Ask a Dermatologist: When Should I Start Laser Treatments?

Laser isn't exactly a friendly word in the skincare lexicon. It denotes beams of light emitted into the skin—potential zapping, if you will. For me, lasers make me think of going to the skating rink as a kid: laser tag and "laser" lights dancing around to the tune of Backstreet's Back. I also think about detective movies where the spies perfectly contort their body without hitting the laser boobie traps that have been set. Suffice it to say toy guns and undercover agents shouldn't share a common denominator with skincare in my book, so I've always stayed away.

This is until recently, when I was offered a laser facial from Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. Its roster of dermatologists are top-notch (and frequent Byrdie featured experts), so I anticipate being safe in their hands. Surely my skin wouldn't be microwaved (as I gravely imagine so) on the pros' watch. But it got me thinking: Is my skin too young to get a laser treatment? Thankfully I haven't developed any fine lines or wrinkles yet (save for a small frown line on my forehead), so I didn't feel it necessary to bring out the heavy artillery up to this point. But just to be sure I wasn't missing out on a skin-saving miracle treatment due to irrational fears, I reached out to Sue Ann Wee, MD, and Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, to set the record straight. Learn more about what they had to say below.

Meet the Expert

Sue Ann Wee, MD, is a board certified dermatologist who practices with Schweiger Dermatology Group.

Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, is a board certified dermatologist and the founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care,

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This non-ablative fractional laser that can be used on the entire face to diminish fine lines and restore luminosity.

When is a good age to start laser treatments?

Both Dr. Wee and Dr. Tanzi say that it depends on what is being treated. "Age is irrelevant," says Dr. Tanzi.

“For example, port wine stains that cause red discoloration can be treated during infancy,” adds Dr. Wee. “Acne scarring can be treated in teens. And superficial wrinkles can be treated as early as the 20s and 30s. In fact, many laser and other devices show greater tissue remodeling response in younger age groups.”

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Created by celebrity designer Karim Rashid, this device improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a more youthful complexion. 

What else can impact when someone can start laser treatments?

Dr. Tanzi says that the skin type of the person getting the laser treatment, as well as the time of year can also impact when someone should start their laser treatment. “There are some laser treatments we do not perform in the summer, because having a tan at the time of laser treatment would cause side effects,” she says.

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Looking to target just the under-eye area? This microscopic laser triggers cell renewal and is gentle enough to treat the delicate skin underneath your eyes while improving visible signs of aging. 

Who is not a good candidate for laser?

Dr. Wee says your dermatologist can help determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for laser, as there are quite a few considerations. “Some possible issues where an individual may not be a good candidate include any medical condition that can result in poor wound healing, keloid formers, recent isotretinoin use in past six to 12 months (your doctor can determine wait time), active infection or inflammation in the treatment area, and vitiligo history, among other issues,” she says.

She adds that “Those looking for a major change in their appearance after only one laser session should temper their expectations beforehand; otherwise, I would not recommend they get a laser treatment.”

The Takeaway

"Age is irrelevant," when it comes to deciding whether or not to undergo laser treatments. Your dermatologist can help you determine if you're a candidate by looking at numerous factors like what you're looking to treat, your skin type, and more.

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