Vitamin C, retinol, acids... There are countless skincare products and ingredients which help with the myriad skin concerns out there, from acne and pigmentation to rosacea and acne scarring. Approved by expert dermatologists in the business, they deliver impressive, tangible results, but if you're looking to supercharge your skincare, it might be worth looking into laser treatments.
"The word laser is actually an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation," explains Debbie Thomas, advanced skincare and laser specialist at D. Thomas Clinic. "It is essentially a strong lightbulb which is flashed through a filter. There are many different filters and each absorbs the full spectrum of light to present just one colour; that is your laser. Each one is a very specific wavelength and each colour does something different within the skin." You might have heard about UV light and infrared damaging the skin, but laser is very different, explains Debbie. "Some people worry about cancer or wrinkles, but it’s imperative to note that laser light is not UV light. The light from a laser is the same light that comes from a lightbulb, but filtered and concentrated into a very precise application. What it essentially does is use light to trigger your body’s own natural responses."
Contrary to popular belief, lasers aren't magic wands that can treat your skin concern in one go. For most treatments, there is a process and often, depending on your skin type or concern, you may need anything from 6-8 sessions. It's also important to remember that not all lasers can be used on all skin types, but there are lasers out there that cater to all skin types and colours. "The Fotona is a great example," adds Debbie.
According to the pros, the lasers most clinics use are Class 4B. But as Debbie explains, lasers are medical devices which can cause an incredible amount of damage if not used properly, so it always pays to research your chosen laser practitioner extensively (and book an initial consultation), or to visit a qualified dermatologist (always check that they are on the General Medical Council register) for further advice.
You'll also need to factor in life after laser treatments. "Even if your skin is not red and there is no irritation, pretend that you have got sunburn," advises Debbie. "For example, would you use a scrub or a sauna? Probably not, so be really sensible. Lasers stimulate the skin, so you need to give it time to process that before piling any more stimulation on top. I usually advise against heavy workouts for two days and heat treatments, for example, no sitting in the bath or shower for a long time." So when can you resume your usual routine? "After 48 hours, most people can go back to their everyday activities," explains Debbie. "If your skin is a little sensitive, I’d say leave it well alone for 72 hours. People that undergo ablative lasers may experience a week to 10 days' downtime, but reputable clinics will provide you with a personalised plan."
And don't forget to nail your post-laser skincare. Incorporating an SPF into your routine (whether you’re having laser done or not) is essential. "A lot of what clients want to repair, whether it’s veins, pigmentation, blotchiness, lines or wrinkles, can be down to sun damage, as UV breaks down your collagen and creates DNA damage within the skin cells," Debbie adds. She suggests the core of a skincare routine after your skin has healed consists of the following: a good antioxidant in the morning, such as vitamin C, followed by SPF. In the evening, if your skin can tolerate it, perhaps retinol and a light hydrator, explains Debbie. "Less is more with retinol. Introduce it slowly into your routine, use very little and always follow the advice of a dermatologist or the product you’re using. There will also be other ingredients that your skin might specifically need, such as peptides (if your skin looks and feels slack), ceramides (for very dry, damaged skin) and hyaluronic acid (for a hydrating, plumping boost)."
Ahead, we break down the best laser treatments for some of the most common skin concerns.