Tests and Procedures
Ablative laser resurfacing can cause various side effects, including:
- Redness, swelling and itching. Treated skin may be itchy, swollen and red. Redness may be intense and might last for several months. The aggravation of a previously existing skin condition, such as rosacea, can contribute to redness.
- Acne. Applying thick creams and bandages to your face after treatment can worsen acne or cause you to temporarily develop tiny white bumps (milia) on treated skin.
- Infection. Ablative laser resurfacing can lead to a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. The most common infection is a flare-up of the herpes virus — the virus that causes cold sores. In most cases, the herpes virus is already present but dormant in the skin.
- Changes in skin color. Ablative laser resurfacing can cause treated skin to become darker than it was before treatment (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation), beginning weeks after laser resurfacing. Permanent changes in skin color are more common in people who have darker skin.
- Scarring. Ablative laser resurfacing poses a slight risk of permanent scarring.
- Turning of the eyelid (ectropion). Rarely, ablative laser resurfacing done near the lower eyelid can cause the eyelid to turn out and expose the inner surface.
Nonablative laser resurfacing also can cause side effects, including:
- Infection. Nonablative laser resurfacing can cause a flare-up of the herpes virus.
- Changes in skin color. Nonablative laser resurfacing can cause treated skin to become temporarily darker than it was before treatment (hyperpigmentation).
- Mild swelling and redness. Swelling and redness typically last only hours or days.
Laser resurfacing isn't for everyone. Your doctor might caution against laser resurfacing if you:
- Have taken the acne medication isotretinoin (Claravis, Myorisan, Zenatane) during the previous year
- Have an autoimmune disease or a weak immune system
- Have a tendency to form scars
- Have had radiation therapy to the face
- Are prone to cold sores or have had a recent outbreak of cold sores or herpes virus
- Have a darker skin tone
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding