Laser Skin Resurfacing

Cosmetic plastic surgeons use laser skin resurfacing to address a number of skin lesions. In the procedure, short pulses of laser beams gently remove damaged, scarred or wrinkled layers of skin to reveal smoother, firmer layers beneath.

What You Need to Know

  • Laser skin resurfacing uses beams of light to remove skin layers one at a time. The heat from the laser may stimulate production of collagen, which gives skin its elasticity.
  • The procedure begins with a four- to six-week preparation period, during which the person applies medication to the area that will be treated.
  • Laser skin treatment can address skin growths, birthmarks (including port-wine stains), tattoos, acne scars and discoloration and wrinkling due to aging.
  • Laser resurfacing is most commonly used on the skin of the face and does not work as well on the skin of the hands or body.

Laser Skin Resurfacing: Procedure and Care

Skin resurfacing uses a carbon dioxide (CO2) or erbium laser beam. The facial plastic surgeon may offer a range of methods of applying the laser beams to address different skin lesions, directing the laser to deep or superficial layers of the skin.

The treatment takes place in the doctor’s office or in a surgical center. The surgical team ensures that the patient is comfortable throughout the procedure.

Depending on the extent of the treatment, general anesthesia or sedation and a local anesthesia may be used. Goggles may be worn if needed to protect the patient’s eyes.

As the procedure begins, those under local anesthesia may notice a snapping sound or a slight stinging sensation as the beams vaporize the top layers of skin. Bleeding is usually minimal. The surgeon and team gently dab away the discarded layers of skin and then cover the area with a protective ointment and gauze.

After the Procedure

  • The treated area will take time to heal and is likely to be red, raw and swollen after the procedure.

  • The area may seep clear fluid or develop a crust.

  • Applying ointment for 7 to 10 days will keep the area soft and speed healing.

  • Cold compresses will help ease any discomfort.

  • In one or two weeks, the new skin will emerge in the treatment area.

  • The redness will fade in time. This may take about four weeks, but for deeper resurfacing can take much longer.

It is very important to follow the surgeon’s instructions to prevent infection, control discomfort and ensure the best possible result. This information will include details on keeping the area clean and protected, avoiding extreme temperatures, committing to using sunblock or avoiding sun exposure and using any recommended medications.

Follow-up care with the doctor is vital for monitoring the healing process. The doctor should be notified immediately if there are any unusual symptoms such as fever, excessive pain or bleeding.

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