to bleaching
Bleaching teeth used to be a prolonged and painful treatment. But laser whitening or ‘power whitening’ improves and speeds up the process.
A bleaching product is painted onto the teeth, then the laser light is shone on the teeth to quickly activate the chemical. Laser whitening is said to make teeth up to five or six shades lighter, though this does vary hugely, and for some people results are disappointing.
Teeth may also ‘rebound’ and become dark again shortly after being treated. Teeth and gums can also be left feeling very sensitive to cold.
Traditional laser whitening uses one laser across all the teeth at the same time, but the latest treatment from Canada uses a tiny laser to treat each tooth individually.
Acne is traditionally treated by long-term antibiotics or gels which dry out the skin – but low-power laser therapies can work better than any of these without side-effects.
We use Blue light IPL harmony platform + laser treatments which destroy the acne-causing bacteria in a painless treatment that targets the pigment in the bacteria, destroying it and also helping rebuild collagen.
A single ten-minute treatment can provide a complete cure for some patients. Or try Isolaz Acne Therapy which uses the same yellow light to zap bacteria in the skin.
When first introduced a decade ago, laser hair removal was painful and ineffective, relying on individual strong pulses of laser energy. But the new Soprano XL laser is said to be the first to offer a fast, precise and completely painless hair removal system.
It works by heating the deeper layers of the skin, permanently damaging the hair follicle and uses a constant sweeping laser beam to ensure no hairs are missed.
Ugly red thread veins on the legs or face can be zapped using lasers. Our harmony platform can treat most ugly red thread veins
The laser emits a yellow light that is absorbed by the red colour in the skin and veins. This light turns into heat, safely sealing the veins, which are absorbed by the body over several weeks.
Prices range from £80 a visit, depending on the treatment. Be warned, the procedure hurts – it’s like being spattered with hot fat. Also, it is harder to treat leg veins with lasers. Only one in three leg veins responds to laser treatments, and only veins under 4mm can be treated.
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Combine botox therapy with laser technology to control the problem!
DR V J Vadgama