- Laser Resurfacing Center
- Antiaging Tips & Secrets to Look Younger Slideshow
- Cosmetic Surgery Slideshow Pictures
- Skin Quiz: Test Your Skin IQ
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
- What is laser resurfacing?
- Who is a good candidate for laser resurfacing?
- How does laser skin resurfacing work?
- What is CO2 laser resurfacing?
- What is erbium laser resurfacing?
- What happens before laser resurfacing?
- What happens during and after laser resurfacing?
- What are the possible complications of laser resurfacing?
- Will my insurance cover the cost of laser resurfacing?
The technique directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin, precisely removing skin layer by layer. This popular procedure is also called lasabrasion, laser peel, or laser vaporization.
Who Is a Good Candidate For Laser Resurfacing?
If you have fine lines or wrinkles around your eyes or mouth or on your forehead, shallow scars from acne, or non-responsive skin after a facelift, then you may be a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing.
If you have active acne or if you have very dark skin, you may not be a candidate. This technique is also not recommended for stretch marks. You should discuss whether laser resurfacing is right for you by consulting with the doctor before having the procedure done.
How Does Laser Skin Resurfacing Work?
The two types of lasers most commonly used in laser resurfacing are carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium. Each laser vaporizes skin cells damaged at the surface-level.
CO2 Laser Resurfacing
The newest version of CO2 laser resurfacing uses very short pulsed light energy (known as ultrapulse) or continuous light beams that are delivered in a scanning pattern to remove thin layers of skin with minimal heat damage. Recovery takes up to two weeks.
Quick GuideCosmetic Surgery: Before and After Photos of Cosmetic Surgeries
Erbium Laser Resurfacing
Erbium laser resurfacing is designed to remove surface-level and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on the face, hands, neck, or chest. One of the benefits of erbium laser resurfacing is minimal burning of surrounding tissue. This laser causes fewer side effects -- such as swelling, bruising, and redness -- so your recovery time should be faster than with CO2 laser resurfacing. In some cases, recovery may only take one week Ask your doctor how long recovery is likely to take for you.
If you have a darker skin tone, erbium laser resurfacing may work better for you.
Preparing for Laser Resurfacing
Start by consulting a plastic surgeon or dermatologist to find out if you're a good candidate. Be sure to choose a doctor who has documented training and experience in laser skin resurfacing. The doctor will determine which laser treatment is best for you after considering your medical history, current health, and desired results.
If you decide to go ahead with laser skin resurfacing, your doctor will ask you to avoid taking any medications or supplements that can affect clotting -- such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or vitamin E -- for 10 days before surgery.
If you smoke, you should stop for two weeks before and after the procedure. Smoking can prolong healing.
What to Expect
Generally, laser resurfacing is an outpatient procedure, meaning there is no overnight stay.
The doctor may treat individual wrinkles around your eyes, mouth, or forehead or treat your entire face. For small areas, the doctor will numb the areas to be treated with a local anesthetic. The doctor may also sedate you. You may get general anesthesia if your whole face is being treated.
If the doctor is just treating parts of your face, the procedure will take about 30 to 45 minutes. A full-face treatment takes up to two hours.
Following the laser procedure, the doctor will bandage the treated area. Starting 24 hours after treatment, you will need to clean the treated area four to five times a day. Then you'll need to apply an ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to prevent scabs from forming. This wound care is intended to prevent any scab formation. In general, the areas heal in 10 to 21 days, depending on the condition that was treated.
It's normal to have swelling after laser skin resurfacing. Your doctor may prescribe steroids to manage swelling around your eyes. Sleeping on an extra pillow at night can help ease swelling. Putting an ice pack on the treated area also helps in the first 24 to 48 hours after laser resurfacing.
You may feel itching or stinging for 12 to 72 hours after the procedure. Five to seven days after laser resurfacing, your skin will become dry and peel.
Once the skin heals, you can wear oil-free makeup to minimize redness, which usually fades in two to three months.
You will probably notice that your skin is lighter for a while after surgery. It is particularly important that you use a "broad-spectrum" sunscreen, which screens ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays, to protect your skin during that time. When selecting a sunscreen, look for one specially formulated for use on the face. It should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 or higher.
It is also important to keep your new skin well moisturized. If you use Retin A or glycolic acid products, you should be able to start using them again about six weeks after the procedure or when the doctor says you can.
Once the treated areas have healed, you can wear makeup to hide the pink to red color that is typically seen after laser skin resurfacing. Green-based make-ups are particularly suitable for this camouflage since they neutralize the red color. Oil-free make-ups are recommended after laser resurfacing. The redness in the laser treated sites generally fades in two to three months. But it may take as long as six months for the redness to completely disappear. Redness generally lasts longer in people with fair skin.
People with darker skin tones are more likely to get darker pigmentation. This may be minimized by using a bleaching agent before and after laser skin resurfacing.
