As summer comes to an end, dark spots, sun damage and emerging fine lines may be top of mind.
Lasers are a high-tech, efficacious way to address these common skin concerns and many consumers are increasingly interested in them, thanks in part to social media.
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“Most people who ask me about laser facials have concerns about their acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, pore sizes and wrinkles/fine lines,” says Soyoki Abo, aesthetician, certified beautician and founder of Abosoyoki, a New York City-based skin service studio. “They often see different kinds of treatments on TikTok and Instagram and they’re curious about them and want to try on their skin.”
With education — good and bad — taking hold on social media, several key questions arise when it comes to lasers. Below, experts discuss a few of the top questions clients often have.
How do lasers work?
According to the Mayo Clinic, non-ablative lasers work by using a single beam of light energy to penetrate the skin, triggering new collagen production. Collagen boosts skin elasticity and cell production, according to the Mayo Clinic, in turn addressing many skin concerns like aging, acne, discoloration, etc.
“A laser is like an amplified light. It’s a specific wavelength of light that will target, meaning react with and sort of destroy in some way, what’s called the chromophore [the pigmented component of a molecule],” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, board certified dermatologist and founder of skin care brand Dr. Loretta. “They’re targeting a specific component of the skin or hair that you would like to destroy.”
What’s the difference between red light and lasers?
“The main difference is red light uses wavelengths that are in the visible light spectrum,” Abo says. “A laser uses waves that the human eye cannot see. Lasers produce a single concentrated wavelength.”
While both are able to treat certain skin concerns, lasers are often more invasive and can penetrate deeper to treat concerns like wrinkles, pigmentation, acne and rosacea.
What’s the difference between an ablative and nonablative laser?
“Some people get confused with a laser rejuvenation (non-ablative) and a laser resurfacing (ablative),” Abo tells WWD. “Skin rejuvenation is a treatment intended to improve the appearance of the skin. Skin resurfacing is a treatment to remove the damaged layer of the skin.”
According to experts, ablative lasers, which are more invasive, have decreased in popularity due to more intense pain and longer downtimes.
“People don’t have time anymore for downtime. These ablatives require a week, 10 days, sometimes even more,” says Shelley D’Aquino, owner of Le Parlour NYC Laser Spa. “I find that you don’t need to ablate the skin necessarily to get the results that you need.”
How many treatments are required for best results?
For those looking to get into laser treatments, experts note that one session won’t do the trick.
“If you have problematic acne, if you have bad pigmentation, acne scars, [you] definitely need at least six sessions to see results,” D’Aquino says. “People say, ‘Oh, I just want to try it, see how it works.’ Laser doesn’t work that way. You really need to complete the series in order to see results.”
Are there any precautions?
Before diving into a laser treatment, make sure to take proper precautions, like holding off on active products like retinol and vitamin C before the appointment, and ensuring the laser is optimal for your skin tone.
“If you’re considering getting laser, give yourself about two to three weeks to stop using those products, anything that will cause a skin irritation while doing laser,” D’Aquino says. “For people of color, make sure that they’re using the right devices for your skin type and make sure that you will see results from that based on seeing people of color and what their results have been.”
Here, some of the buzziest at-home and in-office laser offerings to try.
The At-Home Tools: Lyma and Nira
“The Lyma Laser [$2,695] is a 500 milliwatt near-infrared laser beam that is completely cold and powerful enough to penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, to remodel and rebuild it without causing damage to a single cell in the process,” says Lyma founder Lucy Goff.
The brand recommends using the laser 30 minutes a day for three months to see optimal results. As the Lyma Laser has continued to gain traction, The Well has added the tech to its The Signature Facial, $350 to $375, for those looking to try it out before purchasing.
While lasers are trendy right now for facial skin concerns, Goff notes the Lyma can be used all over the body to treat concerns like sagging skin, veins and cellulite.
While the Lyma kickstarted the at-home laser craze when it launched in 2020, there’s a new kid on the block called the Nira Pro Laser, $599, which employs a 1450 nanometer wavelength to treat signs of aging.
“It’s doing basically three things when you’re getting to that temperature,” says board certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “It’s killing old cells, so it’s helping with skin renewal that way. It’s also leading to the release of heat shock proteins which then stimulate the synthesis of new collagen, and it also untangles old collagen, so it’s responsible for collagen remodeling also, which makes the skin look better.”
The Starter Facial: Skin Laundry
Skin Laundry is known for democratizing the laser facial. At the studio, which is expected to have around 60 locations by the end of the year, guests can opt in for the 15-minute Signature Laser facial, $250 for nonmembers/$150 for members each month, to treat acne, rosacea, melasma, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles and dullness, according to the brand. The facial employs Long Pulsed Yag lasers, which penetrate deep past the first layer of skin, ensuring it is safe for most skin tones, according to the brand.
The Gentle Resurfacer: Clear + Brilliant
This non-ablative laser is one of the most popular offerings on the market as it gently resurfaces the skin with no downtime and is widely accessible at dermatologist offices and studios like Ever/Body, where it costs $495. Within 30 minutes this laser gently resurfaces the skin in an effort to prevent aging and provide a youthful glow. The brand also refers to it as an effective preventative treatment for signs of aging. For those looking for a slightly more intense offering, try the Fraxel Dual Restore, which is a nonablative laser that penetrates even deeper for a more effectual result.
The Multi-Tasker: AdvatX
AdvatX may be lesser known, as it is slowly penetrating the U.S. market after success in Europe, but it is D’Aquino’s favorite for its multitasking capabilities.
“It treats a variety of skin conditions,” she says. “For acne, acne scars, pigmentation, rosacea, melasma and skin tightening, those are it’s six top [concerns].”
While the AdvatX is effective at treating wrinkles and signs of aging, D’Aquino has recognized increasingly impactful results in treating acne.
“Not only am I seeing clients are clearing, I’m seeing actively breaking out clients are not breaking out anymore after their series of six treatments,” she says. “It’s resurfacing the skin, so the skin area where you’ve always had this uneven skin tone because of the breakouts is now smooth. It’s flat.”
The Vessel Vacuum: Vbeam Laser
The Vbeam laser is a pulsed dye laser specifically intended to address vascular lesions — think spider veins, rosacea, port wine stains and broken capillaries. According to the brand, the laser light is absorbed by the area in turn removing the pigmentation over time.
“Vascular lasers, what they’re doing is they’re targeting the hemoglobin in our blood so that they’re going to destroy that and get rid of dilated blood vessels, birthmarks, stuff like that,” Ciraldo explains.
For those looking to treat sun and dark spots more specifically, a Q-Switched Alexandrite Laser, offered by dermatologists like New York City-based Dr. Shereene Idriss, may be a better option, as it uses short, high-intensity pulses.
Final Expert Advice:
While all of these lasers offer significant benefits, experts say to discuss options with a dermatologist or esthetician to determine what option is the best.
“Have people do their research and make sure that they are going to a place that’s reputable because there’s 100 million lasers on the market these days,” D’Aquino says. “There’s something for everyone.”