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SANDY — As we get older, a lot of people start to hate how their skin looks. But is there really a way to get rid of wrinkles that works and doesn't cause a lot of pain?
More dermatologists are starting to use CO2 fractional laser therapy to treat wrinkles. These lasers have been available for several years, but many doctors wanted to see how they worked and whether they caused any problems before using them.
Now more doctors in Utah are offering the treatment because they say it gets impressive results with minimal downtime.
"The natural aging process, combined with exposure to sun and pollution, destroys collagen -- the main protein of connective tissue that keeps skin plump and line-free. Laser resurfacing uses beamlets of energy light to bore tiny holes in the skin, which works to put the body's natural collagen production on fast-forward.
"Here's what's new: Fractional CO2 laser resurfacing does this in a way that prevents damage to the top layer of skin, offering maximum results with minimal recovery time."
The result lasts 8-10 years.
"When I hit 50 a few years ago, it's like, yes, the skin's going — the sags, the wrinkles around the jowl," Pam Cates told KSL News.
After almost 30 years of marriage, Pam was recently divorced. Though she'd like to start dating again, her wrinkles have caused a decline in her self-confidence.
But Pam decided to do something about that.
"I'm going to have a rejuvenation on my face," she explained. "It's a laser that goes in and does resurfacing."
Pam's co-worker told her about the procedure; and when Pam saw pictures, she was impressed.
"I'm nervous but excited," she told KSL prior to the procedure. "It will be fun to see, in a week or two, what I look like."
The next morning, Pam showed up the Alta View Dermatology and Laser Specialists clinic. After photos were taken, an assistant put numbing cream on Pam's face so the laser won't hurt. A technician then marked her skin, and the procedure began.
The laser Pam's doctor used is a CO2 fractionated laser. It's light energy bores tiny holes into the skin. Healthy new tissue will eventually fill that in — it works because in between those damaged holes are untreated areas.
"Where that healthy skin is, your immune system comes in and stimulates the fibroblasts, which make collagen," Dr. Karen Stolman explained. "So we get new collagen coming in."
Stolman, a dermatologist at the Alta View clinic, said the laser works on all severities of wrinkles — but not to the same extent.
"It will make those finer wrinkles disappear," she said. "It's just, the deeper ones, they may not completely go away. It just may tighten a little.
The laser also helps correct acne scarring and has shown some improvement with brown discolorations.
"I've seen before-and-afters that look 20 years difference, but we tell people (to expect) at least five to 10 years," Stolman said.
"It was just, kind of, tiny little pricks," Pam said, following the procedure. "It wasn't bad, not something you couldn't tolerate."
Pam took pictures of her recovery: the day after the procedure was the worst. "I woke up very swollen," she said, "kind of little pea eyes and stuff, and it was oozy."
Her skin remained that way for a couple days, but Pam said it was never painful, just annoying.
Then she turned red, like a sunburn, and peeled a little. That lasted a couple weeks, but she returned to work after six days.
Dr. Stolman told KSL News redness, swelling and peeling are the main side effects... but the procedure does carry a small risk of infection so patients are prescribed anti-viral pills.
By her two-week follow-up appointment, Pam's before-and-after photos showed the difference.
"My skin looks smoother, it's tighter," she said. "It's just kind of firmed it up in a lot of areas. I like that it's helped the bags around my eyes."
Most importantly, Pam said, she feels better about herself.
"I'm really happy! This made a big difference."
If you're thinking about fractional laser resurfacing, you need to know this is not a cheap procedure. The Alta View clinic where Pam's procedure was performed charges $1,400 for one face treatment. You can also choose a lower strength setting for $500, but usually you'll several treatments to get your desired results.