How to Care for Skin After a Laser Treatment
Achieve the best results from your laser treatment with these tips, skincare must-haves and the best protocol to follow post-procedure.
Laser skin-resurfacing treatments are continuing to grow in popularity in Canada, and while not all lasers are the same, they all emit direct short, concentrated pulsating light beams at skin irregularities to promote collagen growth and/or remove skin layers. These medical aesthetic devices can be found at medi spas, dermatologist offices and plastic surgeon clinics and are used for everything from removing tattoos and acne scars to boosting collagen production (to plump up fine lines) and banishing unwanted pigmentation.
Two great things about laser treatments? They’re incredibly effective and they take little downtime to heal. But most of these procedures typically require multiple sessions for optimal results. In other words, these treatments are a time and financial commitment, so you’ll want to ensure that you have a good insurance policy—and that’s where post-laser skincare comes into play.
It’s a tricky topic to generalize about since there are several different lasers out there, but one thing’s for sure: The work isn’t done when you leave the office; there’s a skincare protocol to follow. Here’s how to make sure you encourage the best possible results during your recovery with expert-recommended aftercare.
How to care for skin after a laser treatment
The proper post-laser protocol can maximize the efficiency of your treatment and expedite healing time—giving you the most bang for your buck. If you’re wondering what to do after laser treatment on the face, the consensus among professionals is “Less is more.” If you usually follow a 10-step skincare regimen, you should temporarily dial it back because a complicated regimen can compromise your results—or, worse, lead to irritation or infection.
Before we get into how to repair laser-damaged skin, it’s essential to know the difference between the two kinds of laser face treatments: ablative and non-ablative.
This type uses laser energy to “wound” the skin by heating the uppermost layer, vaporizing the tissue and water and causing new skin growth. It also heats the underlying skin layer (dermis) to promote the synthesis of new collagen fibres. Ablative lasers can require a two-to-four-week healing process , depending on depth, before the new skin has healed completely and final results are evident.
After ablative laser treatments, the skin will be inflamed and the barrier is more vulnerable to external aggressors like ultraviolet rays and microbial influences, which can result in pigmentation or infection. You’ll want to treat your fresh new skin delicately, so go for a minimalist approach. Start with a gentle cleanser like SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser to fend off pathogens and microbes. This face wash delivers a rich foam that soothes skin with calming ingredients, such as glycerine and cucumber extract. It’s perfectly suited for care after laser treatment on the face. Next, you need to restore with SkinCeuticals Epidermal Repair. Formulated with beta gluten, it works to support the skin’s barrier function and is a must for skin resurfacing, especially after the first few days. Finally, finish with a broad-spectrum sunscreen like the classic SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50.
This is currently the more popular style of laser and the best choice for people who have mild to moderate signs of aging (with minimal skin sagging) and are willing to undergo multiple treatments. These lasers (such as IPL and Clear + Brilliant) work by heating up the underlying skin tissue (without harming the surface) so that your body will produce new collagen. It’s ideal for deeper skin problems like scarring and long-term UV damage and is well tolerated by most skin types. In addition, non-ablative lasers are less invasive than their ablative counterparts, with significantly lower downtime.
Look for post-treatment moisturizers that contain ingredients such as ceramides, lanolin, petrolatum and aloe vera, all of which help hydrate the skin. Consider SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, which helps restore the skin’s external barrier and supports natural self-repair. Speed up healing by adding a serum with vitamin E, vitamin C, antioxidants and ferulic acid. Enter SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, which has been tested and deemed suitable for use post-laser. Also, follow up with a sunscreen like SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50.
Dos and don’ts after laser treatment
Now you know what skincare to put on your face post-laser, but what should you avoid in your skincare routine and can you wear makeup after last treatment? We break down the major dos and don’ts.
What not to do post-laser treatment
● - Steer clear of fragrance in your skincare.
● - Avoid active ingredients (such as AHAs, BHAs and retinol) for the first few days post-treatment.
● - Avoid any harsh ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and chemical detergents.
● - Take a break from exfoliators and toners.
● - Avoid hot water when cleansing.
● - If you use a washcloth, avoid scrubbing your face and gently pat dry. Also, wash your towel daily to avoid bacteria that can exacerbate skin inflammation.
● - Do not touch your face without washing your hands first due to the risk of bacterial infections.
● - Stay out of the sun.
● - Avoid wearing makeup the first few days after a laser treatment.
What to do post-laser treatment
● - Immediately after your procedure, use ice packs to ease discomfort and swelling.
● - After your procedure, wear sunglasses and a hat to cover injured skin.
● - Restrict your activities on the day of your laser treatment and several days afterwards.
● - Gently wash your face each morning and night using a gentle cleanser.
● - Simplify your skincare routine and use medical grade skincare.
● - Always keep your skin moisturized. If it feels tight, apply moisturizer.
● - Apply sunscreen.
Can I use vitamin C serum after a laser treatment?
For a long time, the belief was to steer clear of all active ingredients post-laser treatment. However, new studies suggest otherwise . One study found that after Fraxel laser, applying a topical vitamin C serum has been shown to reduce the injury of the skin’s surface barrier and even help restore pH. According to another study on vitamin C serum benefits, when vitamin C serum (along with the help of other antioxidant ingredients like vitamin E and ferulic acid) is used post-treatment, swelling and erythema (a type of skin rash) are decreased at a faster rate than without.
The perfect product to slowly introduce into your routine three to five days after your laser treatment is SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. This serum has been tested and deemed suitable for use post-laser. However, you should always consult with a physician for your post-procedure care.
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