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New laser procedure alleviates acne scars, blemishes

January 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Acne scars are some of the most difficult skin problems to treat. The challenge is how to fill deep pockmarks left over from years of blemishes. Now a new type of technology tackles this problem from above and below the skin.

It's not easy to find work as a model and actress when acne scars dot your cheeks.

"It used to be really bad. That's why I have these holes in my skin now," says acne-scar patient Natasha Rozhdestvensky, 24.

Natasha says her photo shoots often require retouching.

"Even when I put makeup on, I have thick makeup on and it still doesn't cover it," says Natasha.

That's why Natasha turned to Santa Monica dermatology Dr. Ben Behnam and a new type of laser.

"The fractional technology and the CO2 laser has really revolutionized the entire CO2 laser industry," says Behnam.

The old generation of CO2 (carbon dioxide) lasers resurfaced an entire layer of skin, so it could cause problems with pigmentation and scarring. It wasn't good for dark or Asian skin. This technology is completely different.

Besides pockmarks, Behnam says the fractional CO2 laser can also be quite effective in reducing fine wrinkles. Instead of just resurfacing, the fractional technology removes and vaporizes about 35 percent of skin and drills small holes in the rest.

"It drills tiny columns in the skin. And surround the columns are intact skin. And as a result, over time collagen gets deposited within those tiny holes, those columns," says Behnam.

Collagen deposits remodel the skin. Behnam says patients will continue to see results for several weeks to follow.

African-Americans, people who tend to scar or form keloids, and anyone on the medication Accutane are not candidates. As with any laser procedure, experts say it's important to find an experienced surgeon.

"You could cause significant damage if you don't know what you're doing with this laser," says Behnam. "It's not necessarily the laser, it's the person, the practitioner who's doing it."

As for the pain and discomfort of the procedure: "Actually it's not that bad," says Natasha.

Doctors say Natasha's face will look like it's had a sunburn for about a week. After that she's looking forward to a smoother complexion.

Some acne scars may require more than one treatment. The Dot Fractional CO2 Resurfacing technology can also be used for age spots, deep and soft wrinkles, sun damage and other types of discoloration. The cost is about $2,000-$2,500 per treatment.