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If you’re someone who’s been struggling with pigmentation issues, acne scars, or fine lines, you’ve probably come across the term “PicoSure® Laser” in your search for a solution. But what exactly is PicoSure Laser, and how does it work? I tried PicoSure and completed four rounds to remove sunspots on my face; we’ll dive into everything you need to know about PicoSure Laser, from its benefits to the cost and potential side effects.
In September 2022, I had the opportunity to visit RenewMD Beauty and Wellness, founded by Dr. Simran Sethi, for a PicoSure® Laser Treatment. RenewMD Beauty and Wellness have various locations in Northern California. For this treatment, I had the pleasure of visiting the Fremont location.
While there, I was looked after by a fantastic team who made me feel welcomed and reassured. I might require several further sessions depending on how my skin responds to the treatment. I’m thrilled to share my initial part of the experience today.
What is a PicoSure® laser?
PicoSure® laser is an FDA-cleared treatment that uses pulses of energy to target and breaks up the pigment in the skin. This type of laser is known as an ablative laser, which removes the top layer of skin cells. As the outermost layer of skin cells is removed, the underlying skin is revealed for a more even complexion.
It’s good to note that the PicoSure® treatment is the world’s first and only picosecond aesthetic laser cleared by the FDA in the United States and Europe for the safe and effective removal of tattoos and benign pigmented lesions, as well as acne scars, wrinkles, and skin revitalization treatments. Similarly, clinical data shows better clearance in fewer treatments.
One of the main advantages of this treatment is that it has minimal downtime; most people can resume their normal activities immediately after their session, making it a popular choice among people looking for a non-invasive skin rejuvenation treatment.
How does PicoSure Laser work?
PicoSure Laser uses a specific wavelength of laser energy that targets the pigments in the skin, such as melanin or ink particles. When the laser is directed at the skin, it emits ultra-short pulses of energy delivered at a rate of one trillionth of a second. These pulses are so short that they can break down the pigments into smaller particles without causing any damage to the surrounding skin cells.
The pigment in the skin absorbs the laser energy, causing it to heat up and shatter into tiny particles that can be eliminated by the body’s natural processes. This process is known as photo disruption, and it is the key mechanism behind the effectiveness of PicoSure Laser treatment.
Because PicoSure Laser delivers the laser energy in such short pulses, it can break down the pigments more effectively than other lasers. This means fewer treatments are required to achieve the desired results, and there is less risk of damage to the surrounding skin tissue. Additionally, because the laser energy is delivered so quickly, it does not cause significant heating of the skin, reducing the risk of hyperpigmentation or other side effects.
The Benefits of PicoSure Laser
One of the biggest benefits of PicoSure Laser is that it can deliver faster results than other laser treatments. In many cases, patients can see an improvement in their skin after just one treatment session.
Another advantage of PicoSure Laser is that it requires minimal downtime. Unlike other laser treatments that can leave your skin red and swollen for days, PicoSure Laser typically only causes mild redness and swelling that usually subsides within a few hours.
PicoSure Laser is a versatile treatment that can address various skin concerns, including pigmentation issues, acne scars, fine lines, and wrinkles. It can also be used to remove tattoos.
Safe for all Skin Types
PicoSure Laser is safe for all skin types, including darker skin tones. This is because the laser energy is delivered in ultra-short pulses that don’t heat up the skin, which can cause hyperpigmentation in some cases.
So what’s the difference between traditional laser and PicoSure laser?
Unlike traditional nanosecond lasers, which predominately rely on photothermal action, delivering heat to the pigment and surrounding tissue, PicoSure® takes advantage of PressureWave Technology to shatter the target ink into tiny particles that are easily eliminated by the body.
“The PicoSure laser differs from all classes of lasers because it delivers energy very fast, which means that heat is NOT generated, and all the energy the laser gives out is delivered into the dermis of the skin,” explained Dr. Sethi, further adding “this allows Picosure to effectively ‘blast’ the dermis to stimulate superior collagen production while not emitting any heat in the superficial layer and preventing hyperpigmentation.”
Picosure delivers all its energy in the dermis, our deep skin layer responsible for making essential skin proteins like collagen. In contrast, other lasers try to target the dermis. Still, they emit energy at a slower rate, which causes most of the energy to turn into heat that is lost in the superficial layer of the skin, leaving only a small fraction of energy in the dermis. PicoSure reaches the deeper layers of skin to accelerate the production of new, healthier skin, while other lasers cannot reach this layer.
Pretty fantastic technology, right?
Before the complete treatment, I had a one-to-one consultation with Ruby, the Client Care Director, at the clinic for a skin analysis to provide an in-depth look at my facial characteristics, aka my skin health and appearance. The results help the practitioner identify the most effective treatments for me. She then explained the analysis and how this is an excellent base for identifying a treatment plan.
Dr. Sethi performed my first PicoSure® treatment. I love when doctors go in-depth about every step of a procedure. She is passionate about what she does, how she makes her patients feel, and their comfort. During this session, she explained how PicoSure works, what to expect during treatment, and the correct aftercare. After that, a patch was tested on my face to see how my skin would react to the treatment. Once all was good, Dr. Sethi continued.
The treatment didn’t take long, and I didn’t feel much discomfort, thanks to the numbing cream. On top of that, a cold air machine was used to ensure further comforts, which helped lots.
Is PicoSure® laser painful?
No, most people report little to no discomfort during their PicoSure® treatment.
What results can you expect after the first session?
Most patients see a significant improvement in their skin after just one session. It’s typically recommended that people receive 3-5 sessions. However, depending on your concerns and goals, you may need multiple sessions to see results. Dr. Sethi recommended 3-4 sessions for my skin goals.
