As we age, we begin to notice sagging skin here and there, particularly around our faces and necks. This is primarily due to the fact that the collagen in our body diminishes as we get older. If you want to tighten up your skin without surgery and with minimal downtime compared to drastic face lifts and the like, explore the wide variety of popular choices today in laser skin rejuvenation.
Collagen is a protein in our body. It holds our skin together, giving it structure. While our bodies continually produce collagen, the production slows down and the collagen we have breaks down as we get older. As it breaks down, we first start to notice wrinkling or sagging skin, and our skin begins to lose its youthful appearance. There are things we can do to help the body rebuild collagen. One method involves laser skin tightening.
First of all, LASER is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Lasers emit a tiny, high-energy beam of infrared light that can create holes, destroy tissue, fix tissue in place, open channels for glaucoma treatment, remove tooth decay and reshape gums, and for many other things like reading bar codes, and recording and playing CDs. What an amazing tool!
“Ablative” CO2 lasers remove some of the skin’s surface. They are most commonly used in skin resurfacing to remove damaged skin and cause new skin to grow. “Non-ablative” lasers pass light to the inner layers of skin without destroying the skin’s surface. Skin tightening methods most commonly use non-ablative lasers.
Laser skin tightening procedures heat the collagen under our skin’s surface, causing the skin to contract or tighten. This process also helps the collagen to regenerate and restore a more youthful, toned look. The effects of laser skin tightening are typically noticeable immediately following treatment, which partly explains its popularity. But repeat treatments may be necessary to achieve the best results.
Laser skin tightening is appropriate for men and women of all skin types and skin tones who want dramatic results without painful surgery and lengthy recovery times. Laser skin tightening is like having a non-surgical facelift.
There is a wide variety of laser skin tightening procedures and each utilizes unique technologies. Some are hybrids, combining other technologies with the use of the laser. Thermage®, a popular skin tightening treatment method, uses radiofrequency energy instead of lasers. There are also several laser-assisted liposuction treatments available (CoolLipo, SmartLipo, etc.) but they are considered moderately invasive procedures. These methods are not addressed in this article.
Titan™ Laser Skin Tightening System
You may have heard about Titan; it’s one of the more popular laser skin tightening systems today. Titan is used very effectively to tone and tighten skin on the face and neck but is very successful for treating loose skin all over the body. Regions such as the stomach, thighs, arms, knees and elbows can all be effectively treated. If you catch sagging jowls before drastic surgery is needed, Titan can be very valuable in this region as well.
Safe non-ablative laser energy is delivered to the skin in heating and cooling cycles, to carefully heat the collagen in the middle layer of skin called the dermis while protecting the upper skin layers from too much heat. The weakened collagen contracts and tightens. The Titan laser is applied to the skin multiple times, is comfortable, and no anesthesia or numbing is necessary. It’s possible to treat the face and neck area in an hour or two. There is no recovery period and any skin redness that may occur will fade after about an hour.
You should notice tighter skin immediately following Titan treatment and, as new collagen regenerates, the skin tightening will continue over a long period of time. Most doctors recommend a series of 3 to 5 treatments over a period of 3 weeks to get the best results. The effects of Titan laser skin tightening can last as long as two years, but touch-up treatments may be required.
The average cost for Titan skin tightening treatment ranges from $800 to $1,200 depending on the area being treated.
LuxIR™ Fractional Skin Tightening System
LuxIR is a “fractionated” non-ablative laser skin tightening system. It differs from the others because of its method of application. Instead of one large beam of infrared energy delivered to the skin, the laser beam is broken up into smaller beams. This enables the process to carefully control the temperature to the target areas, leaving surrounding skin unaffected. The collagen in the unaffected tissue will help collagen regenerate more quickly in the treated area, and healing is faster. The regenerated collagen fills in wrinkles and sags, and tightens the skin.
Laser skin tightening with LuxIR is faster that other similar procedures because the head of the unit is larger and can cover more area at once. A LuxIR treatment typically lasts 25 minutes. The system also cools the skin before, during and after each light pulse so there is very little discomfort for the patient.
