SANDY — Wrinkles. Everybody gets them and most people want to get rid of them, so they will look younger. But is there an effective way to erase time without pain?
The CO2 fractional laser therapy has been available for several years as doctors wanted to see whether it caused any problems before using it widely. Now more doctors in Utah are offering the treatment because they say it gets impressive results with minimal downtime.
Dr. Karen Stolman, a dermatologist at Alta View Clinic, said the laser works on all types of wrinkles, but not to the same extent.
"It will make those finer wrinkles disappear," she said. "It's just the deeper ones, they may not completely go away. It just may tighten a little."
The laser also helps correct acne scarring and has shown some improvement with brown discolorations.
"I've seen before-and-afters that look 20 years difference, but we tell people (to expect) at least five to 10 years," Stolman said.
Pam Cates was recently divorced and wanted to start dating again, but her wrinkles have caused a decline in her self-confidence.
"When I hit 50 a few years ago, it's like, yes, the skin's going — the sags, the wrinkles around the jowl," she said.
But Cates decided to do something about it and scheduled a treatment two months ago with Stolman.
"I think it made a big difference," she said recently. "I've had people comment on my cheeks, that area definitely where most people have noticed. It's a lot smoother, a lot softer."
She said it also helped reduce the appearance of scars she has from surgeries on her face, and helped the bags around her eyes. While she is happy with the results so far, she will undergo one more laser treatment next month.
She said overall the procedure wasn't painful. An assistant spread numbing cream on Cates' face so the laser wouldn't hurt. The laser bores tiny holes into the skin.
"Where that healthy skin is, your immune system comes in and stimulates the fibroblasts, which make collagen," Stolman said. "So we get new collagen coming in."
"It was just, kind of, tiny little pricks," Cates said, describing the procedure. "It wasn't bad, not something you couldn't tolerate."
Cates took pictures of her recovery. The day after the procedure was the worst. "I woke up very swollen," she said, "kind of little pea eyes and stuff, and it was oozy."
After a couple of days, she turned red, like a sunburn, and peeled a little. That lasted a couple of weeks, but she returned to work after six days.
Stolman said redness, swelling and peeling are the main side effects, but the procedure does carry a small risk of infection, so patients are prescribed medication to prevent that.
Fractional laser resurfacing isn't cheap. The Alta View Clinic where Cates' procedure was performed charged $1,400 for one face treatment. A lower strength setting costs $500, but several treatments are needed to get desired results.