What is facial laser resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing is a cosmetic procedure that uses concentrated beams of light (lasers) to improve the appearance of your skin. It works by removing damaged outer layers of your skin and stimulating the growth of new collagen in the deeper layers, leading to a smoother, tighter and younger-looking complexion. It can help reduce fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes and pigmentation (such as freckles and sunspots) through direct, short, concentrated and pulsating beams of light. 

Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center has multiple types of lasers to achieve different patients’ goals. They range in aggressiveness and downtime, depending on the laser or light-based device. Some treatments (non-ablative lasers) require no downtime, while others (such as the Fraxel® fractional CO2 lasers) require some downtime.

Why choose us?

Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center can help you explore options to rejuvenate or refine your appearance (and your self-confidence). To get the best results from any cosmetic procedure, you need the highest quality team. You can rely on our experts, who are nationally ranked for their expertise and care.

Learn more about Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center.

How to Prepare

How to Prepare

Am I a candidate for laser & light-based facial treatment?

Ideal candidates for facial laser skin resurfacing have fine lines or wrinkles around or under the eyes, forehead or mouth, scars from acne, or skin that needs correcting after a facelift.

Laser and light-based skin resurfacing treatment is a good option if you:

  • Are physically healthy.
  • Have skin that’s fair to light brown in color (people with darker skin run greater risks of hyperpigmentation).
  • Have a positive outlook and specific, but realistic, goals in mind for improving your appearance.

The best way to determine if you’re a candidate for laser and light-based treatment is through a consultation with an expert at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center.

How do I prepare for laser and light-based facial treatment?

Preparation for laser and light-based treatment at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center includes:

  • Avoiding sunbathing, tanning beds, waxing and any chemical peels or collagen injections two weeks prior to the procedure.
  • Avoiding perfumes, deodorants or any potential irritants in the treatment area before and after treatment.
  • Avoiding aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements due to an increased risk of bleeding.
  • Taking photographs of treated areas before and after your procedure to evaluate improvement.

Experts at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center will consider your natural skin color and type to determine the treatment best suited for you, and to minimize the risk of developing more pigmentation or a loss of pigmentation (whitening of the skin).

What to Expect

What to Expect

How is laser and light-based facial treatment performed?

Laser and light-based treatment at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is generally an outpatient procedure, so you’ll go home the same day. The laser technique directs short, concentrated, pulsating beams of light at areas of concern, such as fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, forehead and mouth, as well as areas of acne scarring and pigmentation issues.

There are primarily two types of laser and light-based treatments:

  1. Ablative.
  2. Non-ablative.

Ablative laser and light-based treatments are typically performed under general anesthesia and/or sedation, while non-ablative treatment doesn’t need general anesthesia or sedation because it’s less invasive and causes minimal discomfort.

What are the different types of lasers and light-based facial treatment?

Fraxel Repair 
(Available at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus)

The Fraxel Repair is a fractional ablative CO2 laser that targets damaged, aging skin deep in the skin and allows it to be replaced by new, healthy skin. This repair improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and scars. The Fraxel technology is one of a kind and revolutionary because it treats the deepest layers of skin (only treating a small percentage of the total skin area, allowing for rapid healing). This procedure allows for less downtime, safer treatment and excellent results. It improves your overall skin texture, color and tone (in addition to tightening your skin).

Fraxel Dual 
(Available at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus, Avon – Richard E. Jacobs Health Center and Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center)

The Fraxel Dual is a resurfacing laser used to improve skin texture, color and tone. It has two wavelengths (a superficial and deep wavelength), allowing your skin to be treated with one device. The 1927 nm wavelength is more superficial and improves sun-induced freckles, melasma, hyperpigmentation, age spots and shallow wrinkles. It’s safe for all skin types.

The 1550 nm wavelength is deeper and improves overall skin color, tone and texture, including wrinkles and scars (surgical or acne scars). It treats a small fraction of the total skin (15-25% per treatment), allowing for rapid healing. Patients usually need four to six treatments for best results.

