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What’s Important?

  1. Lasers and light therapy are expanding areas of dermatology with increasing applications for conditions of skin, hair, and mucosa. The principle of selective photothermolysis has completely transformed methods of laser and light delivery to the skin, with increased focus on targeting specific chromophores (e.g., hemoglobin, melanin, water) to achieve a desired clinical result.

What’s New?

  1. Novel picosecond technology has transformed the utility and scope of laser therapy with increased safety for patients of many skin types. Picosecond lasers are particularly effective for tattoo removal and photorejuvenation.

What’s Coming?

  1. Skin tightening devices, particularly radiofrequency and ultrasound, are rapidly expanding on the horizon of medical devices with enhanced clinical effects and improved patient safety profiles.

Don’t Forget

  1. Lasers and light therapy are effective methods of treating various dermatological conditions.

  2. Picosecond technology is relatively new and has been shown to be an excellent method of laser delivery with increased safety.

  3. Laser and light therapy can be used in patients of all skin types; however, patients with skin of color warrant increased caution to avoid adverse events such as post-inflammatory pigment alteration.

Patient Education Points

  1. Patients should be educated on pre- and post-laser and light therapy instructions to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of these procedures.

Clinical Pearls

  1. With appropriate knowledge of their functions and safety profile, laser and light therapy can be a highly effective tool for dermatologists to utilize in treating a wide variety of patients.

From Einstein’s initial proposals regarding photons and quantum mechanics to the first laser being invented by T.H. Maiman at the Hughes Research Laboratory in 1960, research and development of lasers has steadily blossomed into a multibillion-dollar industry. Scientists, physicians, and laypeople alike have been especially fascinated by the capabilities and possibilities of laser light. Beginning with the ruby laser, these instruments have quickly become an integral part of dermatology. Lasers and light devices are now used in almost every medical specialty and our daily lives, including eye surgery, dentistry, barcode scanners, lighting displays, and even traffic lights.


To realize their usefulness in medicine and aesthetic medicine in particular, it is important to understand the basics of laser terminology (Box 26-1), which are based on the principles of electromagnetic radiation. Understanding the interactions of light with the skin is critically important for both patient/provider safety and to help make clinical treatments more successful. The word “laser” is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser amplifies light by stimulating photons, storing them, and releasing them as identical photons in the form of a light beam. To accomplish this, the laser must have a source of energy, referred to as the pump. Energy from the pump is absorbed by atoms in the form of photons. The atoms then emit photons in the form of light. This light is ...

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