According to Hartman, there are several different modalities that can be used to tighten the skin. With time, the technology has gotten better and better at serving different skin types. Below, find a breakdown of some of the top lasers Hartman works with as well as some important factors to consider when deciding which laser is best for you.
CO2 Lasers: “There have been devices on the market that have been able to tighten certain skin for many years from a resurfacing standpoint,” Hartman explains. CO2 lasers, which he calls the gold standard in resurfacing lasers, do their thing from a position of really affecting the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. This means CO2 lasers start on the skin’s surface and travel deeper and deeper, so they’re able to create a lot of change on all the layers of the skin it encounters as its energy is deployed down into the deeper layers where collagen production happens. Sounds great, right? Well, it is… unless you’re a person with melanated skin. “Because the epidermis is where our melanocytes live—that’s where our pigment-producing cells are—these aren’t lasers that everybody can safely use and have the reassurance that the skin won’t lose pigment as a result,” says Hartman. Due to its generally higher oil content and built-in sun protection from melanin (imagine an automatic SPF of about eight to 10), Black and brown skin won’t typically age in ways that would require these types of lasers anyway, Hartman points out. (Price: $250 to $5000 depending on your location, the type of laser used, the number of treatments needed, and the size of the treatment area. Speak to a qualified professional for a quote.)
Fractionated Lasers: Over the last decade or so, Hartman says fractionated lasers (Fraxel is a popular one) have emerged as the first color-blind resurfacing lasers suitable for melanated skin and non-melanated skin, without the risk of negatively affecting melanin production in the skin. Aside from resurfacing pigment and tightening the skin, Hartman says these lasers can treat intense scarring on the face and elsewhere and are the go-to for stretch-marks. “It helps with acne scars, wrinkles, and fine lines, and we also use it for hypertrophic, thick scars and keloids. Once the keloid is not active anymore, [the laser] can seal it down to help to improve the appearance and also stop that cycle where it just flares up all the time,” Hartman explains. (Price: $500 to $2500 depending on your location, the type of laser used, the number of treatments needed, and the size of the treatment area. Speak to a qualified professional for a quote.)
Radiofrequency and Radiofrequency Micro-Needling: The most exciting breakthrough in skin-tightening laser technology, Hartman says, has been the development of radiofrequency micro-needling over the last five to six years. “It has truly changed the game because, instead of delivering the energy from the surface of the skin, where you have to interface with the epidermis and risk discoloration or depigmentation, these devices deliver heat through titanium-coated needles that bypass the epidermis and get into the dermis, where it’s going to be most effective to really tighten skin. When the first radiofrequency devices came out, they didn’t involve the needles, and we saw the same issue where we had this heat that we needed to get down to the dermis where the fibroblasts are located so that we could stimulate collagen production. But if you heated brown skin beyond 44°C, you would cause a burn and cause hyperpigmentation, which is not fun. So the technology took a leap forward, where, instead of just resting on the surface, now it delivers the heat through those titanium-coated needles, which is so much safer and completely color-blind.” (Price: $300 to $2000 depending on your location, the type of laser used, the number of treatments needed, and the size of the treatment area. Speak to a qualified professional for a quote.)