I often hear that the summer is not a good time to undergo laser treatment of the face. Is this correct? For many patients this is a great time because they have the time. Vacation time is available. In addition, children may be out of school, freeing one up from carpool, school activities, etc. But is there a medical reason for avoiding treatment in these months?
The reasons given for avoiding laser treatments have to do with the abundance of sunlight in the summer months. When laser resurfacing is done in the traditional manner, the entire outer layer of facial skin is removed, leaving the underlying layer of the skin with less protection from ultraviolet light. This lesser degree of protection could potentially lead to:
• More ultraviolet sun damage to the skin cells.
• The production of more melanin, the brownish pigment that the skin produces in response to ultraviolet light. This results in brown spots that patients dislike.
On the other hand, consider the following:
• Sunscreens worn after laser resurfacing block much of the ultraviolet light so that sun damage and melanin production are avoided. All of our patients who have facial laser resurfacing are given a camouflage sunscreen to wear that allows for the camouflage of pinkish skin and also the blockage of ultraviolet light.
• Many patients who have laser resurfacing today are opting for fractional resurfacing done with a Fraxel laser. Instead of “painting” the entire skin surface with a laser, only points of skin are treated, perhaps 25% of the total surface area. For that reason only 25% of the skin at any one time has been denuded of its outer protective layer, reducing the potential for sun damage and increased melanin production.
The bottom line: As long as one is careful to wear sunscreen and to avoid a great deal of sun exposure after laser resurfacing, summer is a fine time for treatment. Having fractional laser resurfacing reduces the problem of the summer sun even further. That does mean that a person needs to avoid sitting outside for long periods of time at the beach or on the water since the amount of ultraviolet light that one receives with those activities is such that even with a sunscreen, it’s likely to be excessive. For some patients, that restriction in activities is something that they don’t wish to follow in the summer. In that case, there’s always the option of laser treatment in the fall!
Please feel free to leave a comment!
George Sanders, M.D.