Envision yourself wielding a powerful, brightly lit energy blade, a sword really, approximately 3 feet long that can be deflected by another blade of energy or energy shield. These blades of energy have the capacity to cut, melt, burn just about anything with very little resistance and can even be used to weld metal. The question is, what is it? Fans of Star Wars know the answer… it’s a lightsaber!
But Star Wars wasn’t the originator of the concept of a beam of energy as a sword .The origins date back to a novel written in 1933. Based on the fascination we seem to have with harnessing light as energy there are several questions we might ask. When was light energy discovered first? How can light energy be used? Are there any benefits? Are there any dangers? Last but not least… What is the beam of light that makes an energy saber? Is it a fantasy of the mind or is there any truth to it?
Laser: A device that produces a highly concentrated, and narrow beam of light.
That sure sounds like a lightsaber. Regrettably, since lightsabers aren’t real, it’s not easy to find a precise definition of what they are. But just for the sake of interest, let’s use the Jedi lightsaber as a point of comparison to identify the laser’s history, and what a laser really is and what it can do.
History of laser…
The underpinning for laser technology was set back in 1917, when Albert Einstein (step aside Darth Vader) introduced the concept of stimulated emission. Stimulated emission is an instance when a photon of a particular frequency intermingles with an excited atomic electron or molecule and leads to the emission of a second photon of matching frequency, phase, polarization and direction as the original photon.
LASER: Is also an acronym that stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.
A laser is a focused beam of single color light that maintains its width and strength unlike most other sources of light. The beam itself is produced by special gases, such as carbon dioxide, or crystals, such as ruby. Mirrors are then aligned to amplify this light and direct it to move as a narrow beam in one direction.
Lasers and their origin can’t be traced back to a single person, but rather is better viewed as the product of a collaboration of several, and can be first glimpsed at back in a theoretical paper written in 1958, which eventually led to the first laser being patented in 1960.
Cut to the present: Laser application is found everywhere, from pointers and laser printers, to their varied use across computers, the medical field, military, cd players, metal working, and for cosmetic use. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without the laser, given its ubiquity today.
In this article we’ll focus on just one of the above fields of application, namely, the cosmetic laser. Perhaps not as exciting as a lightsaber, but the law is clear that we aren’t allowed to brandish one in a medical office.
How dangerous is laser light?
Laser beams are required by law to have a numerical listing that reflects their potential of leading to injury to human skin and eyes. There are four primary classes: I, II, IIIR, IIIB and IV. Classes I- IIIR are regarded as relatively safe for consumer use, whereas classes IIIB and IV are regarded as hazardous for consumer use and are restricted from use for all but trained professionals. The following are some examples of lasers for each category…
– Class I: CD players and laser printers are a couple examples that fit under this class. Their output power is considered safe, will not cause eye injury and is not a burn hazard.
– Class II & IIIR: Not a burn hazard, and typically very weak and emit only visible light. Lasers that fit under this class include pointers, and barcode scanners. These types of lasers are regarded as safe to the eyes because a person would typically blink to avoid exposure or would turn away from the light. They will, however, lead to injury if a person stares directly at the point of the beam.
– Class IIIB: Lasers that fit into this class are considered dangerous to the extent that a person is not able to turn away or blink to avoid prolonged exposure. The level of injury is a result of how long the eye is exposed and the level of power that enters the eye. When using lasers of this class safety glasses are necessary. These lasers can heat the skin and materials but will not burn. Some cosmetic lasers and research lasers fit under this class. The general public are not permitted to use these lasers.
– Class IV: The highest classification. Amount to a burning hazard for skin and materials and cause significant eye injury with improper handling. Safety glasses must always be worn. Examples of such lasers include those used in laser light shows, surgical lasers, cosmetic lasers, and lasers used for cutting metal. Again, such lasers are not permitted for use by the general public.
Types of Cosmetic Laser and What They Do…
Two forms of light energy are used in the medical office for cosmetic reasons; pulsed light, while not technically a laser, is generally categorized as such as it can lead to eye injury (typically classes as type IIIB, and high-energy, focused beams of single colored light (laser proper, classed as Type IV).
Pulsed Light: The most common descriptor for treatment using pulsed light is IPL (intense pulsed light), also sometimes referred to as Fotofacial or Photofacial. After receiving an IPL it’s not uncommon to expect some social downtime because of the temporary darkening of brown spots, or mild redness, which take a few days to fade. Other than that, your regular daily activities can be resumed immediately after receiving treatment. For best results, an average of 4-6 treatments that are spaced 4-9 weeks apart are recommended.
-Removed redness caused by Rosacea
-Removed sun damage or brown spots
-Improves texture and tone of skin
-Removed small facial veins
-Can be used for permanent hair reduction
-New collagen growth can be stimulated through repeated treatments
Ablative and Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing: Used to stimulate new collagen growth and improve the skin’s texture.
Ablative lasers penetrate deep into the skin and leads to the stimulation of new collagen growth as well as eliminating the surface layers of the skin. This is regarded as the most aggressive form of cosmetic laser treatment and is typically followed by 1-2 weeks of down time as the top layers of the skin have been removed. After ablative laser treatment there is always a risk of post-surgical complications.
At Full Circle Health, we do recognize the place of ablative laser, but we prefer to offer non-ablative laser resurfacing because there is much less downtime and there is less risk. A non-ablative laser works by targeting layers deep in the skin to lead to new collagen growth, but leaves the upper layers of skin whole. Post-treatment, the skin is slightly swollen and feels hot like a sunburn. This usually disappears within a few hours or a couple of days. If desired, women can apply makeup within hours after the treatment. The recommended number of treatments are a series of 3-7, with best results having the sessions spaced 3-4 weeks apart.
–Removed fine lines
-Stimulates new collagen growth
-Removes fine lines
-Improved skin tone and texture
-Improved the appearance of stretch marks and scars
Before any laser or light treatment, it’s advised to avoid extended exposure to the sun for a minimum or two weeks and 2-4 weeks most treatment. This leads to the best results and avoids the potential of a burn or the development of hyperpigmentation (which appear as brown spots), or hypopigmentation (the appearance of white spots). It is also vital to prepare the skin at home with the use of some medical grade skin care products and to maintain your results to continue with the home treatment after laser treatment.
To sum up, while we aren’t in the position to conclude whether a lightsaber is really a laser, as it remains for us a work of fiction, we’re eager to tell you that our cosmetic laser is just as amazing. We offer complimentary consultations in order to determine the best route in addressing your cosmetic needs.