Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi helps us make sense of our skin, tackling all the issues lying between us and complexion perfection. This week, Dr. Obagi breaks down laser treatments.

laser treatment

Re-evaluate your perspective on laser treatments as a quick fix with tips from Dr. Obagi. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

With the holidays behind us, your skin might be showing the signs of a season's worth of eating, drinking and merriment, but you'll want to think twice before looking to lasers for a fast fix.

While laser treatment is one of the most effective skin-repairing methods, your complexion may in fact appear worse before it looks better, post laser session. When it comes to laser resurfacing, remember it's not just the type of laser you choose that counts, but the timing as well.

I always advise my patients to laser-treat skin during what I call "hibernation months," when sunlight is scarce and clothing is plentiful. If you're planning a vacation during this time, however, all bets are off. There's no worse candidate for lasers than someone with suntanned skin, so always book your sessions at least four weeks before or after time spent in the sun.

While your dermatologist or skin-care specialist will determine which type of laser is best suited to your needs, I recommend that patients do some pre-consultation research as well. The most common procedures are on the face or neck, but lasers are also suitable for rejuvenating the hands, removing acne scars from the shoulders, zapping blood vessels, removing sunspots, neutralizing birthmarks and making unsightly moles disappear. Most laser procedures are performed right in your dermatologist's or plastic surgeon's office using a topical anesthesia, local anesthesia or light sedative, but not all lasers are created equal. Lasers work by removing aging or damaged layers of skin so that new, healthier skin can emerge.

Ablative lasers are most effective for diminishing wrinkles, acne scars and other surface imperfections, as well as, improving overall skin tone and texture in light-skinned patients. But these potent skin savers aren't without their drawbacks. Ablative lasers often yield dark, unsightly scabs that may require four to six weeks to fully heal and can call for up to a year of sun-exposure abstinence.

Like ablative lasers, non-ablative lasers are most effective for treatment of fair-skinned patients. This more gentle variety of laser is typically used for resurfacing skin tone and refining texture, as well as, permanent hair removal. I often recommend some pretreatment prep in the form of microdermabrasion. While there's little to no downtime and minimal discomfort, real results may take multiple treatments and even then the outcome can be inconsistent.

As with any medical procedure, look for board-certified dermatologists or plastic surgeons, and make sure that they perform the treatment, not a technician. Always ask your skin care professional which treatments he or she recommends, and compare the potential costs, results, discomfort and downtime.

To ask the good doctor a question or suggest a topic to tackle in a future column, leave a comment below. And check out his Web site, ZoSkinHealth.com for more skin-care information.

Laser hair removal can seem like an easy solution for unwanted leg, bikini, facial and underarm hair, but this is one treatment that was anything but easy for Miami resident, Monica Jimenez, who suffered second- and third-degree burns after a recent procedure.