What you can expect

During the procedure

Ablative laser resurfacing is an outpatient procedure. Your doctor will numb your skin with local anesthetics. For extensive resurfacing, such as treatment to your whole face, you might be sedated.

During ablative laser resurfacing, an intense beam of light energy (laser) is directed at your skin. The laser beam destroys the outer layer of skin (epidermis). At the same time, the laser heats the underlying skin (dermis), which causes collagen fibers to shrink. As the wound heals, new skin forms that's smoother and tighter. Ablative laser resurfacing typically takes between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on the technique used and the size of the area treated.

Nonablative laser resurfacing can be done in your doctor's office. Your doctor will protect your eyes and numb your skin with a topical anesthetic one hour before treatment. If you're having fractional photothermolysis, you might need additional pain relief. To protect the outer layer of your skin, your doctor will apply a water-based gel. The laser damages collagen beneath your skin and stimulates the growth of new collagen, tightening underlying skin and improving skin tone and appearance. No skin is removed.

Nonablative laser resurfacing typically takes between 15 minutes and 1 1/2 hours, depending on the technique used and size of the area treated. A series of treatments is typically scheduled over the course of weeks or months.

After the procedure

After ablative laser resurfacing, the treated skin will be raw, swollen and itchy. Your doctor will apply a thick ointment to the treated skin and might cover the area with an airtight and watertight dressing. To relieve pain, take an over-the-counter pain reliever and apply ice packs. Your doctor will explain how to care for your skin. You might prefer to remain home while you heal. Once new skin completely covers the treated area — usually after one or two weeks depending on the depth of resurfacing and type of laser — you can use cosmetics to conceal any redness.

After nonablative laser resurfacing, your skin might be temporarily red or swollen. Use ice packs as needed. You can apply makeup and resume your normal activities immediately.

June 27, 2017
References
  1. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Ablative lasers, chemical peels, and dermabrasion. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Dec. 20, 2016.
  2. Laser therapy. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. http://www.asds.net/LaserResurfacingInformation.aspx. Accessed Dec. 20, 2016.
  3. Flint PW, et al. Management of aging skin. In: Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 30, 2017.
  4. Skin rejuvenation and resurfacing. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/skin-rejuvenation-and-resurfacing. Accessed Dec. 20, 2016.
  5. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Cosmetic applications of nonablative lasers and other light devices. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Dec. 20, 2016.
  6. Brown AY. Allscripts EPSi and RRIS. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 17, 2016.
  7. Casey WJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 8, 2017.