Summer is the season to slow down and enjoy the simple things – reading a book by the pool, enjoying an Aperol Spritz al fresco, you get the picture. But just because you’re using your PTO to take advantage of the warmer weather and extra hours of sunlight, it doesn’t mean your skin concerns are also going OOO, too. If your routine is centered around minimizing fine lines, wrinkles, acne, or hyperpigmentation, you don’t have to take a step back from your regular regimen because you’re spending more time in the sun. Yes, along with at-home topical products, there are summer laser treatments you can get in-office to help improve your specific complexion issues.
Resurfacing laser treatments can be performed year-round, but it’s important to keep in mind that you will need to be extra diligent about sun protection during the summer. “With resurfacing laser treatments, you have to cause injury to the skin in order to experience its benefits,” says Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “That injury to the skin, makes it more vulnerable to sun damage. No matter what time of year you do any type of laser resurfacing, you have to be super mindful of sun protection and it’s easier to do so when it’s not the dead of summer.”
Ahead, a rundown of the best laser treatment options for summer, whether you’re continuing to work on your year-round skin concerns or treat seasonal issues like sun damage. Plus, easy aftercare tips to prevent sun damage.
Cutera Excel V
If uneven texture, redness, or spider veins are your target skin concerns, Cutera Excel V is a multitasking laser that is a safe bet. “[It’s] a state of the art vascular laser that treats facial redness, red scars, sun spots, rosacea, acne, wrinkles, and spider veins,” Dr. Ariel Ostad, M.D., a triple board-certified cosmetic surgeon in New York City, says. “This laser works by targeting abnormal blood vessels and pigment in the skin and stimulates collagen production.”
In terms of redness, like rosacea, the treatment can deliver results in as few as three treatments and requires no downtime.
This buzzy treatment that’s favored by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and beauty editors combines microneedling and radiofrequency energy to tighten the skin through the use of heat. “This added heat promotes the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid at a much greater level than traditional microneedling,” Dr. Ostad explains. “Morpheus8 treatments deliver exceptional skin, tissue and collagen remodeling and tightening to improve cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, skin texture, crepiness, shrink pore size, and reduce skin irregularities.”
While the treatment can be effective, it’s a slow burn (pun very much intended). Most patients need multiple treatments, which are typically spaced four to eight weeks apart. Another factor to consider is downtime. Side effects include redness, swelling, and flaking in the days following the treatment, and being extra cautious with sun protection is a must.
Clear + Brilliant
As a laser resurfacing treatment that triggers collagen production and improves skin tone, Clear + Brilliant is a solid option for treating concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. It’s a favorite among dermatologists because it has the same wavelength as Fraxel, a more intensive laser, but is gentler with zero downtime, so skin isn’t as susceptible to sun damage post-treatment.
When treating the latter issue, including melasma, Dr. Murphy-Rose will combine it with other in-office topical treatments to boost results. “I often will do it combination with a topical tranexamic acid, which helps prevent pigmentation,” she says. “We pair it with a laser treatment because the ingredient will have more impact when it’s allowed to penetrate through little channels of injury caused by the laser.”
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL)
There are number of intense pulsed light therapy treatments on the market, if you want to minimize visible sun damage that’s occurred from slacking on sunscreen application while poolside this summer. Dr. Macrene Alexiades, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of MACRENE Actives, recommends Alma Harmony. “It is a non-invasive, painless laser treatment that quickly treats sun damage and other complexion issues with no downtime,” she says.
While IPL treatments can work wonder on hyperpigmentation, not everyone is the ideal candidate. “IPL works best on fair to medium skin tones, specifically Fitzpatrick skin types I-IV,” Julie Skowronski, FNP-BC, a nurse practitioner at Ever/Body, previously told TZR. “Because melanin absorbs light energy, olive and dark skin (Fitzpatrick skin types V-VI) are at risk for burns or hyperpigmentation.”
Laser Hair Removal
Eliminating shaving or waxing from your routine will not just buy you back time, you’ll also save money in the long run. That’s where laser hair removal comes in. “Laser hair removal works by delivering laser wavelength at the hair follicle, causing permanent removal so that it no longer grows,” says Dr. Ostad, a triple board-certified cosmetic surgeon in New York City. “The light is attracted to the pigmentation in the follicle and it is the contrast between dark hair and skin that helps the laser focus on its target.”
It’s a completely safe treatment when the patient is matched to the right laser and wavelength, but it’s important to note that those with dark, coarse hair are the ideal patient and it takes multiple sessions to see results.
Post-Laser Treatment Aftercare
You guessed it: proper sun protection is of the upmost importance post-laser treatment, especially if you have hyperpigmentation or melasma, which is sun activated. Without proper SPF application, you’re essentially canceling out whatever improvement was made at your doctor’s office.
Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends using a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher, noting that physical filters provide better coverage because they reflect UV/UVA rays rather than absorb them. “You also want to protect your skin from blue light, so look for active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide or a combination of both in your sunscreen,” she says. “Look for iron oxide in the formula, too.” She also notes that wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when outdoors is also important.
Aside from sun protection, opt for extra gentle cleansers and moisturizers in the days following your laser treatment. Dr. Murphy-Rose suggests sealing in moisture with an ointment and hydrating skin with a rich moisturizer.
If you treated hyperpigmentation in-office, you can continue to brighten your skin at home with exfoliating ingredients such as kojic and tranexamic acids. “These ingredients prevent melanin from forming, so for that reason, it helps make you less vulnerable to hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says.
As for retinol and retinoids, proceed with caution. While you don’t necessarily have to stop using Vitamin A pre-treatment, skip it for the week after. “I don’t make my patients stop using it pre-treatment, but I do say wait until your skin feels back to normal after the initial healing process before gradually reintroducing it,” Dr. Murphy-Rose shares.