Everything You Need to Know About Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser Skin Resurfacing

Everything You Need to Know About Laser Skin Resurfacing

What is laser skin resurfacing?

The term “lasers” can seem nebulous; after all, these concentrated beams of energy can be applied to numerous aesthetic treatments (hair removal, vein therapy, and even dentistry). Perhaps the buzziest use, though, is in skin-resurfacing. Often touted as youth-preserving skincare heroes, lasers rely on concentrated beams of energy to resurface skin and/or increase collagen.

Laser Skin Resurfacing FAQS

  • What concerns can lasers address?

    From uneven skin tone to full-blown facial lines, lasers can mitigate a spectrum of skin woes. They can also fade hyperpigmentation, sun spots, freckles, and even reduce the appearance of acne scars. Incidentally, some lasers can be used to remove unwanted tattoos. Although lasers can address faint facial lines by improving overall skin smoothness, they are not used as a targeted wrinkle reduction treatment for deep creases. To smooth the appearance of moderate to severe wrinkles, consider talking to your doctor about other options.

  • What are the different types of lasers?

    There are two main laser categories: non-ablative and ablative. Within these categories, there are numerous brand name lasers, many of which can be toggled between non-ablative and ablative modes.

    Non-ablative lasers
    These lasers work by targeting the tissue beneath the skin. Specifically, they trigger the underlying skin cells to produce collagen and elastin via pulses of laser energy. Ultimately, the increase in these substances can be responsible for fewer fine lines and an overall firmer, clearer-looking complexion.

    Ablative lasers
    This category of laser is significantly more involved than its non-ablative counterpart. Specifically, ablative lasers literally remove the top layer of skin in order to reveal smoother, younger-looking skin beneath. For this reason, ablative lasers are ideal for people who have moderate wrinkles and/or severe sun damage. (Click here to read more about the specific types of skin resurfacing lasers.)

  • Do laser treatments hurt?

    Depending on which laser treatment you undergo and your pain tolerance, the discomfort level can vary. Some are only mildly uncomfortable — similar to the sensation of a rubber band snapping across the skin — whereas others may require a topical numbing cream.

  • How much do laser treatments cost?

    One laser treatment session can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand, depending on the size of the area being treated, your geographic location, the type of laser being used, and the extent of treatment. Note that with some lasers, you will likely need multiple treatments over weeks or months to achieve and/or maintain desired results. (Click here to read more about the different types of lasers and how many treatments you can expect.)

  • What are the risks of laser treatments?

    Although unlikely, hyperpigmentation, burning, scabbing, scarring, infection, and acne or cold sore flare-ups are all possible side effects of any laser treatment. Be sure to ask your doctor about possible risks for your skin type and condition.

  • What outcome can I expect after treatment?

    Immediately after a non-ablative laser treatment, you can expect some skin redness and sensitivity. Note: it is crucial to wear sunscreen after a laser treatment, as your skin is more delicate and susceptible to UV rays. Your face might also feel tight or itchy. After an ablative laser treatment, you can expect swelling, redness, and extreme skin sensitivity. Your provider will instruct you on specific post-care processes, which might include topical products to soothe the skin and help speed recovery time. Because your skin will essentially be raw, you may experience discomfort lasting anywhere from a few days post-treatment to a few weeks (so don’t plan any vigorous excursions at this time!).

Now what?

Schedule a consultation with a licensed aesthetics provider near you.


There are many trained laser specialists, many of whom are dermatologists or plastic surgeons. Of course, it’s crucial to do your research before selecting a credible provider. Regardless of whom you go to, your chosen specialist should always set up a consultation (if they don’t, steer clear). During this consultation, he or she will ask in-depth questions about your skin, your medical history, and your goals and expectations from treatment. Ultimately, the purpose of this conversation is to determine whether you are a candidate for laser treatments, as well as decide which particular laser best suits your goals.


After your provider has cleaned and prepped your face, he or she will give you a pair of goggles (which protect your eyes from potential laser-inflicted damage). Next, your provider will target the treatment area(s) with the laser machine, and you may experience a zapping and/or hot sensation (the intensity depends on the laser). The entire procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the laser and whether you are treating a specific area or your entire face.


As mentioned, ablative laser treatments will require more rigorous post-procedure steps. Your doctor will provide you with specific care instructions (depending on how your skin reacts to treatment). You can expect your skin to feel sensitive and/or red for one or two weeks post-procedure. During this time, it is incredibly important to follow your practitioner’s instructions for cleaning and dressing the treated area(s). For non-ablative lasers, you can return to function as usual almost immediately post-procedure. That said, be sure to check with your doctor about which topical products are approved to use. (Sensitizing ingredients like retinol, for instance, should not be used immediately after your laser procedure.)


For ablative lasers, you may notice a difference immediately or have to wait several weeks — even between a few months or up to a year in some cases — before the full results are visible. (For this reason, it is wise to schedule your laser treatment well in advance of any important events.) Once your skin has healed from treatment, however, it will look significantly clearer — often with fewer visible lines and spots. For non-ablative lasers, results can be immediate or apparent within a few days, though they will be significantly less dramatic than those from an ablative laser, and may continue to improve for up to a year. You may notice smoother-looking skin and fewer hyperpigmentation spots. That said, you may need multiple treatments (usually a few weeks apart) to elicit optimal results. Keep in mind that laser resurfacing is a temporary treatment. As you age, you will continue to form new lines or wrinkles from making expressions that contract your facial muscles, like squinting or frowning. New sun damage can also impede or reverse your results.

Next Steps

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with a certified skin laser provider, chat with our trained aesthetic specialists to find a laser treatment center near you.

Questions about beauty, skincare, and medical aesthetics? Just ask.

Our trained aesthetic specialists are here to help with the personalized answers you want.

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