The Erbium laser is the newest generation of skin resurfacing for cosmetic purposes. Designed to treat superficial and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on the face, the erbium laser is the latest advancement in laser rejuvenation with significant benefits over previous laser resurfacing options. Reduction in side effects, healing time and pain has made the erbium laser a popular choice among men and women wishing to reverse the effects of aging.
The erbium:YAG 2940 nm (Er:YAG) laser produces energy in a wavelength that gently penetrates the skin, is readily absorbed by water and scatters the heat effects of the laser light. These properties enable laser doctors to remove thin layers of aged and sun-damaged skin tissue with exquisite precision while protecting healthy surrounding tissue. The Er:YAG laser is commonly used for skin resurfacing to improve moderate facial wrinkles, mild surface scars or splotchy skin discolorations. Newer Er:YAG lasers have an extended pulse duration that allows them to act in a similar manner to the CO2 laser.
When compared to the CO2 laser, the erbium laser is gentler because doctors can treat layers of skin far thinner than with the CO2 laser. Since the CO2 laser is intended for more advanced wrinkles and sun damage, patients that desire a milder resurfacing can benefit from the erbium laser. This allows for younger patients recognizing the early stages of aging to benefit from the erbium laser. The erbium laser light works by vaporizing the outer layers of skin to cause skin contraction underneath and some evidence has indicated it may even stimulate the production of the body’s own collagen. The “cool” light of the erbium laser causes less redness, swelling and better ability to heal faster compared to earlier laser methods. The availability of less disruptive cosmetic procedures has opened up options and laser resurfacing consideration to a wider range of people.
Since the erbium is not as harsh as the CO2 because less heat is used, healing is able to occur within a week, with a maximum of eight weeks for some patients to see all the redness fade compared to the four to 20 weeks it can take with a CO2 laser. Good erbium candidates include patients with mild wrinkles, sun damage, irregular pigmentation and acne scarring. Although erbium provides a gentler experience with fewer side effects, patients wishing for a more dramatic difference may choose to have a different laser resurfacing.
Most patients that undergo the erbium will have either topical, injected or a combination of both local anesthetics. Following the erbium, the patient will be given an ointment for the first few days. To allow the erbium results to last longer and to prevent future skin damage, all patients should regularly apply sun block. Due to the lesser degree of heat used with erbium when compared to other lasers, the risks for hyper and hypo-pigmentation are significantly reduced. Erbium is associated with less pain, downtime and risk of side effects and lower cost as well. Erbium can provide patients with a more youthful appearance.