We asked a dermat: Everything you wanted to know about laser treatments

We don’t blame you if you’ve got laser treatments categorized as a hobby idea for the Kardashians. Despite all the advancements that laser skin resurfacing technology has made in the past decade, the flow of information is still primitive. If you’ve never quite known how to voice your queries regarding these magic treatments, you’ve come to the right place. The year is 2017, the world of laser treatments has made progress by leaps and bounds, and now holds the answer to everything from acne scar correction to hair removal. Eager to delve into the basics of these in-office procedures, we got Mumbai-based dermatologist Dr Madhuri Agarwal to give us an all you need to know manual. Here’s what we learned.

What do I need to know about laser treatments before I go?
Laser, short for Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, is a source of light with different wavelengths, with each individual wavelength absorbing different skin components. Which is why you’ll find different skin ailments being treated by laser including acne marks, dark spots, pigmentation patches and ageing issues. However, bear in mind that lasers may not deliver results with a single treatment.

Which are the most commonly used treatments right now?

The most popular treatments in the market right now are laser for hair removal, acne scars, de-tanning, uneven skin tone, skin tightening, aging signs, tattoo removal and stretch mark correction.

Who is an ideal candidate for skin laser treatments?
Anyone above the age of 18 years can safely opt for laser procedures. But you’ll find dermatologists generally advising caution, and even avoiding treatments, in the following cases:
1) Pregnant ladies are advised to abstain from lasers as there isn’t sufficient evidence or studies to prove the safety of lasers in pregnancy. 
2) People with Keloid scarring, autoimmune disorders, active infections and a history of raised moles and melanoma are advised against laser treatments as well.

What should I clarify with my doctor before opting for a laser procedure?
The most crucial step in your prep involves verifying that the person treating you is a certified dermatologist, as there are many unauthorized centers mushrooming under the guise of professional clinics. Inadequate certification and training could lead to zero results and laser burns. Also, you need to ensure that the doctor is using an FDA-approved laser machine as the market is flooded with poor quality laser devices that can negatively impact results. Take heed and inform the doctor about your medical conditions, ongoing medications, pregnancy planning (for women) and travel profile. This will enable your dermatologist to chart an adequate plan for subsequent laser sessions.

Do in-office laser treatments require a long recovery time?
With the advancements in technology, laser treatments require practically zero downtime and are medically safe. Most treatments can even be conducted at lunchtime and the patient can go back to work immediately.

What is an ideal beauty regimen on the day before the treatment?
Ensure that you restrict sun exposure for at least a week prior, as it can often lead to skin darkening, especially for the Indian skin type. If you must step out during peak hours, lather up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It is advised that you avoid any salon treatments such as threading, waxing, bleaching or facials for at least ten days before a laser session. Prune out exfoliating scrubs and creams containing alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, retinoids and lightening agents out of your beauty regimen for three days before your laser appointment.

What precautions need to be taken after the treatment?
Post-laser care is generally explained meticulously by your dermatologist. These are the finer points to be kept in mind:
1) Avoid sun exposure for three-five days after the session. Likewise, halt any plans that involve steam, sauna and swimming for the 72 hour-period after your treatment.
2) Add a generous dose of moisturising cream to your daily beauty routine to calm drying skin.

Is there anything I need to avoid in the recovery period?
It is advised that you avoid strenuous workouts for three-five days after opting for laser for skin resurfacing. Ensure that you adequately apply sunscreen and moisturizer immediately after each gym session as a blanket rule. Salon activities and skin treatments should be avoided as well for the first one week after a laser session.