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Laser can be used for a number of purposes

Laser stands for 'Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation'. Basically, a Laser works by causing molecules in a chamber to become excited - this causes release of energy in the form of light. The energy is used to excite more and more molecules, creating even more energy. Once the energy is strong enough it is allowed to escape as a beam of light. The colour of the beam of light will depend on which molecules were used in the chamber, and can be red, green, yellow etc. Commonly used molecules include carbon dioxide, ruby and argon, to name a few.


The ability to use different laser colours is important, as different problems need different lasers. A ruby laser, for example, is suitable for dark growths such as moles, but not for red blemishes.


What can a laser be used for?

There are a wide variety of uses, including:

  • Haemangiomas - also called a 'strawberry naevus', these are types of birth mark that look red and can be raised. About 70% of these will slowly disappear during the first years of childhood, although some can persist. Even if they do disappear, small blemishes can sometimes remain. Laser can be used for such small blemishes and persistent growths, or to reduce the size of growths that are close to structures such as the eye. Because laser does not penetrate deeply, though, bulky growths do not respond well to this treatment.

  • Port-wine stains - these tend to be flat red patches, which can vary in size. They tend to darken and become more resistant to treatment with age.

  • Broken blood vessels - these often respond well to laser therapy, and can completely disappear. Multiple treatments may be needed, however, and vessels can recur in time.

  • Moles - freckles and sun-damaged skin can be improved with laser, although thicker moles may need surgical excision.

  • Wrinkles - the appearance of wrinkles can be softened with laser therapy, much in the same way as peels and dermabrasion. The skin can take up to 2 weeks to heal, and reddening can last for a number of months. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy tends to heal faster, although this is often in exchange for a less dramatic result.

  • Hair removal - laser targets the dark pigment in hair, and can be effective at destroying the hair root. New hairs will tend to grow over time, so laser should be viewed as a way to reduce hair numbers and growth as opposed to a permanent treatment.

  • Tattoo removal - tattoos can be effectively lightened with laser, and complete removal may be possible with multiple treatments. Lighter colours may be more resistant to treatment, though, and other tattoo treatments may be needed. Read more about laser tattoo removal here.


What does Laser treatment involve?Laser can be used to remove hair

Your specialist will discuss with you about your concerns, and what your aims are. You may need a 'test patch' before having treatment - this is where the Laser is used on a small, generally hidden, area of skin (such as behind the ear); this is to test how your skin reacts to the chosen Laser before using it on a larger, more easily seen area.

Multiple laser treatments are often required, the number varying according to the problem you have. Laser can be quite painful, feeling like an elastic band being flicked on your skin. For this reason an anaesthetic cream may need to be used on the skin, or even sedation/general anaesthetic if the area is large or patient very young. It is important to realise that whilst laser can often dramatically improve or even treat problems, certain marks and blemishes can be resistant to treatment.

Following specialist instructions is extremely important and often includes such advice as keeping the area dry and staying out of the sun for a number of weeks after treatment.


Other SurgeryWise articles

You may also be interested to read our articles on peels/dermabrasion, tattoos, hair removal, laser tattoo removal or other Cosmetic surgery articles


Many procedures involving skin resurfacing, Laser or excision can result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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