After you have made the decision to receive laser skin resurfacing treatments and your appointments are booked, you should start to prepare for caring for your skin. Skin care for laser resurfacing begins even before the procedure is performed. Most complications following laser resurfacing are caused by failure to properly take care of the skin after treatment. Using the right pre- and post-op skin care products will promote faster healing times and even reduce the appearance of bruising and discolorations immediately following your procedure.
(It is important to note, that in this post, the word “patient” is used because a medical professional is performing the actual treatments.)
Pre Laser Care
This consists of sun avoidance 3-4 weeks before and some pre conditioning with Retin-A therapy and bleaching topicals, like PCA Skin Pigment Gel. This exceptional combination of hydroquinone, phenylethyl resorcinol, and kojic, azelaic and lactic acids, helps to exfoliate, lighten and inhibit hyperpigmentation and age spots.These creams are usually stopped 5 days prior to the procedure.
Post Laser Care
There are three essential components of post laser resurfacing skin care:
- The skin must be kept moist with topical cream or ointment
- The skin must be kept clean, all secretions and skin debris removed
- Sun block and prevention is essential for the new skin
Immediately after the procedure, a thin layer of petroleum ointment should be applied for approximately 5-7 days. For pharmaceutical grade petroleum, we recommend Skinceuticals Primacy Hydra Balm. Originally designed as a healing ointment, Hydra Balm accelerates recovery of skin surface lipids. Also during this period, it helps to keep the skin wet with frequent showers and soaking with wet gauze to help gently remove some of the sloughing skin.
Dead skin cells and secretions, if not removed, can lead to skin infection and subsequent complications such as scarring. Keeping the skin clean and free of secretions is very important especially during the first few days after laser resurfacing. Cleansing must be gentle, as you do not want to remove new skin cells that are forming after the laser treatment. The best, most effective, and comforting method is to apply saline soaked gauze sponges to the face. Every 3-4 hours the sponges are changed with a gentle wiping to remove accumulated debris. After 7 days most patients can begin using a gentle facial cleanser, like Skinceuticals Gentle Cleanser. Formulated for sensitive or traumatized skin, this mild cream cleanser removes excess impurities and oil without drying the skin – ideal for following skin rejuvenating procedures. Most patients can also incorporate a gentle facial moisturizer, like Neocutis Bio-Restorative Cream with PSP. The first and original cream formulated with PSP, this product helps promote recovery and skin restoration after cosmetic or dermatological procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser and/or light treatments and cosmetic surgery.
After your skin has healed, you will also want to wear the right makeup – something you may not have even thought about. Certain makeup products are more irritating than others, and you will want to choose a makeup that is ultra sensitive and all natural for your post laser skin. Mineral makeup, like Priori Coffeeberry Perfecting Minerals (coming soon to SkinMedix!), is a great choice because it is all natural and does not cause irritation – even to the most sensitive skin. Also, with ingredients like zinc oxide built in, mineral makeup has sun protection, too.
After a few weeks, your doctor may recommend the use of a vitamin C serum and add back in a topical RetinA cream and/or a bleaching topical. We recommend Obagi Professional-C Serum 20%, a peptide and antioxidant blend that provides maximum daily antioxidant protection by repairing and strengthening skin cells and their function. The high levels of Vitamin C offer greater penetration than other Vitamin C products, while improving elasticity and stimulating collagen production.
Sun avoidance continues for 4-6 months. That includes avoiding the sun as much as possible and using sunscreens, wide hats, sunglasses and so forth when having to be in the sun. Try Cellex-C Sunshade SPF 30 Plus, an azure-blue, alcohol free, sun protection cream containing beneficial sea botanicals and herbal extracts with exceptional calming and anti-inflammatory properties. Formulated to be used in conjunction with Retin-A therapy and other photosensitizing medications, including AHAs.
Lasers are excellent for many different types of skin resurfacing, but if you don’t do your part and take care of your skin before AND after the treatments, a lot of the benefit is lost and you take the risk of doing damage to the healthy delicate skin you worked so hard to get.