Among the many types of skin resurfacing procedures Dr. Cormac offers, fully ablative resurfacing is the most aggressive. However, side effects are rare due to the level of expertise. It is possible to have complications with any laser resurfacing treatment, including those associated with fully ablative lasers.
Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (skin darkening)
This is the most common side effect, even though it is more common on darker skin types. Aftercare instructions should be strictly followed to avoid complications like this. If you do experience skin darkening due to laser resurfacing, this will usually resolve itself, but it can be accelerated with topical treatments, which we can advise you on. It may take anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months for the inflammation to completely subside, depending on its severity. In the first few weeks, sun exposure is the most common aggravating factor, so you should avoid sunlight as much as possible.
True Hypopigmentation and Pseudo-Hypopigmentation (skin lightening)
Hypopigmentation at its most severe occurs when cells that produce melanin have been damaged following laser treatment. It is rare for the new skin to produce melanin, since the deeper structures of the skin replenish the new skin with melanin-producing cells. In case of true hypopigmentation, recovery usually takes several months and it is indeed permanent.
The phenomenon of pseudo-hypopigmentation is not actually hypopigmentation, but rather the appearance of lighter skin caused by newly formed collagen. Typically, this decreases once the new melanin is produced following (hopefully) cautious exposure to sunlight.
In some cases, only parts of your face are treated with laser resurfacing, which may result in a subtle shade difference between the new skin and the surrounding skin, resulting in visible lines delineating the treated and untreated areas. For this reason, we tend to prefer to avoid part treatment, which is less likely with lighter skin types. As a side note, if light, freckled skin is partially treated, there will also be a delineation between treatments on freckled skin and untreated freckled skin.