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can laser skin treatments go wrong?

Can Laser Skin Treatment Go Wrong?

The word laser might conjure up images of powerful light rays that can cut through metal, but the truth is much less dramatic. Lasers are actually fairly common (and very useful) tools for many industries nowadays, including medical and cosmetic aesthetics. Lasers like our Broadband Light (BBL Therapy) and Halo Laser are used for everything from hair removal to scar reduction to collagen enhancement.

But with so much energy involved in these light rays, can the treatments go wrong? And what happens if it does? We’re happy to report that there are now decades’ worth of data about laser treatments for skin, and it clearly shows that side effects are generally mild while the benefits are many.

Let’s look over some of the common risks involved with laser skin treatment and how you can avoid them.


Why Get Laser Skin Rejuvenation?

For more than 50 years now, the technology behind laser therapies have been improving and getting better. There are many different types and applications, for a variety of purposes, and studies have shown how effective they can be at improving skin health, appearance, and youthfulness.

In fact, one 2013 study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology even found that broadband light treatments (the kind we use here at Bardöt), “…appears to be capable of restoring many molecular features of youthful skin to aged human skin, at least in the short term.” It doesn’t just make your skin look younger – it may be restoring its youthful properties at a genetic level!

Laser therapies like BBL work by targeting darker cells and breaking them up, smoothing out the skin’s appearance and stimulating the production of new collagen. This ultimately leads to better skin and less noticeable wrinkles, lines, and signs of aging.


Can Laser Treatments Cause Cancer?

This is probably the most common misconception about laser skin treatment. We wrote in depth on this before, but to summarize that article – no! Laser treatments do not cause cancer, because their wavelengths are too long to impact human DNA.

However, lasers can be so precisely targeted to specific cells that they can be used to eliminate cancer cells, through simple heat or a special process known as photodynamic therapy.


Risks of Laser Treatments

Just like with any medical procedure, the risks of injury or other problems for a laser skin rejuvenation are minimal when performed by the right person in the right setting. With that said, sometimes injuries can occur. In cases where they do happen, these side effects should be treated with an appropriate response to reduce the chances of long-term impact.

Common Side Effects of Laser Skin Treatment

Here are some of the biggest complications that might occur with lasers:

  • There is a risk of burns if the setting on the laser is too high or left in one place too long.
  • Infection may set in if a burn occurs, or if a pre-existing blemish is not properly prepared.
  • The previous two may result in scarring as they heal.
  • Destroyed and ruptured cells can spread melanin around the target area, or other cells may produce more in response, leading to a blotchy discolouration known as dyspigmentation.
  • Looking directly at the laser, or even at a reflection of it, can cause eye injuries and retinal burns.

Minimizing Risks of Laser Treatments

This is a short, useful list of ways you can reduce your risk of injury during or after your treatment.

1) Make sure the practitioner has enough experience and training. At Bardöt, you don’t have to worry about this, but don’t ever be afraid to ask for qualifications or proof of training. It shouldn’t be a problem to produce, and it will give you more confidence in the outcome.
2) Choose the right treatment for your condition. Our BBL machine is a non-ablative laser, which doesn’t remove the outer layer of skin and is good for fine lines and wrinkles. Your condition might require a different type of laser, though – ablative, fractional, or hybrid. Ask plenty of questions at your consultation and we’ll help you decide.
3) Consider how dark your skin tone is. While lasers can be done on almost everyone, the risk of injuries like burns increases with darker skin tones. This is because the cells absorb more energy and there is more potential for overheating. If you have very dark skin, laser treatments might not be the best option (though they may still be possible).
4) Listen closely to all instructions during the procedure. The practitioner will go over safety precautions with you, including avoiding direct looks at the light source and the importance of keeping still. Follow their instructions for the best possible outcome.
5) Follow proper before and after care. The days before and after a session are crucial for avoiding infections or unintentional skin damage. Avoid aspirin, blood thinners, and direct sun exposure before your appointment, and stay hydrated and protected from heat, sun, and wind afterwards. Your practitioner will tell you all you need to know to get that new-skin glow!


If you still have questions or you’re curious about laser skin resurfacing in Calgary, we’d be happy to help. Simply reach out to one of our practitioners today and let’s get you started on a path towards better skin, for today and for life!

If you're also curious about other methods to reduce the signs of aging - click over to our newer blog post on Lasers vs Injectables for Treating Wrinkles.


Anne Lynn S. Chang, Patrick H. Bitter Jr., Kun Qu, Meihong Lin, Nicole A. Rapicavoli, and Howard Y. Chang. “Rejuvenation of Gene Expression Pattern of Aged Human Skin by Broadband Light Treatment: A Pilot Study”. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Vol 133, Issue 2, pgs 394-402, 2013. Available at

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