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It happens so gradually that you may not even notice it. Then one day you look in the mirror and realize you're beginning to get age spots. Or your crow's feet have deepened. Or your skin, which used to look so brilliant, seems faded and lackluster. And if you think back to your younger days: Didn't your facial skin used to feel thicker, more resilient, and stronger?

When we're young, we associate aging skin mostly with the appearance wrinkles, but there are many other changes both at and below the surface of the skin that can make us look substantially older even when we are relatively wrinkle-free. Decades ago, once age had shown its ugly face, there was a frantic search for a miracle cream or potion, facial exercises or masks that would restore the face's youthful glow and plump, elastic skin. The last resort – if you could afford it – was one of those windswept facelifts that made Hollywood celebrities look strange and desperate.

For the most part, these old-time remedies were ineffective and sometimes even deleterious, as they could weigh down the skin with heavy, aging emollients. But now we have procedures that can actually turn back the clock and encourage the skin to act and look young again by producing the building blocks of healthy, youthful skin: collagen and elastin. One of the most effective ways to stimulate your skin to act and look young again is with laser resurfacing.

What Is Laser Resurfacing?

The newest generation of cosmetic lasers are designed to treat a wide variety of skin types and tones, from pale to dark. Lasers work by directing intense bursts of energy into the skin layers to heat up the collagen and create microwounds. The microwounds stimulate the body's wound-healing cascade, which triggers the production of new collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are the building blocks of healthy, young skin, imparting strength, elasticity and firmness.

At the Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Clinic in Hendersonville, Dr. Julio Garcia – a Las Vegas plastic surgeon – uses the Medlite Q-switched Nd:YAG laser to resurface and tone your skin. The Medlite laser is nonablative, which means it works underneath the epidermis, and will not remove the top layer of your skin. This translates into decreased downtime and only minimal redness post procedure. Because the Medlite is not as aggressive as CO2 or other ablative (skin-removing) lasers, you will need more treatments initially – three to six sessions spaced one month apart is sufficient for most people's needs – in order to fully resurface the skin and stimulate it to produce new collagen. Each treatment only takes about 15 minutes to perform. The only side effect you might expect would be slight reddening of the skin for a few hours. An annual or bi-annual touch up is recommended to keep your skin looking radiant and to continue the production of new collagen.

Why Are Collagen and Elastin Important?

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Collagen is a tough, insoluble protein that is one of the main building blocks of healthy tissue. It's found in the bones, skin, and connective tissues of our bodies. Collagen molecules are usually tightly packed together in long, thin fibrils.

Collagen makes up approximately 30% of the protein found in a human body. Up to 90% of collagen in the body is either Type I, II or II. Gram for gram, Type I collagen fibrils are stronger than steel.

Collagen is plentiful when we are young. Its long strands create a supportive matrix for the skin, lending it strength and structure and helping it look plump and youthful. Collagen is found in the middle layer of the skin – the dermis – where it forms a fibrous network that allows the growth of new cells.

Aging diminishes our stores of collagen, as does exposure to ultraviolet light via the sun or tanning beds, overconsumption of sugar, smoking, and autoimmune disorders. With less collagen supporting it, the structural integrity of the skin begins to break down, leading to sagging, drooping, wrinkling, crepeing, and other signs we associate with age and/or ill health.

Elastin is another important skin protein that the body stops producing after puberty and whose stores diminish with age. Whereas collagen provides structure and firmness to the skin, elastin lends it flexibility and elasticity, allowing it to stretch out and snap back into place. As elastin degrades, the skin loses its pliability, becoming dry and droopy.

Creating New Collagen and Elastin

While cosmetic and skincare companies promote topical products that contain collagen, collagen molecules are too large to pass through the pores. There are only two ways to get more collagen into the skin: nutrition and laser therapy. In addition to consuming collagen in the form of gelatin, bone broths and collagen supplements, you can stimulate the production of more collagen with nutrients that such as:

  • Proline (egg whites, meat, cheese, soy, cabbage)
  • Anthocyanidins (blackberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries)
  • Vitamin C (citrus, strawberries, peppers, broccoli)
  • Copper (shellfish, nuts, red meat, some drinking water)
  • Vitamin A (meat, sweet potatoes, carrots)

But the most dramatic way to stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin is by heating up the collagen layer in the dermis with lasers, forcing the collagen to contract and creating the microwounds that simulate the production of new collagen (neocollagenesis) and elastin fibers.

Polish Away Pigmentation

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In addition to stimulating more collagen, the Medlite laser can be set to varying strengths to address a variety of skin issues. It can resolve hyperpigmentation by being targeted to sites of increased melanin, such as age spots and freckles. The laser causes a mild desquamation, which allows the dead melanin cells to slough off and fragments of the lesions to be cleared from the body via the lymph system.

Smooth Out Scars and Wrinkles

While an aggressive ablative laser, such as a CO2 laser, will remove the top layer of your skin (the epidermis), to smooth out scars and wrinkles, the Medlite laser works from the outside in. By stimulating the production of collagen in the dermis, the laser produces newer, stronger skin layers. As the outer layers of the skin slough off naturally over the ensuing months, the deeper layers rise to the surface, eventually becoming the epidermis. That's why the final results of your laser treatment will not be visible for several months.

Shrink Pores and Improve Skin Tone

One of the benefits of heating and shrinking the collagen layer in the dermis with the Medlite laser is that it also tightens the skin, thus reducing pore size. Because the skin now has more collagen and elastin, it also has more “spring” to it, looking and acting more youthful. The skin will also appear thicker, imparting a more youthful volume to the face.

Start Sooner Rather Than Later

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While the advent of anti-aging laser therapy is one of the most exciting developments of the last few decades, there is a limit to its ability to rejuvenate the skin. The older and less elastic the skin is, the less of an effect a laser can have. Therefore, it's imperative to begin your laser treatments as soon as possible. Even men and women in their 30s or 40s could benefit from laser treatments to keep their skin acting and looking youthful. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise routine, nutritional supplements, chemical peels, sun protection and a medical-grade skin care regimen, lasers can not only keep you looking younger longer, they can even sometimes help you look younger ten years from now than you do today.

Rely on Dr. Garcia's Artist's Eye

Dr. Garcia not only has expertise in using the Medlite laser to encourage your skin to act and look young again, his training as an artist as well as a surgeon means that he brings his strong sense of aesthetics to every procedure and each consultation. During your consultation, Dr. Garcia will examine your skin, discuss your issues and hopes, and make recommendations for procedures that will help you look as young and beautiful as you feel.

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