Erasing her wrinkles was the singular reason that Yolanda Martir-Epalza sought laser resurfacing two years ago. The clerk in a dermatologist's office says she turned to skin rejuvenation for a pick-me-up to fix the fine lines around her eyes and upper lip. "My lipstick was already running," says the 45-year-old mother of three grown children.
Her dermatologist (and boss) performed the procedure with the Erbium YAG laser. The Erbium doesn't penetrate the skin as deeply as the CO2 technology, so it requires less healing time afterward, yet it is well-suited to de-emphasize fine facial lines like Yolanda's.
The most discomfort Yolanda felt from the laser procedure was a burning sensation immediately after. "I remember standing under the air conditioning vent because it made me feel better, but after half an hour it didn't hurt at all." Now, Yolanda boasts, "I get compliments all the time—'Wow, you look great!'"
The Erbium YAG laser is just one of 14 types of lasers (including the CO2) used in the office of Mark S. Nestor, M.D., where Yolanda works. Some of the instruments are "nonablative" lasers, meaning no skin is removed so no recovery time is needed. Says Nestor, "People can literally come in over lunch hour and go back to work or out to dinner that night."
Nonablative laser technologies include:
- NLite. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2000, the NLite technology improves the appearance of wrinkles without damaging the skin's surface. The technology, which makes a person gradually appear younger by increasing the skin's natural production of collagen, requires no anesthesia and no recovery time.
- Cool Touch. This technology, like the NLite, works to lessen wrinkles without producing an external wound. While applying a cooling spray to the skin's outer surface, the Cool Touch penetrates the skin and stimulates it to produce more skin-thickening collagen. Reservations agent Constanza Giraldo, who got the Cool Touch treatment for her acne scars after many other approaches proved unsuccessful, says of her results: "My skin looks smoother, and the scars are not that deep anymore. I feel more confident."
Constanza's procedure was less physically (and socially) taxing than some other techniques—she went right back to work afterward—and the rewards were correspondingly less dramatic, though they matched her expectations. "Less pain, less gain" aptly describes the realistic potential of the various laser skin rejuvenation technologies.
Other, nonlaser procedures also can rejuvenate the skin with a variety of risk-reward tradeoffs. Some treatments can be applied at home. Others, such as microdermabrasion, dermabrasion and chemical peels, are additional procedures performed by plastic surgeons and dermatologists.