Laser Resurfacing

What is laser resurfacing?

Laser resurfacing is a procedure that uses a laser to improve the appearance of skin or treat minor facial flaws by removing layers of skin. The two most common types of resurfacing lasers are:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): This type of laser is used to treat wrinkles, scars, warts and other conditions.
  • Erbium: This type of laser is used to remove superficial and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on the face, hands, neck and chest. It causes fewer side effects than CO2 lasers.

Laser Resurfacing

Stefani Kappel, MD, talks about the benefits of laser resurfacing.

What should first be done before considering laser resurfacing?

An ASDS member dermatologist will review your medical history, conduct a physical exam and discuss your expectations. Patients who have a history of herpes infections will be prescribed an antiviral medication before and after treatment to prevent viral infection. An oral antibiotic may be prescribed to prevent bacterial infection. Patients may be asked to apply a topical retinoid on their skin for about four weeks before the procedure. Excessive sun exposure should be avoided.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

John Q. Binhlam, MD, discusses laser skin resurfacing.

When is laser resurfacing appropriate?

Who is not a candidate for laser resurfacing?

Patients who have active acne or very dark skin usually are not good candidates for laser resurfacing.

Is laser resurfacing painful?

Before (left) and after (right) fractionated ablative CO2 resurfacing - wrinkles - photoaging
Photo courtesy of D. Wu

Before (left) and after (right) fractionated ablative CO2 resurfacing - wrinkles - photoaging
Photo courtesy of D. Wu

Medication is often given to help the patient relax during the procedure and to reduce pain. Topical anesthetics are used to numb small treatment areas. For larger treatments, a nerve block or conscious sedation may be utilized.

What are the potential complications of laser resurfacing?

  • Swelling
  • Burning sensation
  • Itching
  • Scarring
  • Pigmentation issues
  • Infection
  • Bumps due to obstruction of sweat glands

What can I expect after having had laser resurfacing?

Before (left) and after (right) fractionated CO2 ablative laser resurfacing
Photo courtesy of J. Waibel

Before (left) and after (right) - fractionated ablative CO2 laser
Photo courtesy of J. Waibel

Treated areas usually are dressed for healing after the procedure. Patients will be required to soak, apply ointment and re-dress the treatment area daily. Healing takes three to 10 days, depending on the depth of the resurfacing and type of laser used.