Smooth to the Touch: Skin Resurfacing

Sometimes you have to go to extremes to get results.
Sometimes you have to go to extremes to get results.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Aging skin kind of sneaks up on you. A laugh line here, a crow's foot there and then one day, you look in the mirror and you aren't quite sure who that wrinkly person is looking back at you. Caring for you skin along the way can help ease the displeasure of watching your face crease up, but there are also a lot of genetic and lifestyle considerations that impact how you age that you can't do anything about. Not to mention acne scarring, pigmentation issues and sun damage. If you're ready to freshen up your look, then you might want to consider a skin resurfacing procedure.

There are three different types of skin resurfacing techniques: chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. Each has its own benefits and downsides, so you should consult with a plastic surgeon about your options. Your specific case could dictate the kind of procedure your doctor recommends, or you may have the option to choose which one you want to go with. Regardless of which resurfacing technique you choose, you're going to need to know a few things about the process going in and how to prepare for it. We'll walk you through the prep, the procedure and what you can expect afterward on the following pages.

Prepping for Skin Resurfacing

Depending on what kind of skin resurfacing technique you choose, you'll get specific instructions for pre-treatment care from your doctor, but chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing all have some similar aspects. For all three, you may be asked to forgo the use of face creams and lotions for a set period of time. You may also be required to apply other special creams and gels to prep your skin for treatment. There are foods, beverages and medications you may have to avoid in the days or week prior to treatment.

If you're a smoker, you should probably count on going cold turkey before any of the three procedures. You're also going to be asked to avoid direct sunshine on your skin for a period of time, depending on which procedure you're going with. Getting too much sun leading up to a procedure can yield uneven results. No matter which procedure you decide on, be sure to follow the doctor's pre-treatment orders in full so you can ensure the best possible outcome.

Skin Resurfacing Procedure

The level of complicaiton will depend on the procedure you choose.
The level of complicaiton will depend on the procedure you choose.
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Each of the three skin resurfacing procedures -- chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing -- is essentially trying to achieve the same result using different methods. The goal is to rid yourself of the top layers of your skin to expose newer and younger looking skin underneath. For peels, you'll have chemicals applied to your skin that will essentially blister away the outermost layer and then heal over a period of days or weeks, depending on the chemicals used. They range from light to heavy to treat different levels of wrinkling.

Dermabrasion injures your skin much in the same way a skinned knee might, leaving a scab that will eventually fall away to reveal the new skin beneath it. This procedure requires anesthetic and a small spinning wheel is applied to the skin to basically sand off the outermost layer. Recovery time is a bit longer than with a peel, but the results can be more effective.

Laser resurfacing is similar to the dermabrasion, but a laser is used instead of an abrasive spinning wheel. Laser techniques improve the precision of the procedure, with doctors more able to accurately pinpoint delicate areas around the eyes and mouth. The laser technique is the newest form of skin resurfacing procedure and gets high marks for consistently even results.

Skin Resurfacing Recovery

Recovery for each of the three types of skin resurfacing procedures depends on the severity of your issue. Superficial peels can heal up in a matter of hours and your skin will go from a light pink back to its regular color. The deeper the peel, the longer it takes to blister and heal. Medium peels take about a week, while deep peels can take from two weeks to a month or more. Dermabrasion will take longer to recover from than peels, and is somewhat like recovering from a burn. Laser resurfacing recovery can be likened to a medium to deep chemical peel or dermabrasion.

For each treatment option, you'll be asked to care for your skin in very specific ways. There will likely be some kind of gel or cream you need to apply and some procedures will require bandages. In each case, you're also going to be forbidden from getting direct sunlight on the treated area for a period of time. And since too much sun is likely one of the reasons you're there to begin with, you might want to roll up the beach towel for a while.

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Sources

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  • "Laser Resurfacing." Mayoclinic.com. Aug. 20, 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/laser-resurfacing/MY00560/DSECTION=how-you-prepare
  • "Preparing for a dermabrasion treatment." Plasticurgery.org. Aug. 20, 2012. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/dermabrasion.html?sub=Preparing%20for%20a%20dermabrasion%20treatment
  • "Skin Resurfacing." Surgery.org. Aug. 20, 2012. http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/skin/skin-resurfacing
  • "Wound Healing and Post-Operative Care: Laser Resurfacing." Totalskinandbeauty.com. Aug. 20, 2012. http://www.totalskinandbeauty.com/about-us-our-doctors-wound-healing-post-operative-care-laser-resurfacing.shtml