How Laser Skin Resurfacing Works

Laser skin resurfacing and little to no risk of laser scars. Skin laser treatments are available through dermatologists, skin health centers, medical spas or cosmetic surgery facilities.

Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing

Also known as “laser peeling,” this is the oldest type of skin laser therapy. Doctors use ablative lasers to vaporize the top layer of skin, tightening the face and correcting lines, wrinkles, scars,

entire skin surface, doctors use a CO2 laser or the Fraxel, a laser created specifically for this therapy, to burn millions of microscopic columns into the skin. These tiny dots only make up about 20 percent of the skin surface and are surrounded by the 80 percent of skin left unaffected by the laser. The undamaged skin cells help the treated areas recover more quickly, creating immediate skin tightening and promoting production of new collagen within the skin. Your appearance will continue to improve during the months following treatment.

Recovery from a fractional (Fraxel) laser treatment is rapid and simple, taking only a few days and requiring relatively little care and attention. Dermatologists usually recommend three to five treatments for best results, spaced a week or more apart. Fractional (Fraxel) laser resurfacing can be used to treat the face, neck, chest, abdomen, and arms. Expect to pay about $1,500 for a facial treatment and about $1,000 for a neck treatment.

Non-Ablative Laser Treatment

These lasers impact cells in the lower layers of the skin, but leave the skin surface intact. The goal is to promote collagen production and the growth of new skin cells in the dermis (the lower layer of the skin), which can improve skin tone and help treat lighter scars and wrinkles. However, non-ablative lasers cannot remove spots caused by sun damage because they don’t affect the skin’s surface layers.

The two types of non-ablative lasers, the SmoothBeam laser and the CoolTouch laser, use infrared light to penetrate deep inside the skin, while a cooling liquid is sprayed on the surface skin to soothe and reduce damage. Treatments last about a half-hour, and doctors recommend between four to six treatments for best results. Because the target is beneath the surface, changes are more slow and subtle, and it can take months for patients to notice a difference. Facial treatments cost between $400 and $600.

Alternatives to Skin Lasers

Other rejuvenating procedures have been developed to affect and improve the skin surface:

Radiofrequency treatments. Commonly known as Thermage or ThermaCool, this form of skin treatment does not use a skin laser. Instead, radio waves penetrate the surface skin and heat the deeper layers of skin cells. This causes the skin cells and collagen to contract, tightening the skin. Radiofrequency is best at tightening sagging skin on parts of the body including the cheeks, jowls, brows, hands, feet, and abdomen. It cannot be used to treat fine lines or sun damage, and results are less predictable than they are with laser treatments. A full-face treatment typically costs $5,000, while it’s usually $3,000 for the lower face or $2,000 for the upper face only. Treatment takes an hour or two. Patients normally need only one


Plasma skin regeneration. This non-laser technique is similar to ablative skin laser resurfacing in that the outer layer of skin is removed. However, the doctor uses a stream of plasma — ionized nitrogen gas — to remove skin cells. This approach treats fine lines and wrinkles, improves skin tone, and diminishes spots caused by sun damage. Plasma skin regeneration may take one or more treatments, and recovery is usually three to four days. High-energy treatments cost between $4,000 and $6,000, while repeated low-energy treatments cost about $1,500 each.

The most effective skin procedure for you depends on exactly what type of rejuvenation you’re looking for, from overall freshening to removing birthmarks or age spots to softening wrinkles. A consultation with a skilled dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon will uncover the best choice for your complexion.

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