As for side effects, you may feel some warmth in the treated area or have some redness or swelling afterward. These fade within a few hours. Some doctors will use a topical anesthetic if you are apprehensive about pain.
You will probably need a series of at least 6 LuxIR laser skin tightening treatments to get long-lasting results. You may need once a month treatment to maintain the look. LuxIR treatments are beneficial for achieving smoother, tighter skin in the face, arms, abdomen and other areas. LuxIR can be done alone or in combination with other skin tightening procedures to enhance the results.
The cost for LuxIR laser skin tightening treatments range from $500 to $1,000 each depending on the area treated.
GentleYAG Skin Tightening System
The GentleYAG (short for Yttrium Aluminum Garnet) laser treatment tightens the skin by transferring heat to the deepest layers of the skin. The non-ablative laser process causes collagen and elastin to regenerate. By activating enough of your own collagen source, wrinkles and loose skin on the face can diminish within weeks. GentleYAG laser skin tightening is also effective for acne scars, surgical scars and loose skin on the stomach, legs or arms.
With GentleYAG, a cooling agent is sprayed on the skin before every laser pulse. This reduces the discomfort. Generally, you can expect to have three to five 45-minute laser treatments spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart. You may not see the best results with the GentleYAG treatment until 90 days to 6 months after treatment. The doctor may also recommend a second or third treatment at 6-week intervals.
While laser skin tightening treatments like GentleYAG are not a substitute for a face lift, you may find them to be good alternatives. They can also be done in conjunction with face lifts to smooth the skin and improve the tone, something that face lift surgery cannot do.
The cost for GentleYAG laser skin tightening treatments range from $500 to $1,000 each depending on the area treated.
CoolTouch CT3 Plus “CoolBreeze” Laser Skin Tightening
The CoolTouch CT3 “CoolBreeze” non-ablative laser system stimulates new collagen growth without damaging the surface of the skin. It offers a virtually painless laser skin tightening procedure which minimizes discomfort by constantly cooling the skin.
CoolBreeze laser skin tightening treatments can give you a more youthful appearance by improving the texture, tone and color of your skin. It smoothes the skin and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. It can also help to remedy acne scarring.
The treatment takes from 5 to 30 minutes and may improve the skin’s quality for 6 months or more. Multiple treatments may be necessary to stimulate collagen growth and maintain the results. Patients report less swelling and redness, mild stinging and minimal discomfort with CoolBreeze compared to other similar treatments. CoolBreeze can be combined with other treatments such as liposuction for enhanced results.
Potential side effects may include swelling, redness, bumps, loss of pigment, and blisters in the treated area. These usually disappear in a few days or weeks. Rarely, when the laser creates a blister, a depression or scar may occur.
CoolTouch CoolBreeze laser skin tightening treatments range from $500 to $1,500.
Fraxel Re:pair or Re:store Laser
Fraxel Laser has three procedures: Fraxel Re:pair (ablative) and Fraxel Re:store (non-ablative) and Fraxel Re:fine. The consensus among plastic surgeons is that the most effective skin tightening results come from the ablative fractional CO2 laser, Fraxel Re:pair.
Re:pair is for lighter toned Caucasian skin types and is best utilized for treating mild to moderate wrinkles and sun damaged skin. Since this laser removes skin in the treated area, some type of topical anesthesia or nerve block is necessary to avoid pain and discomfort. There will also be more recovery time. The treated area is liable to be red and swollen for several days.
This is a very powerful technology and you should choose your physician very carefully to be sure they know how to properly operate the equipment.
Fraxel Laser treatments range from $500 to $1,500 per treatment depending on the method selected and the area treated.
MiXto SX Fractional Laser Skin Tightening
MiXto SX is another ablative laser treatment that, while geared more toward skin resurfacing use, is quite effective at tightening loose skin. The MiXto SX system combines the laser with a high speed scanner to increase the time between laser pulses. This reduces the heat buildup in the tissues and makes the treatment considerably less painful. Most treatments require only a topical numbing agent.
