A type of laser surgery which uses carbon dioxide to reduce facial wrinkles is so effective it eliminates creases and lines by almost half, according to a new study.
The surgery had previously been linked to side effects that include scarring and acne.
But new research, published in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery Journal, has revealed that the treatment is safe. After two years patients experience an average 45 per cent reduction in the number of wrinkles and fine lines on their faces.
The technology works by removing layers of damaged skin with the laser, as well as stimulating the face to "fill in” wrinkles by producing more collagen – the elastic material that helps give skin its shape.
Forty-seven patients, with an average age of 52, were examined as part of the survey, who received the treatment between 1996 and 2004.
Although 50 per cent of them developed some acne or darkening of the skin following the procedure the side effects cleared up within two years.
On average, patients had 45 per cent fewer lines and wrinkles across all areas of their faces than before the laser surgery, although some had up to 50 per cent fewer.
Dr Daniel Ward and Dr Shan Baker, from the University of Michigan, who carried out the research, said their results proved that carbon dioxide laser resurfacing did lead to "long-term improvements” in the reduction of wrinkles.
The treatment was introduced in the early 1990s but dermatologists began looking for alternatives following complaints including colour being bleached out of skin or uneven darkened patches being left behind.
It was also linked with outbreaks of the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores and skin blistering.
Despite the concerns, thousands of procedures are still carried out in the UK alone every year, at a cost of around £4,000 each.
Favoured target areas include crow’s feet around the eyes and sagging skin around the jowls. British consultant plastic surgeon David Gault backed the findings.
He said: ‘The treatment has never stopped being used but its popularity dropped drastically. It sounds like it is time for a resurgence. ‘It fell out of favour because the recovery takes a while and because of the side effects. ‘But if you use the tool gently you never get problems.’