Ablative laser resurfacing can cause various side effects, including:
- Itching, swelling and redness. After ablative laser resurfacing, treated skin will be itchy, swollen and red. Itching and swelling won't last long, but redness — the degree of which is related to the depth of resurfacing done — can be intense and might last for several months. The aggravation of a previously existing skin condition, such as rosacea or contact dermatitis, also 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 normal (hyperpigmentation) or lighter than normal (hypopigmentation). Hyperpigmentation is more common in people who have darker skin. The first signs of hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation typically occur weeks after treatment and might go away without treatment. Use of topical retinoic acid or glycolic acid can help treat hyperpigmentation after the treated area has healed. Hypopigmentation that persists is difficult to treat.
- Scarring. Ablative laser resurfacing poses a slight risk of permanent scarring.
- Turning of the eyelid (ectropion). Rarely, ablative laser resurfacing near the lower eyelid can cause the eyelid to turn out and expose the inner surface. Surgery is needed to correct the problem.
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. If you have darker skin, nonablative laser resurfacing can cause your skin to become temporarily darker (hyperpigmentation).
- Mild swelling and redness. Swelling and redness typically last only hours or days.
- Blistering and scarring. Rarely, nonablative laser resurfacing can cause blistering or scarring.
Laser resurfacing isn't for everyone. Your doctor might caution against laser resurfacing if you:
Nov. 30, 2016
- Have taken the acne medication isotretinoin (Amnesteem, others) during the past year
- Have diabetes, a connective tissue or autoimmune disease, or a weak immune system
- Have a history of radiation therapy to your face
- Have a history of ridged areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue (keloids)
- Are pregnant or breast-feeding
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=56107890. Accessed Nov. 13, 2013.
- Roy D. Ablative facial resurfacing. Dermatologic Clinics. 2005;23:549.
- Alexiades-Armenakas MR, et al. The spectrum of laser skin resurfacing: Nonablative, fractional and ablative laser resurfacing. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2008;58:719.
- Skin rejuvenation and resurfacing: Beauty for life. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Patients_and_Consumers/Procedures/Cosmetic_Procedures/Skin_Rejuvenation_and_Resurfacing.html. Accessed Nov 13, 2013.
- Laser skin rejuvenation. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/laser_skin_rejuvenation.html. Accessed Nov. 13, 2013.
- Laser therapy. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. http://www.asds.net/LaserResurfacingInformation.aspx. Accessed Nov. 13, 2013.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=56108129. Accessed Nov. 13, 2013.
- Facial peels and laser surgery. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. http://www.aafprs.org/patient/procedures/resurfacing.html. Accessed Nov. 13, 2013.
- Doherty SD, et al. A paradigm for facial skin rejuvenation. Facial Plastic Surgery. 2009;25:245.
- Brewer JD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 21, 2013.