During the procedure, the treatment area is first cleansed. Next, a laser head is passed over the treatment area in a series of horizontal and vertical overlapping passes. Most patients experience a mild prickling or burning sensation during the process. In some cases, the doctor will apply a topical anesthetic beforehand, or apply a cooling mechanism during treatment. The procedure typically takes 20 to 25 minutes. The fractional lasers used in non-ablative resurfacing use lower energy levels than ablative lasers, which resurface or remove the outer layer of skin completely. Fractional lasers treat the layers of skin under the surface without damaging the surface.
Heat from the laser promotes collagen production, which helps reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. The results, however, are less pronounced than the more aggressive approach of ablative laser resurfacing.