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Thinking about a Laser or Peel? Read This First!
Written by Dr JessicaWu   

When I first started treating my patients with laser and chemical peel procedures19 years ago, there were only a few options to improve sun damage, discoloration, and fine lines. Now there are dozens, so which ...


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Thinking about a Laser or Peel? Read This First!

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When I first started treating my patients with laser and chemical peel procedures19 years ago, there were only a few options to improve sun damage, discoloration, and fine lines. Now there are dozens, so which one is best? The answer: it depends on your skin. Here are some FAQs:

How do lasers and chemical peels work? Lasers use beams of light to target a particular problem. Wrinkles, dark spots, broken blood vessels, large pores, scars, tattoos, and excess hair are treated with different lasers. Chemical peels use different strengths of acid solutions to remove layers of skin and unclog pores for smoother, clearer skin. Patients often ask for laser because it’s a newer technology and the idea of using “acid” scares them. But I explain that new devices aren’t always better or safer. In fact, for certain skin types and locations (such as the neck and chest), peels may be safer and more predictable.

How does it feel & what’s the recovery? Nonablative lasers (such as IPL) target freckles, redness, and pores, and stimulate collagen. Each pulse feels like a hot pinprick. Skin is red for a few days and may develop peppery dark spots for a week or two. These are the most popular laser treatments I perform in the office. Deeper “ablative” lasers may ooze and scab for a week or more, followed by redness that can last months. These may produce a pale, “waxy” appearance. Fractional lasers (like Fraxel, Affirm, and Pixel) treat pinpoints of skin, leaving normal skin in between, so healing time is shorter. Peels may sting and, depending on the strength, there may be redness followed by flaky patches. Deep chemical peels for melasma, wrinkles, and acne scars can produce dark crusts and scabs that may take a week or more to fall off, revealing new skin underneath.

What are the risks? Possible risks include skin discoloration and scarring if the treatment is too strong or the skin is not properly cared-for before and after the procedure. Lasers may blister and bruise, and may not be safe for those with a deeper or tan complexion. I’m a stickler about prepping my patients, and often recommend prescription-strength creams beforehand. With both lasers and peels, choosing the correct strength is crucial, and this comes from experience, so don’t be afraid to ask how long your doctor has been doing the procedure. You might not want your face to be someone’s guinea pig, even if you got a really good “deal” on Groupon.


I’m so fortunate to have a wonderful radiologist who takes good care of me. After a breast lump scare, he follows me closely with mammograms, ultrasound, and breast exams—and gives me the result the day of my visit. If you have a mammogram, be sure you get the result. Don’t assume that everything is OK if you don’t hear back. Federal law requires patients to be notified in writing of their results.

Style Obsession:
Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room -- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away


If you live in Southern California or plan to visit in the next several months, check out The Broad, a newly opened contemporary art museum in Downtown Los Angeles. I can’t wait to see the inaugural installation, which includes this piece by the artist Yayoi Kusama, described by the museum as “a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display…This experiential artwork on the museum’s first floor has limited capacity, accommodating one visitor at a time for approximately 45 seconds.” Free admission (


Body Clearing
Acne Spray

Frustrated with backne and buttne? Try this product, which my patient Lisa told me about. It contains 2% salicylic acid to unclog pores, along with glycolic acid and niacinamide. There’s no benzoyl peroxide, so no worries about bleaching clothing or sheets. The best feature is that the spray works upside down, and it comes out as a fine mist, so you can coat your back evenly. It contains alcohol, so avoid scratches or open skin (may sting!), and hold your breath while spraying or spray in a well-ventilated room. $10.79 at
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My advice in 

How does your skin get better with age? My take on page 101 of this month’s Prevention magazine.

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Where to Find Dr. Jessica Wu

Title - In Bookstores
Book COVER 'JESSICA WU M.D. - feed your face'  

Get a Taste of Feed Your Face!

In this video clip, Dr. Jessica Wu talks about the inspiration behind her top selling book, Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days. Find out how you can heal your skin by choosing the right foods to eat.

Title - At the office

Look and feel your best with Cosmetic Dermatology

Dr Wu has been taking care of patients in her Los Angeles office since 1997. Learn more about her medical practice and line of skincare products at

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About Newsletter

People often ask who’s been writing my daily columns since 2009. And the answer is: ME! I’m often at my computer late at night, after a long day of seeing patients, or early (very early!) in the morning before a new day begins. What you read here is from me alone – and when I recommend something, it’s because I like it and have purchased it myself, not because anyone paid me to promote it.

- Jessica

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