How to Choose the Right Laser Treatment for Your Skin

When it comes to getting better skin, “let there be light” has become a popular approach. It seems like skincare lasers are everywhere these days. But while lasers sound like something from the future, the good news for those struggling with their skin is that the future is now. 

But how exactly do they work? First, it’s important to understand exactly what a laser is. “A laser is an intensely focused beam of light at a specific wavelength that can affect different parts of the tissue or skin depending on the wavelength of the laser,” says Ti Jo “TJ” Tsay, MD, a cosmetic doctor and the medical director and owner of Ageless MD in Orange County, California.

But not all lasers are created alike. “Lasers have a variety of different functions depending on the wavelength of light,” says Tsay. “In general, lasers can remove hair, remove or diminish wrinkles and fine lines, or target and reduce abnormal pigmentation or excessive redness such as rosacea or inflammatory acne. Some lasers can even remove tattoos or even act as a knife to cut or remove the skin.”

If you’ve been thinking about getting a laser treatment for your skin but aren’t exactly sure if it’s for you, read on. 

person having laser skin resurfacing treatment

Lasers aren’t magic 

While many people choose to undergo laser treatments because they want quicker and better results than what their current skincare routines are capable of, it’s essential to keep in mind that lasers won’t give you permanent results and you may need more than one treatment.

“Your body still undergoes the aging process so the results will eventually fade and your body goes back to the state or condition it was in before the laser treatment,” explains Tsay. “Even a very aggressive laser that can diminish the appearance of acne scars will fade in the results as your body ages and loses collagen over time.”

You also need to consider downtime. The stronger the laser, the more downtime you’ll require. You also don’t know how exactly your skin will react. In other words, don’t schedule a session two days before your wedding.  

Choose wisely

There are so many different types of lasers, it’s hard to know how to choose the right one. While your doctor will ultimately know the right type of laser for you, it’s always a good idea to go into your appointment with a few ideas and a list of concerns.

“[Some of the most] popular lasers would be for abnormal pigmentation,” says Tsay. “This includes sun spots, age spots, post-acne pigmentation, or even melasma.”

There are also some lasers designed to resurface the skin. “Some examples of issues this can improve are wrinkles and fine lines, large pores, acne scars, excessive dead skin, and gives a smoother overall appearance of the skin.”

What is a Fraxel laser?

Have you been considering laser resurfacing? You may want to look into Fraxel treatments. “Fraxel is a specific brand of laser that uses two separate wavelengths of light to lightly resurface the skin,” says Tsay. “This has medium downtime of approximately three to five days and requires multiple sessions to see the best result.     

Tsay notes that Fraxel lasers are sometimes confused with “fractional” CO2 lasers. “This type of laser uses carbon dioxide gas to give a very controlled ‘burn’ to the skin in order for the skin to regenerate and collagen to remodel into a younger form,” he says. “This is a more aggressive laser treatment that requires one week of socially acceptable downtime. Fractional CO2 gives more obvious results per treatment because of the higher intensity of treatment.”

What is an IPL photofacial?

According to Tsay, a photofacial can be used to treat sun spots, age spots, abnormal pigmentation, rosacea, abnormal cherry red spots, and broken capillaries. While many people think IPL is a type of laser, technically it isn’t.

“Basically, a photofacial is like a facial that improves the color and evens out the skin tone but uses a spectrum of light energy to do so,” says Tsay.

This treatment causes pigmentation to darken and flake off. “Although there is no downtime, some patients may regard the flaking as a pseudo peeling effect but lighter than a chemical peel,” explains Tsay.

Lasers also aren’t for everyone

While lasers can help with a variety of skincare issues, they aren’t for every type of skin. For the most part, lasers are generally safe for most lighter skin types.

“Some examples would be someone with very fair skin which means they have less melanin (the component of our skin that gives us color), says Tsay. “If someone has darker skin tones there are lasers that can treat them safely without causing hyperpigmentation, which is a side effect of any laser. Darker skin types do require special attention to not cause excessive energy to overheat the skin.”

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About Amanda Lauren

Originally from New York City, Amanda Lauren currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two dogs Milo and Lulu. Rarely seen in an actual gym, she is a group fitness enthusiast who enjoys Pilates (both East Coast and West Coast styles), spin, barre, power plates, yoga and her newest obsession, versa climbing. She will try any group fitness class at least once. When Amanda isn’t working out or trying to find the perfect pair of pink sneakers, she blogs about her adventures in fitness as well as fashion, lifestyle and beauty on