Don’t you just love all the sunny days we get here in the Denver area? We get to enjoy four very distinct seasons throughout the year, but the sun manages to weave its way throughout the seasons. While the sun’s “aesthetic” is obviously a plus for Mother Nature, it’s not always a plus for those seeking aesthetic skin improvement treatments.
Here at Raval Facial Aesthetics and Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics, we are often asked specifically about the effect of Denver’s sun on laser procedures. Does it alter the results?
There are several different types of laser treatments, designed for different purposes. For example, Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics uses lasers for:
- Hair removal
- Removal of spider veins
- To diminish freckles, rosacea or redness
- Resurfacing and “peels” to improve the appearance of fine wrinkles, acne or other scars
Similar, but not on the same wavelength
The sun and the lasers we use for skin treatments are similar, in that the sun’s ultraviolet rays and lasers are both forms of light-based energy. However, the light wavelengths are different. And of course lasers are precisely targeted, whereas sunlight is diffuse.
Due to the similarities, though, sun exposure can have a significant impact on laser skin treatments. Laser hair removal is the most conspicuous example, because tanning directly affects the laser’s ability to differentiate between skin color and hair follicle color.
Because sun exposure can diminish the quality of your results and increase risk of side effects, you may have to delay or postpone your treatment altogether until a sufficient waiting period has passed. That could be weeks or even months.
Post-procedure sun exposure can be dangerous
Following any laser treatment, your skin will be extra-sensitive and therefore even more vulnerable than usual to the effects of sunlight. If you don’t stay out of the sun, you could negate the value of your treatment or even damage your skin.
One of the most common problems is hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, because the sun’s UVA and UVB rays stimulate production of melanin in the skin. Hyperpigmentation may last for months, and occasionally it can be permanent.
You may also experience:
- Poor quality healing
- Dermatitis (skin inflammation)
So, yes, please avoid the sun
Your provider’s advice may vary somewhat, but generally we recommend you stay out of the sun for at least two weeks before any laser procedure and at least two weeks afterward. That time frame may be longer – especially post-procedure – depending on the purpose, location, and extent of your treatment.
For at least those first two weeks:
- Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen religiously. It should be at least SPF 35 (SPF 50 is better). Apply it first thing in the morning, and again if you’re headed outdoors. If you’ll be outdoors for a prolonged period, reapply sunscreen every three hours.
- Always wear a hat that shades your entire face, if you’ve had a facial laser treatment.
And remember that “exposure” comes from more than sunbathing
Our Denver sun shines on you when you’re working or recreating outdoors, when you’re walking the dog or gardening, and as you walk from your car to the office or the store. Short periods in the sun may seem harmless, but they add up because the effects of ultraviolet light are cumulative.
The Denver area not only averages 300+ sunny days a year, our high altitude means the air is thinner. So you’re exposed to more ultraviolet light than you would be a sea level. Furthermore, UV light penetrates clouds, so you’re actually exposed to the sun to some extent every day.
If you are looking for ways to combat the toll that our sun is taking on your skin, make sure to take a look at the variety of skincare products we sell at our offices or request a consultation, by clicking below, for one of our laser skin treatments.