There are two broad categories of used cosmetic laser in use at present – ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers work on the superficial layers while non-ablative work deeper layers of the skin without damaging the superficial layers. These two broad categories can be further split into sub-categories based on the wavelength and use of the laser.
On the more aggressive end of the ablative cosmetic laser spectrum, CO2 lasers can either be focused into an exceptionally narrow beam to act as light-scalpels, or used in “de-focused” mode to ablate soft tissue. Highly versatile, they can be used for delicate skin re-surfacing procedures and for cosmetic eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), as well as surgical excision. These lasers are frequently chosen because they result in a pleasingly uniform clinical effect and cause virtually no collateral damage to surrounding tissue. They typically use rapid pulses of high energy photons, and are considered by many the cleanest and coldest ablative lasers on the market.
These ablative lasers are typically used to treat pigmented skin lesions such as hyperpigmentation. They’re also used to treat scarring from acne. Unlike most other ablative lasers, they target small areas of skin tissue, leaving the surrounding tissue unablated.
A powerful nonablative cosmetic laser, the diode laser is commonly used to remove unwanted hair permanently and to dispose of unsightly veins. The best units use 800nm diode technology and are lightweight, compact and portable. They are generally considered safe for all skin types.
A nonablative laser, Nd:YAG devices can penetrate deeply into the skin layer using a near-infrared wavelengths. Frequently used to treat unsightly pigmentation problems, they can also be used to remove unwanted tattoos, unwanted hair and to treat vascular lesions. Larger blood vessels can also be treated with this technology.