As the body ages, so does the skin. It wrinkles and fine lines appear, especially in the facial area. Then the not so funny laugh lines show up. While some things can be covered up, like white or grey hairs being dyed a different color, the skin cannot. When it comes to our skin, we often need help defying our age. Skin resurfacing is a way of rejuvenating the largest organ on our body. So which works better – laser skin resurfacing or chemical peels? Here is a comparison to help you choose.
Chemical peels are treatments in which a chemical solution is applied to the face and allowed to soak in. The skin peels away, removing the dead and damaged cells from the surface in a controlled way so the healthy cells beneath are exposed. There are varying depths of treatments available, each with different healing and recovery times. The mildest is called a light or superficial peel and has little to no recovery time. The deepest is called a deep peel and takes up to two weeks to finish peeling, with a long recovery time. There is also a medium peel which falls between the light and deep peels.
Laser skin resurfacing uses laser-equipment to resurface the skin.
Ablative lasers target the surface layer of skin and vaporize it using light-based energy. There is some recovery time involved since the skin is damaged by the laser. The procedure itself takes only an hour or so, depending on the area being treated.
Non-ablative lasers target the skin below the surface, using light-based energy to heat the cells. The skin reacts by contracting (tightening) and producing elastins and collagen to repair damage. Recovery time is minimal as the skin’s surface is left intact.
Associated risks vary between the two methods. Chemical peels and ablative laser treatments can leave the skin raw and exposed, dependent upon the depth of the treatment. Anytime the skin is raw or exposed, there is a significant risk of infection. Deep peels and ablative laser treatments can and often do sting or hurt. Both ablative lasers and chemical peels do not work on all skin tones and types.
Non-ablative lasers do not leave skin exposed, which means the body is protected. There is very little down time, if any, and the treatment is milder than that of an ablative laser. Skin tone does not matter with non-ablative lasers, though oily skin can be burned.
How many sessions are needed depends on the treatment and the desired results. Light chemical peels are mild and don’t last long. The treatment can be repeated monthly. Deep peels produce stronger results by removing moderate wrinkles and lines. Sessions may be repeated no less than three months apart.
Ablative laser procedures have longer lasting results than non-ablative lasers and work much better on deeper wrinkles, acne scars, and tattoo removals. Non-ablative lasers are not as harsh, so it takes longer to see the results and more than one session is generally required to reach skin surface.