Once you get engaged, your to-do list probably include tasks like finding a ceremony and reception location and choosing a wedding date. While these are undeniably important, there's another task that we think deserves high priority, too: making an appointment with your dermatologist to nail down a pre-wedding skincare routine. Along with selecting and using effective products, you might also want to think about adding laser treatments into your regimen. Depending upon the issue you want to eradicate, whether acne scars, hyperpigmentation, unwanted hair, large pores, or just dullness, laser treatments can make a huge difference in your complexion. "We divide lasers into three categories, depending upon what we're treating," says Los Angeles dermatologist Jeanette Black, MD, member of the Women's Dermatologic Society. "The first is texture, which could be acne scars or fine lines, then pigment, which is melasma and hyperpigmentation, and then redness, which could be post-inflammatory acne marks or little red veins, which usually appear around the nose or chin. With lasers, we address texture first because that usually takes the longest to fix, then pigment, and finally redness."
Because you usually need a few treatments spaced out at least a month apart to see real change, you should start laser treatments long before your wedding date. There are a few important things to note: When getting laser treatments, you should wear SPF 30 or higher every single day, Black says, not only because lasers make your skin more sensitive to the sun, but also because the sun can degrade collagen and elastin and darken hyperpigmentation and acne marks—basically undoing everything the lasers are meant to do. And if you have dark skin, Black says lasers can be used, but make sure your dermatologist is using a lower setting and is extremely cautious, otherwise it can cause or worsen melasma. Here, she explains the ins and outs of a few laser treatments you might want to consider before your wedding day.
If you have acne scars (divots) or fine lines, the Fraxel laser is your best option. "It basically creates tiny fractionated burns in the skin, triggering an injury and stimulating new collagen production," Black says. The skin is renewed, and the texture of your skin is left even, smooth, and plump. You'll probably have a week of downtime afterward because of redness and swelling. Collagen will continue to grow and your skin will continue to improve over one to three months. You may need four to six treatments spaced a month or two apart, and your last one should be at least two months before the wedding date.
Clear + Brilliant
If you have melasma, which is uneven pigment caused by heat and hormones, be wary of Fraxel. (Melasma is common in women who are in their 20s and 30s, Black says.) Heat from the Fraxel laser can worsen melasma, so talk to your dermatologist about using a lower setting, or try Clear + Brilliant instead, which is a gentler version of the Fraxel. "Clear + Brilliant doesn't give off as much heat," Black says. "It's very popular to use before events. You can do it closer to the wedding date, and there isn't really any downtime because it's less inflammatory. It gives you a nice exfoliation. You'll look pink right after the treatment, as though you have a little sunburn, and then the skin will take on a grainy texture. When the grains slough off, you'll have this incredible, glowing complexion with a more even skin tone and smaller pores. You can do three or four a month apart leading right up to the wedding—your last can even be about two weeks beforehand. It's a beautiful laser that works well on everyone."
KTP & V-Beam
For redness (think broken capillaries, blood vessels, or rosacea), try KTP. "It traces out the redness and gives you a nice photo-ready finish," Black says. "It's almost like a magic eraser. You usually need only one or two treatments, and there isn't much downtime." Another great laser to heal redness, Black says, is the V-Beam. It's a pulsed dye laser that targets blood vessels and collapses them while keeping the rest of your skin unharmed and intact. Because of this, downtime from the V-Beam laser is also minimal.
Diode & ND-Yag
For unwanted hairs on the face, Black recommends the Diode. "Start a year before the wedding because it often takes several treatments," she says. But if you have dark skin, Black often recommends the Nd-YAG laser instead, which doesn't target pigment as much as the Diode potentially could. "As with all of these lasers, the Diode could be used on dark skin, but you just have to be cautious with the settings—and make sure the doctor is well-trained."