Dynamic Duos: Lasers Meet Serums

Seeking deeper results with less healing time, doctors are boosting lasers' skin-enhancing effects with topical treatments.

By Ning Chao

Custom Combinations

Beyond what laser and skincare companies are packaging together, dermatologists have started exploring the two-pronged approach on their own. Frank adds antioxidant therapy during Fraxel Dual laser treatments (which target hyperpigmentation; average price: $1,161) to cut repair time from five days to three. He also applies salicylic acid products during acne-clearing Isolaz laser sessions (starting  at $200) to help minimize oil production. New York City dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur chases Fraxel laser resurfacing procedures with an antiaging StriVectin eye cream on crow's-feet or StriVectin neck  cream to treat the décolletage. "The laser gets rid of brown spots and crepiness, while the cream tightens. You want just the right level of moisturizer to accelerate healing without causing a rash and to deliver extra ingredients under the skin as it's repairing," says Marmur, who sends patients home with these nonirritating products.

In Beverly Hills, dermatologist Dr. Lisa Chipps maximizes collagen production to smooth and firm skin by applying DNA EFG Renewal Growth Factor Serum along with a retinol lotion right after Pellevé radio-frequency treatments, which heat the deeper layers of skin to increase firmness (from $500 to $1,250 per session; Chipps recommends two to three). "By feeding the skin growth factors to help it build more collagen after the treatment, your results will look good longer," she explains.

What's Next?

For years, dermatologists have targeted precancerous skin conditions like actinic keratosis (which looks like thick, scaly patches of skin) with photodynamic therapy (activating light-sensitive chemotherapy drugs like Levulan and Photofrin with lasers or intense pulsed light), but Frank is experimenting with combining the therapeutic drugs with the Clear + Brilliant laser to treat cosmetic sun damage, like spots.

"There's a huge growing market in at-home devices, too," adds Frank. "Although they will never replace what we do in a doctor's office, at-home lasers have potential as performance enhancers."

Also on the horizon is the pairing of Botox-like neurotoxin creams and radio-frequency devices to freeze wrinkles. "Right now, we're pretreating patients a week or two in advance with Botox injections," Chipps explains. "If you paralyze the muscle, it can't form creases in the dermis while the skin is healing from laser treatment, so you're building new collagen without lines." Sound too good to be true? The jury's still out: Topical neurotoxins are still in clinical trials right now and need FDA approval before dermatologists can start prescribing them for combination therapy. Real Housewives, stand by.

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