What’s New in Laser Dermatology?

Woman caring of her beautiful skin on the face

Every year in early spring, the most advanced laser and device-based aesthetic treatments are introduced during the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery annual meeting. This year, I’m reporting from the meeting in Boston. There are many exciting advances in technology and important research developments being presented at this meeting. Here are a few of the highlights.

  1. Radiofrequency microneedling: Although traditional microneedling (a treatment that uses a pen-like device with tiny needles to gently stimulate collagen in the skin) and radiofrequency devices (energy-based systems that generate heat in the lower part of the skin to stimulate skin tightening) have their own advantages, the combination of the two treatments in a single device is a new, more powerful way to tighten, tone, and smooth the skin. After the skin is numbed for a short period time, radiofrequency energy is delivered to targeted layers within the skin through tiny gold-plated microneedles. The microneedles place precisely focused heat to the exact depth as chosen by the physician. Once the layers of skin have been heated, a biochemical process of collagen stimulation and tightening over the next several weeks to months begins. After a series of treatments, the skin looks smoother, tighter, and more youthful. Recovery time rages from one day of redness to several days of redness and bruising depending on the depth and density of treatment. The early results of clinical research done with radiofrequency microneedling devices are very promising for a wide-range of skin conditions such as acne scars, stretch marks, sun damage, skin laxity, and age-related crepey skin on the neck. As with other aesthetic treatments, RF needling isn’t right for everyone. An aesthetic physician familiar with the advantages and limitations of these new devices will be able to determine if you are a good candidate for treatment.
  2. Picosecond lasers: Picosecond lasers are very advanced, powerful lasers that expose the skin to the laser-light for very short periods of time. Although they have been used successfully to remove tattoos more quickly and efficiently than the previous tattoo lasers for years, there are novel hand-pieces now available for picosecond lasers that allow them to be used to improve skin tone, texture, and discoloration on the face and neck with minimal to no downtime. After a series of treatments, improvement in melasma, enlarged pores, sun spots, and freckles is being reported in patients with every skin type and color. A picosecond laser is an incredibly powerful laser with many different uses. I suspect when reporting from the ASLMS meeting next year, there will be more research on the continued use of this amazing piece of technology.
  3. Combination treatment. As the face ages over time, it changes in several ways simultaneously. Early wrinkles start to show about the same time as we see subtle volume loss in the cheeks and the development of sun spots and broken capillaries. With more time the skin begins to loose elastic properties and more volume in the mid- and lower-face. Since the face shows the signs of aging in multiple ways, the best approach to recreating a more youthful look is one that takes into consideration all the changes that are taking place. The skillful delivery of injectables such as neurotoxin to relax wrinkles on the upper part of the face, dermal fillers to gently restore balance to the cheeks and mid-face, light-based treatments to remove discoloration, and devices to lift and smooth the skin is the most modern (and natural-looking) way to address age-related facial changes. At the meeting, there were discussions on the best way to safely combine and maximize these treatments on the same day to improve results while minimizing recovery time for patients. Because there is expertise as well as artistry involved with combination therapy, seek a cosmetic dermatologist or surgeon well-versed in both laser skin surgery and injectable treatments for the best overall results.