Scars form when your skin is damaged and heals itself after trauma, infection, surgery, or inflammation. They may differ in both size and shape and even initially form with a brighter color and shape and change over time. While scars are not usually harmful, many individuals find them unsightly or even embarrassing.
Laser scar removal is one of the most effective methods for improving the appearance of your scars and in many cases eliminating them altogether. It is important, however, to understand the procedure and potential side effects involved before you decide if the procedure is right for you.
What Is Laser Scar Removal?
Laser scar removal is a complex process that provides many options to treat scars. Laser is actually an abbreviation that stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. With this process, scars are actually removed by a process known as laser resurfacing.
The resurfacing is typically performed as an outpatient procedure by either a dermatologist or other licensed professional at a skin clinic. The doctor uses the laser, much like a wand, and methodically moves it over the damaged skin cells. Each pass over the skin’s surface removes more damaged cells.
Unlike other procedures, laser removal is noninvasive and uses only micro-fine laser light to penetrate the layers of skin. This penetration stimulates the skin’s natural healing mechanism. This causes the damaged tissue to slough off and be replaced by fresh new collagen and elastin.
Benefits of Laser Scar Removal
Laser scar treatment works by heating the layers of the skin one by one, allowing the body to then repair the damage. Through this process not only are scars removed, but fresh, new skin replaces the old, dead skin. This delivers a number of benefits:
- New cell growth. Laser treatment stimulates the body’s natural healing process and promotes the growth of new cells. This rejuvenates the skin and naturally makes it brighter and more youthful.
- Convenience. Treatment is typically completed as an out-patient procedure, requiring no hospital stay and limited recovery time. Sessions do not take a long time either, so most individuals are done within an hour or two.
- Versatility. Laser scar treatment is effective for treating a number of different skin issues other than just scars. Laser treatment is effective for treating birthmarks, moles, sun spots, warts, blemishes, wrinkles, and even tattoos.
- Fast results. While results vary by individual, most patients notice a different within one treatment and require only 3 to 5 sessions to see full results.
What Happens During the Procedure?
Your treatment process will begin with a consultation with a certified dermatologist or surgeon. Your doctor will evaluate your skin, determine if you are a good candidate for treatment, and collect pertinent information regarding your expectations and relevant medical history. During this conversation, you should share all information regarding your health, including medications and vitamins you take as well as whether you smoke.
Your doctor will then further examine your skin and the scar you want removed. After this examination, the doctor will present you with a treatment plan that includes the technique he thinks is best suited for your skin as well as the cost and any specific risks associated with the procedure. Your doctor will also likely emphasize that the scar will not be completely removed to help you manage your expectations.
Once you decide on the treatment plan, you’ll schedule your procedure and should receive a treatment package with pertinent information regarding the procedure. The packet will give you specific instructions for preparing for the procedure, including any medications you should stop taking prior to the treatment.
The procedure itself will take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. It depends on the size and severity of the scar. Your doctor will administer anesthesia as necessary and then begin the procedure.
During the process, the doctor will move the laser along your scar, delivering tiny pulses of light into your skin. The number of pulses and passes of the laser over your scar will depend on the size of your scar and your desired results. Once the doctor has finished, he will apply a protective solution over the treatment area and give you specific follow-up care instructions.
What Happens After the Procedure?
After the procedure, your treated areas will be bandaged. Twenty-four hours after the initial treatment you will need to clean the treated areas and apply a protective ointment to them four to five times a day to prevent scabbing.
Your skin will also likely swell slightly after treatment. Your doctor may prescribe steroids to prevent excessive swelling around your face and eyes. Likewise, sleeping on an extra pillow or in a more upright position can reduce inflammation.
Many individuals report feeling a slight stinging or itching for the first 12 to 72 hours following treatment. Also, within the next five to seven days, your skill will dry and peel in the treated areas.
Laser Scar Removal Risks
Additional risks of the procedure include:
- Burns or injuries caused by the laser.
- Skin pigmentation, including darker and lighter areas of skin.
- Reactivating cold sores.
- Bacterial infection.
How Much Does Laser Scar Removal Cost?
The cost of laser scar treatments varies depending on the size of the treatment area, the severity of the scar, and the number of treatments one requires. In most cases, however, treatment will cost around $1500 to $2000, particularly if you plan to have an area of your face treated.
Most laser treatments are not covered by insurance. However, if the procedure is considered reconstructive, insurance may foot the bill. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor and the terms of your policy with your insurance provider.
Make sure to clear the initial surgery cost and any revision costs with your insurance provider or discuss payment plans or financing options with your doctor, so you have no surprises before or after the procedure.
The Bottom Line
Laser scar removal is an effective alternative to traditional surgical options. It delivers a number of benefits, not to mention the excellent results. If you have any scars that have been bothering or even embarrassing you, it may be time that you consider laser removal.