As new technologies using
lasers, light and energy to treat cosmetic skin conditions make the procedures
safer and more effective, the popularity of these options continues to rise,
according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
The number of procedures
performed by ASDS member dermatologists using these devices increased nearly 34
percent in 2013 over 2012, according to the ASDS Survey on Dermatologic
Procedures. Members completed 2.25 million such treatments in the category as a
whole last year, compared to 1.68 million in 2012.
“Not only have treatments
become much more effective, but they also have become safer, so patients
typically are experiencing less downtime,” said ASDS President-Elect George
Hruza, M.D., who practices in suburban St. Louis. A more robust economy also
plays a part, he said.
ASDS member dermatologists use
laser, light and energy devices and technologies to treat a wide variety of conditions.
Treatments for facial redness, the result of rosacea and other causes, topped
the list at 454,000 procedures in 2013. An intense, gentle beam of light is
used to remove the redness without damage to surrounding tissue.
The devices also are used to
remove age spots, surgical and traumatic-injury scars, acne scars, tattoos and
birthmarks; tighten tissue; reduce wrinkles; and smooth skin. The devices also
can be used in skin cancer treatments.
Several procedures saw
increases of more than 50 percent, according to the survey:
removal, up nearly 90 percent.
- Laser facial
resurfacing to erase fine lines and wrinkles, smooth and tighten eyelid skin,
improve crow’s feet around the eyes and improve skin tone and texture, up 85
- Surgical and
traumatic-injury scar treatment and removal, up 79 percent.
tightening, up 75 percent.
- Tattoo removal,
up 52 percent.
Hruza attributes much of
these increases to advancements in the field that make treatments safer and
more effective. To remove scars, for example, new fractionated lasers that
affect only a portion of the skin are being combined with medicines applied
directly on the treated area, resulting in much smoother skin. Innovative
lasers with very short pulses of light, combined with new protocols, are
speeding tattoo removal treatments. “Efficacy is way up,” Hruza said.
ASDS member dermatologists also
are using micro-focused ultrasound therapy to tighten skin more effectively. “
It is an excellent addition to dermatologic surgeons’ treatment armamentarium
for skin tightening,” Hruza said, speaking of the equipment, methods and
techniques physicians use.
Other new products have refined
laser resurfacing techniques to reduce wrinkles and lines and improve the
appearance of aging or sun-damaged skin.
Certain older lasers treat an
entire area of the face, removing the top layer of skin to reveal newer, more
youthful cells and promote collagen production. Newer fractionated lasers limit
treatment to a fraction of the skin. This permits rapid repair of the skin’s outer
layer, followed by changes in the skin’s collagen. “The results are very good,
and the recovery is much faster,” Hruza said.
A growing awareness of the
technology and a recovering economy have helped boost the number of some laser,
light and energy-based procedures, Hruza said. “Patients may have been waiting
to see a dermatologist about that facial redness or removing unwanted hair,” he
said. “Now many are more informed, plus they have more
economic freedom to act on their desire to improve their appearance.”
Hruza stressed that patients
should be mindful of their provider’s knowledge base and level of training. “ASDS
member dermatologists are the experts when it comes to treating the health and
beauty of the skin,” he said.
“Yes, lasers are safer than
ever. But they’re safer in the right hands. Treatment techniques, devices and
settings vary widely,” he said. “We’re trained in the use of these devices. We
are at the forefront of laser treatment development, and we are the experts.”