Laser resurfacing is a facial rejuvenation procedure that uses a laser to improve the skin's appearance or treat minor facial flaws. It can be done with:
- Ablative laser. This is a wounding laser that removes the thin outer layer of skin (epidermis) and heats the underlying skin (dermis), which stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers. As the epidermis heals and regrows, the treated area appears smoother and tighter. Types of ablative treatments include the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, the erbium laser and combination systems.
- Nonablative laser. This is a nonwounding laser that stimulates collagen growth, which over time helps improve skin tone and texture. This approach can be done with various types of lasers as well as intense pulsed light (IPL) devices. Nonablative laser resurfacing is less invasive and requires less recovery time than does ablative laser resurfacing. But it's less effective.
Both methods can be delivered with a fractional laser, which leaves microscopic columns of untreated tissue throughout the treatment area. Fractional lasers were developed to shorten recovery time and reduce the risk of side effects.
Laser resurfacing can decrease the appearance of fine lines in the face. It can also treat loss of skin tone and improve your complexion if you have scars or sun damage. Laser resurfacing can't eliminate excessive or sagging skin. Understanding the specific techniques, risks and possible results can help you decide if laser resurfacing is right for you.