For skin tightening, MiXto is most beneficial for patients with sun damage and superficial wrinkles. Treatment of the face takes about 30 minutes. One treatment may do the trick, but some patients need additional treatments. Common side effects include redness and swelling for several days to one week and tenderness. It may also cause hyper or hypo pigmentation. On rare occasions patients may experience blistering or scarring.
Similar to Fraxel, this is a very powerful technology and you should choose your physician very carefully to be sure they know how to properly operate the equipment.
The cost of MiXto SX treatment ranges from $1,000 to $3,000.
ReFirme™ Laser Skin Tightening System
ReFirme is a hybrid laser skin tightening system. It was the first technology to use lower levels of non-ablative laser energy in combination with the power of bi-polar radio frequency energy (ELOS, which stands for electro-optical synergy). A rapid pulsing action results in faster, painless treatment.
ReFirme is said to be excellent for facial skin tightening as well as other areas such as the legs, arms, abdomen and buttocks. ReFirme will firm up loose skin, diminish fine wrinkles and the skin will become more elastic. It also works well for under-eye sagging, nasolabial folds, crow’s feet, and other telltale signs of aging.
Effective on all skin types and all skin colors, ReFirme procedures are typically completed in less than one hour. Most patients are comfortable without any type of numbing or topical anesthesia. There may be some redness or swelling, but these usually diminish within a few hours. ReFirme is also recommended for patients who are highly sensitive to heat and want to avoid higher heat technologies such as Thermage for skin tightening.
Your skin’s condition will determine how many treatments you need, but a common recommendation is for 2 to 5 sessions at 3-week intervals. ReFirme can also be combined with other technologies to enhance skin tightening. Most patients see lasting results for up to two years.
The average cost for ReFirme laser skin tightening treatment ranges from $1,500 to $3,500 depending on the area being treated.
Polaris ™ Skin Tightening System
The Polaris™ laser skin tightening system also uses a hybrid of a deep penetrating non-ablative diode laser and radio frequency energy (ELOS). These energies combine to increase collagen production and tissue tightening while making the patient more comfortable. The dual system also helps prevent facial fat loss.
Polaris is said to be very effective for facial wrinkles such as crow’s feet and mouth wrinkles. The best candidates for this technique are those with mild to moderate facial or neck wrinkles and relatively thin skin. Polaris provides enough heat to cause skin to contract and collagen to regenerate but does not burn the skin’s surface. If you are sensitive to pain, a topical anesthetic can be applied to the skin before treatment. A common treatment regime for Polaris patients is four to five 30-minute treatments a few weeks apart.
You are not a good candidate for Polaris treatment if you are pregnant, have recently used Accutane, or have an internal defibrillator or pacemaker. You may also not be a good candidate if you have an autoimmune disease, diabetes, have dental (or other metal) implants, or if you recently had treatment with a dermal filler such as Restylane, collagen or silicone. These fillers can interfere with the Polaris treatment. You may experience hyper pigmentation if your skin is recently tanned and, if you have the Herpes virus, you may experience a break-out after treatment.
It is possible to combine Polaris laser skin tightening treatments with liposuction on the face and body. The combination of treatments on the neck or stomach is a good alternative to surgical neck lifts and tummy tucks.
Depending on the area treated, the cost of a single Polaris treatment will range from $250 to $1500.
A face lift, tummy tuck, or other type of surgical skin tightening procedure may give you much better results if you have excessively saggy skin, but laser skin tightening may still give you dramatic results without surgery. It is considerably less expensive than cosmetic surgical procedures and is non-invasive. The risk is minimal and, unlike plastic surgery, there is usually no downtime. You should see some skin tightening results right away and they will continue to improve as the collagen in your body regenerates. A cosmetic dermatologist can determine the most effective laser skin tightening treatment for you.