Laser skin resurfacing removes the outer layer of skin and heats the underlying layer to stimulate growth of new collagen fibers. During this process, damaged skin cells on the outer layer are stripped away, leaving a new layer of healthy skin to grow. If small sections of the face are being addressed, the procedure will typically take about 45 minutes. A full-face treatment, or larger areas of skin, can take up to 2 hours. Multiple sessions are sometimes needed to attain the desired results.
Ablation vs. Non-Ablation
Laser skin resurfacing is either ablative or non-ablative. During an ablative procedure, an intense beam of laser light energy is directed at the skin, removing the outer thin layers. This process generally results in a longer recovery. The results, however, can be a bit more dramatic. A non-ablative laser does not remove any layers of skin. Instead, it stimulates the growth of collagen, which helps tighten underlying skin. This process offers a lighter recovery. Results will not be immediate, but appear over the course of multiple appointments.
Considered the gold standard among many practitioners is CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser resurfacing. This is an ablative method, which removes both the epidermis and some of the underlying dermis to promote collagen growth so new, healthy skin can thrive. Examples include the Sciton Laser Skin Resurfacing System, the UltraPulse CO2 and the Fraxel repair (fractional CO2) lasers. These are newer generation lasers that deliver short-pulse light energy as well as continuous light beams to produce customized results for each patient’s specific needs.