Dermatologists may recommend laser treatment to reduce redness or discoloration in older scars. Laser therapy is also used to correct uneven skin tone affected by acne scarring and to minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
Pulsed Dye Laser Therapy
Pulsed dye laser therapy is an effective treatment for reducing redness and discoloration in scars, even if a scar healed a long time ago. The pulsed dye laser is a highly focused beam of light that dermatologists focus on scarred skin using a handheld device. The energy from the laser causes the blood vessels in scar tissue to shrink and eventually dissolve.
It also causes a scar to lighten because the blood vessels are what cause redness and discoloration in a scar. Over several sessions, pulsed dye laser therapy can more closely match the color of a scar to the surrounding skin.
Pulsed dye laser therapy is administered in a dermatologist’s office and causes few side effects. There may be slight bruising around the area of the scar; this fades in one or two days.
Fractional Carbon Dioxide Laser Therapy
Fractional carbon dioxide (C02) laser therapy uses a high-energy beam of light to speed up the skin’s exfoliation and repair processes, and to remove scarred or discolored outer layers of skin. The term “fractional laser” means the beam hits only a fraction of the surface at a time.
Rather than completely resurfacing the area being treated, the laser touches tiny areas of skin with microscopic beams of light, leaving the skin surrounding a scar untouched. Because large areas of the skin are left untreated, the healing time is faster.
A dermatologist performs fractional C02 laser therapy in his or her office using a small handheld device. After a local anesthetic is applied to the areas being treated, the device is passed over the skin. Depending on the size and texture of the scar, multiple sessions may be needed. Dermatologists typically recommend scheduling sessions every six to eight weeks.
After each treatment, the dermatologist places a bandage over the areas that were treated. Swelling, redness, and itching are normal and typically diminish in five to seven days, when the top layer of skin begins to peel. A dermatologist recommends keeping your skin moisturized and clean during the healing process to prevent infection. Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above is also recommended when you are exposed to the sun.
Possible side effects include permanent light or dark spots and burns.