Do laser treatments for facelifts really work?

Do they really remove age spots and wrinkles while tightening the skin at the same time? I don't understand how any lifting is taking place without an actual facelift surgery.


F, 49, New Hampshire

Tags:woman age 45-54 wrinkles laser age spots skin tightening

I agree with the comments posted by Dr. Gary Breslow. Aging and sun damage cause two different kinds of problems with the face. First, as we age, we tend to lose fat, especially around the eyes. This causes the skin to become lax or loose - the skin no longer "fits" the face as shown by loss of the jawline, jowl formation, and laxity in the neck, etc. Second, the surface of the skin begins to show fine lines and wrinkles with or without pigment irregularities such as age spots or solar keratoses. Wrinkles in the skin become scars over time. That is why a deep line in the skin may stay in the skin even after the skin is made tighter. The C02 laser is designed to help that problem.

The facelift is designed to make the skin once again "fit" the face by physically removing the excess skin to restore a tight, smooth neck and jawline, and to lift and even restore the natural fat in a a way that mimics our youth. Even the facial muscles can be modified to restore a more youthful appearance. Of course, each surgery is customized to the individual needs of each patient.

The effect of the CO2 laser is to "polish" the skin - to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, to make the skin appear clearer, and to reduce the appearance of pigment irregularities. For a patient with a young shape to her face with good skin tone and without laxity to the neck, jawline, and cheeks, but who has fine lines and wrinkles with or without pigment irregularities, a CO2 laser resurfacing may work wonders. But the laser does not restore the shape of the face the way a facelift does. She would end up with smoother, more polished skin, but she would still have the jowls and laxity in the neck and cheeks that she had before.

For most patients, I usually recommend restoring the youthful shape of the face first with a facelift. Then, after she has healed for a few months, finishing up with a laser resurfacing procedure which ensures that the smooth and youthful shape of the face is complemented but a beautiful, young, and smooth glow to the surface from the laser.

Great question.  As we age, two things happen to our skin:  the quality of the skin changes (more skin creases, discolorations, etc.), and we develop excess skin.  A facelift removes excess skin but does nothing to the quality of the remaining skin.  That's what a laser treats.  A laser does not actually lift or remove skin, it just tightens and improves the quality of the skin.  For this reason, a facial laser treatment is often done in conjunctions with a facelift procedure because it treats a different aspect of the aging skin than the facelift does.