During treatment (left) and after treatment (right)
Post-treatment, my skin looked red immediately after treatment; however, it was without any burning sensation. As expected, the redness subsided quickly in 36 hours, with hardly any downtime! My skin looks smoother after a few days, and no breakouts after the treatment. I will note that my skin peeled for about 3-5 days after treatment. It’s advised to let it be and not pick, similar to when you experience sunburn and your skin begins to peel. I did apply hydration facial lotion and an aloe gel, which helped.
How to Prepare for a PicoSure Laser Treatment
Before your PicoSure Laser treatment, you should avoid sun exposure and stop using any skincare products that contain retinoids, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid at least a week before the treatment. You should also avoid using any abrasive scrubs or exfoliants on the treatment area.
What to Expect During a PicoSure Laser Session
When you arrive for your PicoSure Laser treatment, you will be asked to wear protective eyewear to shield your eyes from the laser energy. The practitioner will then use a handheld device to deliver the laser pulses to the treatment area, ranging from a small spot to a larger body area.
During the treatment, you may feel a slight prickling or tingling sensation as the laser energy is delivered to the skin. However, the treatment should not be painful, and any discomfort can be managed with topical numbing cream or cooling gel.
The length of the treatment session will depend on the size and location of the treatment area, but most sessions last between 15-30 minutes. After the treatment, you may experience mild redness and swelling in the treated area, but this should subside within a few hours.
It’s important to note that while PicoSure Laser is a non-invasive treatment, there may be some downtime depending on the specific treatment area and the number of sessions required to achieve the desired results. Your practitioner will provide detailed aftercare instructions to ensure the best possible outcome.
Aftercare Tips for PicoSure Laser Treatment
After your PicoSure Laser treatment, following some aftercare tips is important to ensure the best results. You should avoid direct sun exposure, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and avoid using skincare products containing retinoids, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid for at least a week after the treatment. You may also need to apply a cooling gel or ice pack to the treatment area to soothe any redness or swelling.
Who is a good candidate?
Dr. Sethi explained that “PicoSure is safe on all skin types because it mechanically shatters pigment and induces collagen production, unlike traditional skin lasers that use heat energy, which causes a reverse effect by stimulating excess melanin production in darker skin tones.”
Picosure has been extensively tested in all skin tones, specifically in darker skin tones. “In my practice, I primarily work with women of color and use Picosure without hesitation in all skin tones.” Dr. Sethi explained that PicoSure is great for the following skin issues:
Reduction of pigmentation from acne scars (common in more melanated skin tones)
Reduction of pigment from sun damage
Reduction of pigment in melasma
Erasing certain types of birthmarks like the Nevus of Ota
Tattoo removal – this is accomplished with a different lens than we use for skin issues mentioned above
PicoSure Laser Treatment for Tattoo Removal
PicoSure Laser is a popular treatment for tattoo removal because it can break down the ink particles in the skin into smaller fragments that the body’s natural processes can eliminate. The number of treatments required depends on the size and color of the tattoo, but most patients require 4-6 sessions for complete removal.
PicoSure Laser Treatment for Acne Scars
PicoSure Laser can also address acne scars by promoting collagen production and stimulating the skin’s natural healing process. This can result in smoother, more even skin texture over time. Patients typically require 3-5 sessions for optimal results.
PicoSure Laser Treatment for Fine Lines and Wrinkles
PicoSure Laser can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production and promoting skin cell turnover. This can result in a more youthful, radiant complexion. Patients typically require 3-5 sessions for optimal results.
PicoSure Laser Treatment for Pigmentation Issues
PicoSure Laser can also address pigmentation issues such as age spots, sun damage, and melasma. The laser energy targets the melanin in the skin, causing it to break down and fade over time. Patients typically require 2-3 sessions for optimal results.
PicoSure Laser Treatment Cost
The cost of PicoSure Laser treatment varies depending on the size and location of the treatment area and the number of sessions required. On average, a single PicoSure Laser session can cost between $400-$800.
A Few Commonly Asked Questions from Instagram
How long does PicoSure® last?
The results from a PicoSure® laser typically last for 6-12 months.
Is Pico laser painful?
No, most people report little to no discomfort during their PicoSure® treatment.
Does Pico laser brighten skin?
Yes, one of the main benefits of this treatment is that it can help to brighten and even out your skin tone.
Does pico laser help with wrinkles?
Yes, in addition to reducing scars and pigmentation, PicoSure® lasers can also help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Are there any Side Effects of PicoSure Laser Treatment?
Like any laser treatment, PicoSure Laser can cause some side effects such as redness, swelling, and mild discomfort. However, these side effects are typically temporary and subside within a few hours or days.
Is Pico laser treatment worth it?
Whether or not this treatment is “worth it” depends on your goals and expectations. However, many people feel happy with their results and feel it is worth the investment, and for me, it is worth it.
At 36, I’ve noticed changes in my skin due to aging. Before PicoSure®, I had some old acne scars, visible sun spots, and hyperpigmentation that I would like to alleviate with the PicoSure® Laser Treatment. I’m stunned at how little downtime was needed without reaction.
Since my first session, I’ve returned a second time with my third treatment scheduled. I’m happy thus far. My skin is progressively smoother, with less pigmentation, and my pores and wrinkles appear softer. After the first treatment, you can expect to see the full benefits would take 4-6 weeks to observe, and further sessions would help.
The PicoSure® laser is a safe and effective way to improve your skin’s appearance. If you’re considering this treatment, consult a licensed professional or make an appointment at RenewMD to ensure that it’s right for you.
The article was first published September 2022 and updated by our editors April 2023
I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.