Laser skin resurfacing reduces wrinkles and scars, evens out skin coloring, tightens skin and removes lesions. Lasers are beams of light that vaporize the outer layers of your skin and promote the growth of new collagen fibers.
Laser resurfacing uses lasers to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and scars, to even out skin coloring (pigmentation), to tighten skin and to remove lesions, both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant.
The laser technique directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin. Laser skin resurfacing removes skin very precisely, layer-by-layer by vaporizing it. Lasers remove the outer layer of your skin – the epidermis – and heats the underlying layer, called the dermis. The lasers stimulate the growth of new collagen fibers resulting in new skin that is smoother and firmer. This popular procedure is known by several other names, including lasabrasion, laser peel or laser vaporization.
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You may be an ideal candidate for laser skin resurfacing if you have:
You may not be a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing if you have:
There are two forms of laser resurfacing. First there’s carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium lasers. These lasers create a uniform injury to your skin in the treatment area. The other form of laser resurfacing is called fractionated CO2 laser treatment. Fractionated CO2 laser resurfacing involves using the laser to drill numerous narrow columns of holes deep into the layers of your skin, but with the surrounding skin remaining untreated and intact.
CO2 laser resurfacing
CO2 laser resurfacing has been used for years to treat different benign and malignant skin conditions. A newer generation of CO2 laser resurfacing uses very short pulsed light energy (ultrapulsed) or continuous light beams that are delivered in a scanning pattern to very precisely remove thin layers of skin with minimal heat damage to the surrounding structures.
CO2 laser resurfacing has been successfully used to treat wrinkles and scars as well as other benign skin growths such as warts, birthmarks, rhinophyma (enlarged oil glands on the nose), and other skin conditions.
Recovery time with CO2 laser resurfacing is up to two weeks.
Erbium laser resurfacing
Erbium laser resurfacing is designed to remove superficial and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on your face and should require only local anesthetic. This laser can also be used on your hands, neck or chest. One of the benefits of erbium laser resurfacing is minimal injury of surrounding tissue. This laser causes fewer side effects than CO2 lasers, such as swelling, bruising and redness, so your recovery time should be more rapid.
If you have a darker skin tone, erbium laser resurfacing may be a good choice for you.
Recovery time with erbium laser resurfacing is one full week.
Fractional laser resurfacing
Because fractional CO2 laser resurfacing delivers many narrow columns of laser light to your skin, much of your skin is not injured. Your skin tightens as the collagen between the treated laser holes contracts. The benefit of this type of laser is that less skin is injured. The risk is that because the laser light penetrates more deeply than other lasers, there’s a greater risk of complicated healing and scarring.
Recovery time with fractional laser resurfacing is one full week.
Your doctor will determine which type of laser resurfacing treatment is best for you after a full evaluation of your medical history, current physical condition and desired results.
In general, all forms of laser resurfacing are performed on an outpatient basis, using local anesthesia in combination with orally or intravenously administered sedative medications. Wrinkles around the eyes, mouth or forehead may be treated individually, or a full-face laserabrasion may be performed. Here is what to expect during and after resurfacing:
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You should see an immediate difference in your treated skin. Depending on the laser treatment, your skin may stay pink or red for a few months. Your skin may continue to improve up to a year and the improvement may last for several years. Normal aging will eventually lead to new wrinkles, which can be treated with laser resurfacing again.
You should avoid the sun as much as possible and apply sunscreen every day.
Insurance does not cover laser resurfacing because it is an elective cosmetic surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/22/2021.
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