The story of lasers for facial rejuvenation

As many are aware, one of the birthplaces of modern plastic surgery was the Queen Victoria Hospital, in East Grinstead, where all of our Consultant Plastic Surgeons have strong links. The pioneering surgeon during the Second World War was Sir Archibald McIndoe, and the RAF servicemen he treated suffered from a wide range of injuries including major burns. These servicemen joined together to form the Guinea Pig Club, named because of the pioneering and novel surgery McIndoe was doing on them.

As a group the Guinea Pig Club met regularly after the war for annual reunions. However, what was striking was how young some of these ageing men looked. As well as the reconstructed areas of their faces, other areas of their faces were almost unwrinkled – they looked rejuvenated!

This observation was one that lead to the investigation of whether giving a controlled burn could produce a fresh, rejuvenated appearance of the face. Early research discovered that if a burn was very near the skin surface, it actually stimulated collagen development, which thickened the deeper layers of the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles. Hence the birth of skin rejuvenation.

The next task was to work out how a controlled superficial burn could be created to result in rejuvenation without damaging the skin. A variety of techniques were tried, but three main techniques have now stood the test of time – mechanical sanding (dermabrasion or microdermabrasion), a controlled chemical burn (chemical peels) and photodynamic treatment (laser treatment).

Lasers were found to give a very precise delivery of a constant, controlled depth of skin burn.  Carbon dioxide lasers were brought out in the 1960s but it was not until the 1980s that they were used for skin resurfacing.

These lasers initially gave very good results in terms of improving skin softness and reducing wrinkles but there was a prolonged down time, at least two weeks of scabbing and three or four months of redness. Whilst this was good start, it was far from perfect.

Subsequently other types of laser were developed, notably the Erbium-yag lasers. In addition, to new types of lasers being developed, changes in how the laser energy was given improved results. Giving short pulses (or fractions) helped with healing – this became known as fraxel lasers.

In 2007, the laser company Cutera, brought out its Pearl laser which harnessed the best properties of lasers discovered to date – excellent skin rejuvenation, reduced downtime and speedier healing.

Due to its versatility, the Pearl laser has really come into its own for treatments around the mouth, which tend to need to be a little deeper than the rest of the face.

Brent Tanner, renowned Consultant Plastic Surgeon, and part of the Purity Bridge team, is an expert in using the Pearl laser. He has perfected a technique to improve wrinkle reduction and diminish downtime.

Now the flaking after treatment lasts only 5-7 days and a degree of redness usually disappears between 4-6 weeks. The redness can be covered by make-up, so once the flaking and peeling has stopped, most people can go back to work. The treatment for small areas can be done using local anaesthesia but for larger areas local anaesthetic with sedation or general anaesthesia are often used. Normally only one treatment is required as the results are long lasting and results at two years are similar to that at 1 year.

The most popular treatment areas are ‘smokers lines’ around the mouth, as well as the whole face. The treatment can be combined with facial surgery but Mr Tanner’s recommendation is to perform the laser on a separate occasion to get the maximum results.

We are delighted to have both Mr Tanner and now the Pearl laser at Purity Bridge. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us on 01892 536 960 or email

Purity Bridge Team