Congratulations on getting your ablative laser treatment for your acne scars. By following the post care instructions provided your laser doctor, you should be able to make a speedy recovery.
When an ablative laser is applied, a proportion of the epidermis (uppermost surface of the skin) and parts of the dermis are removed temporarily. During this time, the skin barrier is considered impaired, and is more vulnerable to infection and effects of UV exposure. I generally divide the recovery phase of ablative laser treatments into immediate, early, and late, and recommend precautionary measures at each stage as follow:
Immediate stage (24 - 48 hours)
This usually within the first 24-48 hours of treatment. You can expect most discomfort immediately after the laser procedure, once the numbing effect wears off. I give my patients an aqueous barrier cream, or antibiotic ointment for home care. This is to protect as well as maintain the hydration status of the treated skin. These should be applied at least twice daily to the laser-treated areas of the skin. I will highly recommend you to avoid sun exposure during this time. If unavoidable, I recommend that you should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 40 or higher at least twice a day.
Early stage (7 - 10 days)
By now, most patients can resume their normal activities. I will still recommend my patients to refrain from wearing any make-up on treated skin, which may be in the final stages of recovery, as certain ingredients may irritate the skin and hamper recovery. I also advise my patients against going for treatments like dermabrasion facials, chemical peels at this stage. Emollients, moisturisers, and sunscreen are to be continued.
Late stage (2-3 weeks)
I personally use a Fractional Ablative Erbium YAG laser for my acne scarring treatments to minimize the downtime, combined with an array of needling procedures, subcision treatments, as well as TCA CROSS for complex acne scars. For patients who had undergone a more traditional CO2 laser, their downtime can be longer and extend to and even past the second week.
Nevertheless, by this stage of recovery, the skin will appear to have recovered from the ablative process. Patients can resume their normal skincare routine and continue to apply sunscreen. Depending on your laser doctor, he or she may send you a reminder or contact you to plan for your repeat laser treatment.
Though more effort is required for post-laser care of ablative treatments, by following your post-op instructions, it enables your skin to heal smoothly, literally.
Hope that helps. And all the best!
Dr Heng Wee Soon