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February 6, 2013

Dynamic Duos: Lasers Meet Serums

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

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What's the use of a $200 super-serum if it can't penetrate skin? "The biggest limitation of many topical products is the improper absorption of ingredients," says Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Paul Frank. Like with Gore-Tex, skin's primary function is to keep intruders — be they pollutants or miracle creams—at bay. But now, doctors are taking advantage of lasered skin's permeable state to ensure active ingredients will go deeper. Patients used to be sent home with Aquaphor to protect healing skin. Today, products with antioxidants and growth factors can be layered on during and post-procedure to maximize treatment benefits and shorten recovery time.

Better, Faster, Stronger

Lasers that perforate skin with microscopic holes, such as the Fraxel (which treats uneven skin tone, wrinkles, and scarring; average price: $1,161 per treatment) and Clear + Brilliant (Fraxel's gentler cousin, which shrinks pore size and brightens skin), use light energy that travels through the epidermis and dermis underneath to prod skin into creating new youthful cells. "Combining Clear + Brilliant with a topical antioxidant is like 1 + 1 = 4," says Frank. "Using a little bit of both allows us to get more results with less trauma." By producing thousands of tiny channels, the lasers essentially open skin for up to two days while it repairs, allowing active ingredients to pass through its protective layers.

To further improve absorption, Clear + Brilliant recently introduced Perméa, an attachment that lengthens the laser's wavelength to a level that allows for up to 17 times more product penetration. (Treatment  prices start at $250 for both Clear + Brilliant and Perméa.) "This is the sweet spot to make skin more receptive, but not so much that it causes irritation," explains New York City dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas.

"Lasers also stimulate inflammation in skin," she continues. "Sometimes that's beneficial — collagen grows and scars are healed. But sometimes inflammation can stimulate pigmentation and cause prolonged redness and swelling, so we're always trying to figure out how far to go." During the 20-minute Perméa treatment, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum is applied so it's immediately absorbed.

"The laser allows the antioxidant serum to get where it needs to go and helps speed healing time," says Chapas. Since antioxidants also reduce inflammation, patients will notice a shorter recovery time — less than a day in some cases. "Instead of needing multiple treatments, after one session, patients are seeing improvements in pigmentation, fine lines, and texture," adds Chapas, who also finishes the procedure with a Skinceuticals Biocellulose Restorative Masque to further reduce sunburn-like redness and irritation.

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