Laser Resurfacing


laser resurfacing procedure

Although typically expensive, laser resurfacing is a very useful skin treatment method for the removal of a wide variety of skin conditions and disorders. Always requiring a trained professional, this type of treatment uses a laser to destroy dead skin cells, remove blemishes and improve the quality and tone of your skin.

Laser resurfacing can often require intensive pre and post operation routines to prepare the skin for removal but the actual procedure has not been known to have many lasting harmful effects on the skin.

There have been a few cases of scarring and tissue damage due to negligence or improper equipment use but these cases are in the minority with thousands of successful treatments undergone each year.

However, in most cases, laser resurfacing is not painful and sessions do not require a large time commitment. Hence, laser resurfacing is a non surgical procedure that is performed on an out patient basis.

How does Laser Resurfacing work?


Laser resurfacing works much like microdermabrasion in that it is used to remove dead skin and scar tissue from the surface but in a much faster and more effective way. A laser can be controlled to penetrate the skin as much as needed to remove blemishes and other undesirable skin conditions. Laser resurfacing can either work to tighten or remove skin by using thousands of light beams to heat or dissolve any unwanted tissue.

As the pulses of light are emitted into the layers of skin, they are absorbed by water and other nutrients that are referred to as chromophores. As soon as these nutrients absorb the light energy, it is changed into heat and allows for the destruction of very tiny sections of skin and other materials. This process stimulates the growth of new skin rather than scar tissue. There are several different types of lasers that can be used for laser resurfacing:

  1. CO2: This most common type of laser in laser resurfacing is most valuable in surface work like the removal of scars and blemishes.

  2. Erbium: These lasers are the types that are uses to tighten skin through heat energy rather than destroying tissue. As a general rule, these lasers are less invasive than other types.

  3. Q Switched: This type of laser is specifically used for the removal of tattoos from skin. Recovery times from this laser may be longer if tattoos are removed from the neck, hands or chest as these areas typically take longer to heal than areas such as the face.

The length of each laser resurfacing session depends largely on the size of the area that is being addressed. While some sessions that only target portions of the face can take from 35-40 minutes, sessions that involve laser treatment of the entire face may take up to 2 or 3 hours.

Advantages of Laser Resurfacing


  1. Depending on the type of laser used during the procedure, recovery times are generally short.

  2. Laser resurfacing usually yields results immediately in the treatment of skin conditions.

  3. This type of skin treatment typically results in less bleeding than many other surgical methods of resurfacing.

  4. After treatment, the results of laser resurfacing normally last up to an average of 3 years. Proper skin care and a daily cleansing routine can extend this period.

  5. Laser resurfacing has been shown to be particularly effective in the reduction of wrinkles due to aging.

  6. Laser resurfacing is usually done in a very controlled medical environment by skilled professionals. For this reason, serious side effects or injuries are quite rare.

Disadvantages of Laser Resurfacing


laser resurfacing procedure
  1. Although a non-surgical skin treatment, laser resurfacing is still an invasive treatment that can trigger a negative reaction in patients that is unavoidable.

  2. Laser resurfacing has not been known to be very effective in the reduction of wrinkles caused by movement of the face.

    In cases where it was effective, the time it took for the wrinkles to return was much shorter than the time it took age induced wrinkles to recur.

  3. Individuals with darker complexions and skin color are particularly prone to loss of skin pigmentation and discoloration due to laser resurfacing.

  4. Laser resurfacing is very expensive. While the average cost is around $2,300, it is not uncommon for physicians to charge as much as $18,000 for extensive treatment.

    In addition, some procedures require multiple sessions that can easily add up to more than $10,000.

  5. A recent survey revealed that only 64% of people that underwent laser resurfacing were happy with their results. In the 36% of people that were unhappy, 20% claimed that it ruined their skin or features by scarring or changing skin tone.

  6. Although widely tested, laser resurfacing is still in its infancy. Often results are unreliable and procedures are risky.

  7. Among the people that should not get laser resurfacing are those that wish to use it for the reduction of stretch marks and individuals that are still experiencing acne on the areas that they wish to target with the treatment.

Side effects of Laser Resurfacing


Some side effects of laser resurfacing are relatively mild while others can be quite severe. A few common side effects that arose during a recent survey included:

  • 100% of the patients experienced erythema (a redness of the skin).

  • 100% experienced mild discomfort.

  • 2.8% experienced pain.

  • 90% experienced an itching sensation.

  • 80% experienced tiny white bubbles on the skin (milia).

  • 2.9% were left with scars.

  • 18% lost significant skin color in the treated areas.

All of the patients in the study received the same preparatory treatments before the procedure that included hydroquinine solution, retinoic acid cream and dicloxacillin. This same routine was followed after the procedure in addition to a basic skin cleansing routine. Interestingly, this study concluded with no incidents of infection. This fact could largely be attributed to the drug regimen administered before and after the procedure.

The importance of using a professional


While far less common than in other non-surgical treatments, there are some institutions that offer cheaper laser resurfacing treatments with equipment not endorsed by the American Medical Association and without trained professionals. While it can be tempting to save money on such an expensive procedure, it is important to seek endorsed medical institutions when considering laser resurfacing.

The majority of serious accidents that occur during laser resurfacing treatments occur in an unlicensed setting. Scars and tissue damage left by improper equipment can be disfiguring and require further treatment or surgery to correct.

Is Laser Resurfacing right for you?


laser resurfacing procedure

While the removal of skin with lasers can be risky, laser resurfacing has been shown to yield fast and painless results in many cases. The main deterrent to laser treatments is their cost.

For some applications, such as tattoo removal, laser resurfacing is one of the few reliable options. There are far more instances of loss of skin pigmentation in people with darker skin but this loss has often been shown to return within a period 0f 6-8 months.

Always consult your physician to decide whether or not laser resurfacing is the best treatment for your condition. Health insurance will often cover laser resurfacing for the removal of pre-cancerous material.

In addition, financing is usually available for purely cosmetic reasons for seeking this type of treatment. With thousands of successful operations occurring each year, laser resurfacing is quickly becoming one of the most popular and successful forms of skin treatment in the United States.