Fractional laser skin resurfacing is a relatively new method that is used to treat a number of skin conditions with minimal downtime. One of the premier fractional lasers is the Palomar ICON 1540, a non-ablative erbium laser that is part of the Palomar ICON Aesthetic System. This laser delivers light to the skin through an array of high-precision microbeams that penetrate the skin deep into the dermis. This creates narrow, deep columns of skin coagulation, surrounded by healthy, untreated skin. This causes the skin to repair itself by replacing old, sun-damaged skin with new, younger, healthier skin. Over time this will help to stimulate collagen. Since the ICON 1540 delivers fractionated light, the treatments are safer and produce consistent results.
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The Palomar ICON 1540 is a non-ablative Erbium laser that operates in the 1540nm wavelength spectrum.
There are two types of lasers used for laser skin treatments, ablative and non-ablative. With the ablative types of treatments, the top surface of the skin is partially removed to achieve a fresh and improved skin surface. Non-ablative treatments involve treating the deeper parts of the skin without removing any part of the top layer. Non-ablative lasers tend to have fewer side effects and a shorter healing time but require multiple treatments. The Palomar 1540 laser is a non-ablative laser.
Skin laser treatments can be divided into ‘full field’ and ‘fractionated.’ Full field lasers deliver a laser beam as a coherent column that treats the entire area of skin that it reaches. This type of laser is associated with numerous side effects and a long healing period. Fractionated lasers treat the skin with a laser beam that is comprised of many columns of micro-beams that are all separated by gaps. Thus, only a fraction of the skin is treated, with gaps of untreated skin throughout; this enables the skin to heal much faster with less risk of complications. Fractionated lasers can be either ablative or non-ablative (depending on the type of laser, such as a CO2 or an Erbium: glass). The ICON 1540 laser is a fractionated non-ablative laser.
The ICON 1540 laser delivers heat to the deeper layers of the skin. This initiates the body’s natural healing process to promote new collagen and elastin production. This new collagen and elastin help to improve the skin tone and texture, while also helping to re-volumize the skin.
By increasing the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, the ICON 1540 can increase the volume of the skin, improve the skin’s texture and tone, and decrease wrinkles and fine lines. The following conditions can be treated with the ICON 1540: sun damage (wrinkles, crow’s feet, and aging skin), acne scars, surgical or traumatic scars, melasma, skin texture, and tone issues, stretch marks, and other skin irregularities. Because it is a non-ablative laser, healing time is minimal.
The ICON 1540 is more powerful than other lasers of its kind, delivering greater energy per micro-beam (up to 100 mJ) and a greater depth of penetration (up to 1 mm) than other competing devices. This can promote a more significant response in the skin, with more effective and longer-lasting results.
The ICON 1540 treatments are more effective if performed in a series of sessions. Each session treats approximately 20 – 25 % of the skin. Clinical studies indicate that an effective treatment regimen involves 3 to 5 treatments, spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart. Certain conditions, such as severe acne scarring, may require more treatments for optimal results.
Although many patients will see a positive change within a few days, due to the swelling effect from the treatment, optimal results usually occur after 2 to 3 months. This allows for complete healing and replacement of new collagen and elastin.
During treatment, the laser handpiece is applied directly to the skin. The handpiece uses a strong built-in cooling technology to protect the outer skin and minimize any discomfort.
While there is some slight discomfort, this is minimized by the cooling mechanism of the handpiece and the use of topical numbing.
During the first 24 hours after treatment, the skin may feel mildly sunburned, sensitive, and somewhat swollen. Since the treatments are non-ablative and the skin surface is intact, there is no oozing from the skin. Over the next few days, the skin may appear slightly bronzed, which can be easily covered with makeup. There may be some flaking as well, which can be improved by using a moisturizer.
Patients should avoid direct sun exposure during the healing process and during the first 3 months after treatment. Application of sunscreen is also recommended.
The ICON 1540 can be used on scars and stretch marks anywhere on the face or body. However, when used to address fine lines and skin texture, the best results are seen when used on the face.
Due to the 1540 nm wavelength of the laser, the ICON 1540 can be used to safely treat patients with darker skin.
The ICON 1540 is an excellent treatment option for surgical scars, acne scars, and stretch marks. Since the laser induces the production of new collagen, it can be used to plump the skin and resurface depressed scars.
The ICON 1540 works best for shallower acne scars, such as rolling scars. It works by heating the deeper layers of the skin in order to promote the growth of new collagen in the dermis. With deeper acne scars, ablative fractional laser resurfacing may be a better option.
In February 2010, the Palomar ICON 1540 (now called the ICON 1540) non-ablative fractional laser handpiece received the first clearance by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of striae (stretch marks) using a fractional laser. Stretch marks are extremely common, found in 90% of pregnant women and 70% of adolescent females. The ICON 1540 treats stretch marks by causing collagen shrinkage and tightening the skin. Typically 5 – 6 treatments are recommended for stretch mark improvement.