Complications of Laser Skin Resurfacing
Although skin resurfacing cannot produce perfect skin, it can improve the appearance of your skin. Potential risks of the procedure include:
- Burns or other injuries from the laser's heat
- Changes in the skin's pigmentation, including areas of darker or lighter skin
- Reactivating herpes cold sores
- Bacterial infection
Cost of Laser Skin Resurfacing
In 2011, the national average cost for laser skin resurfacing was about $2,300, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. However, costs vary widely depending on where the procedure is being done.
Because laser skin resurfacing is considered a cosmetic procedure, most medical insurance companies will not cover it. There may be an exception if you get the procedure to modify scars or remove precancerous growths on your skin.
Talk with your doctor and your insurance company before the procedure about what the costs will be and what, if anything, insurance will pay for. Most doctors offer financing options.
WebMD Medical Reference
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Skin Care & Conditions Newsletter
American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on June 26, 2012
Top Laser Resurfacing Related Articles
Acne PictureExactly what causes acne? Acne develops when cells and natural oils begin to block up tiny hair follicles in the skin. See a picture of Acne and learn more about the health topic.
Beauty Product DangersLearn the truth about beauty product dangers. Hair straighteners, dyes, shampoos, creams, and cosmetics are bad for your health. Learn the options for those who want fewer and gentler chemicals in their beauty products.
Birthmarks SlideshowBirthmarks can appear on the head, over the eye, or anywhere on the skin. To learn more about birthmarks explore this medical image gallery. Get information about birthmark pigmentation, color changes and health risks of birthmarks.
Blepharoplasty (Eyelid Surgery)Eyelid surgery, also called blepharoplasty, is a cosmetic procedure in which drooping of the lower and/or upper eyelids is reduced by removing excess skin, muscle, and fat. Complications of the procedure include bleeding, infection, dry eyes, an inability to fully close the eyes, eyelid skin that folds in or out abnormally, abnormal skin discoloration of the eyelids, and a pulled-down lower lid lash line or a possible loss of vision.
Chemical PeelChemical peels are performed to reduce fine lines, treat wrinkles, improve the appearance of mild scarring, treat some types of acne, and reduce age spots. During the treatment, a chemical solution is applied to the skin. The skin blisters and eventually peels off.
Cosmetic Surgery PicsThinking about getting plastic surgery? Check out before and after pictures of popular cosmetic surgery procedures, including: liposuction, tummy tuck, breast implants, rhinoplasty (nose job), neck lift, and more.
DermabrasionDermabrasion involves freezing and then sanding the skin. Dermabrasion improves the appearance of scars and other skin conditions, such as wrinkles and skin lesions. Possible side effects include darkening of the skin, scarring, infection, and uneven changes in skin color.
Herpes Simplex Infections (Non-Genital)Herpes simplex infections are common and when they appear around the mouth and lips, people often refer to them as "cold sores" and "fever blisters." Canker sores are different than cold sores. Air droplets can spread the virus, as can direct contact with the fluid from the blisters. Cold sore treatment include over-the-counter medication, as well as prescription medications.
ItchItching can be a common problem. Itches can be localized or generalized. There are many causes of itching to include: infection (jock itch, vaginal itch), disease (hyperthyroidism, liver or kidney), reactions to drugs, and skin infestations (pubic or body lice). Treatment for itching varies depending on the cause of the itch.
KeloidA keloid is a scar that doesn't know when to stop. When the cells keep on reproducing, the result is an overgrown (hypertrophic) scar or a keloid. A keloid looks shiny and is often dome-shaped, ranging in color from slightly pink to red. It feels hard and thick and is always raised above the surrounding skin.
LiposuctionLiposuction is a surgical procedure that removes excess fat that is difficult to get rid of with diet and exercise. Liposuction does not prevent weight regain. Liposuction has a good safety record; risks of the procedure include infection and skin discoloration.
MicrodermabrasionMicrodermabrasion is a skin-exfoliating treatment that may improve the condition of acne scars and fine wrinkles. Skin should feel softer and smoother after microdermabrasion. Side effects may include skin tightness, redness, fine broken blood vessels, and minor bruising.
Skin Cancer OverviewSkin cancers occur when skin cells undergo malignant transformations and grow into tumors. The most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are highly curable when they are diagnosed and treated early. Sun exposure, tanning beds, depressed immune system, radiation exposure, and certain viral infections are risk factors for skin cancer. Skin cancers are treated with surgery or radiation. The prognosis of nonmelanoma skin cancers is generally very good.
15 Tips for Clear SkinAcne, pimples, zits and blemishes often appear on the face, back, chest, neck, and shoulders where skin has the most amount of oil glands. Few of us are immune to breakouts, but treatments can minimize outbreaks. Follow these 15 tips for a clear complexion and skin.
Warts (Common Warts)Common warts are skin growths causes by the human papillomavirus. There are many types of warts, including plantar warts, common hand warts, warts under the nails, mosaic wars, and flat warts. Over-the-counter treatments typically involve the use of salicylic acid products.