Laser Scar Removal: Which Types of Scars Can It Treat?

Laser treatment on a persistent scar on the arm

 

In theory, you know your scars are simply another aspect of your beauty. In reality, you might be tired of looking in the mirror and seeing those permanent reminders of teenage acne, an old injury, or the chickenpox you had as a kid. Luckily, there are ways of making those scars less visible. Laser treatment is a popular method for scar removal that satisfies many patients. If you’re wondering whether or not laser treatment is an option for you, here’s a guide to the types of scars that can be treated by lasers.

Raised scars from surgery, piercings, or other traumas

Your body has lots of built-in mechanisms for healing itself. Unfortunately, sometimes it gets a little carried away. When traumas like surgery, body piercings, vaccinations, or blisters injure the skin, the body can sometimes heal a little too aggressively, producing an excess amount of skin to close up the site of injury. When this happens, a keloid scar can form. Keloids are firm, raised scars that appear red or purplish in color. They can grow over time, and if keloid scars get big enough, they may even start to hamper your movement.

Another type of raised scar is hypertrophic. These scars form just like keloids, but they stay close to the site of the injury, whereas keloid scars extend to a larger area of skin. Hypertrophic scars usually look pink, and they can fade over time. Laser therapy can help flatten both keloid and hypertrophic scars and reduce the redness, making them less prominent.

Acne scars

Acne scars can be raised or pitted. Either way, they’re no fun. Most people get pitted scars after a bad bout of acne, which means the acne leaves little indentations in the skin. There are varying types of acne scars, including ice pick scars, boxcar scars, and rolling scars. Depending on the severity of your acne and how well your skin heals naturally, your acne scars may be large or small. In some cases, they might be barely noticeable. Other times, large, deep acne scars can make you extremely self-conscious.

Laser treatment can help close up your pitted acne scars and reduce their size. Using light to poke tiny holes in the skin, the laser will stimulate your skin’s growth so that it fills in the depressions for a smoother, more even look. This approach can also work for other types of pitted scars, like those left over from chickenpox.

Burn scars

Burn scars can be tricky to get rid of, but there are lasers that can help. For example, the pulsed dye laser targets damaged blood vessels in your skin, reducing redness and inflammation by focusing on one small area at a time. Other lasers use light and heat therapy or poke holes to stimulate the growth of new, healthy collagen in place of the burned skin.

Who shouldn’t get laser therapy?

Laser therapy is generally a very safe procedure, but there are certain situations in which it isn’t advisable or simply won’t be effective. Patients with skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and cystic acne will probably want to steer clear of laser treatment. Also, some forms of laser therapy aren’t recommended for people with darker skin types – though more options are opening up all the time.

If you decide laser treatment is for you, you may want to make a few small adjustments to your lifestyle leading up to the procedure. For example, if you take acne medication like isotretinoin, your dermatologist may suggest that you stop taking it for six months prior to your laser treatment. You’ll also need to watch out for sun exposure, as laser treatment works best on skin that’s not sunburned or too tan. It’s a good idea to tell your dermatologist if you’re prone to cold sores, and if you’re taking any vitamins or supplements. Meeting with your dermatologist ahead of time for a consultation will take care of any other loose ends and prepare you with all the information you need to make the decision about moving forward with laser scar removal.