(Available at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus)

UltraClear® is an erbium-doped fluoride fiber laser with a platform of four distinct treatment modalities. It can provide light to deep resurfacing, treatment of wrinkles, scars (including from acne), benign pigmented lesions, unwanted pigmentation, enlarged pores and induce collagen remodeling. Many of these treatment options take as little as 10 minutes and don’t require any numbing medications.  

(Available at Avon - Richard E. Jacobs Health Center)

SmartSkin® is a fractional resurfacing CO2 laser that helps tighten and improve the texture of your skin. It delivers tiny laser pulses into the skin, heating columns of tissue. These columns of tissue damaged by the laser are replaced by normal, healthy tissue, allowing the skin to look smoother, more youthful and healthier (in addition to providing skin tightening). This device can be customized for each patient to address specific concerns and to be more, or less, aggressive, depending on what the patient needs and the length of their recovery time.

Cynosure Affirm® 
(Available at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus)

Cynosure Affirm® is a non-ablative resurfacing laser that improves the texture of your skin and helps the appearance of scars and overall skin texture. It doesn’t break the surface of your skin, but delivers heat to the deeper layers, allowing for rapid recovery, improvement of overall texture and skin tightening.



What results can I expect?

The results of laser and light-based treatment vary depending on the technology or treatment prescribed. Rejuvenation procedures can produce a marked improvement in skin conditions and overall appearance. Technologies and treatments available are advancing rapidly, and you can achieve results after relatively simple procedures.

When properly performed, ablative laser and light-based treatment can visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and, in some cases, deeper wrinkles. But, because ablative treatment targets your skin’s whole tissue layer on your entire face (burning away the epidermis layer of skin), your face may look and feel as if you have a severe sunburn. Your skin may be raw, ooze or blister for several days and, once healed, can be red for several weeks.

Unlike ablative treatments, non-ablative treatments cause minimal discomfort following the procedure. Most people are generally able to return to their daily activities immediately (although they may appear “flushed”).

Even though the impact on the skin is less dramatic, non-ablative lasers are still able to achieve substantial improvement. For the best results, you may need multiple non-ablative treatments, usually spaced many weeks apart. In addition, you’ll need continued treatments to maintain results.

The results of both types of laser resurfacing are particularly noticeable after the initial healing and for about a year following the procedure. Following up with an expert at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is the best way to ensure long-lasting results from ablative and non-ablative procedures. View our laser facial treatment before-and-after photos to see results from actual patients.

What is involved in recovery?

Recovery from laser and light-based treatment will vary depending on the type of procedure. Many people plan to stay home for a few days after ablative laser treatment to decrease the chance of infection and to promote proper healing. After surgery, the area of your face that’s been treated will weep similarly to an open blister. Typically, within several days, the weeping will subside, and the treated area will appear sunburned. The treated area will remain red for several weeks. After one week, however, many people apply camouflage makeup and return to their normal activities. Redness will fade over six weeks to two months.

Recovery and downtime from non-ablative treatment is minimal, with most people experiencing only a “flushed” look and able to return to their daily activities right after the procedure.

Is laser and light-based treatment safe?

All surgical procedures carry some risks. Ablative laser and light-based treatments can be complicated by:

  • Infections.
  • Cold sores (herpes simplex).
  • Darkening of your skin (particularly if exposed to the sun after surgery).
  • Milia (small, white, elevated cysts of superficial skin) or cysts.

Non-ablative techniques can possibly cause:

  • Temporary hyperpigmentation (skin darkening).
  • Slight blisters.
  • Possibility of eye damage resulting from laser exposure to the eye itself.
Insurance & Financing

Insurance & Financing

Insurance rarely covers the cost of elective cosmetic surgery and procedures. Please call 216.444.4004 and ask to speak with one of our financial representatives who can explain payment options, including CareCredit financing.