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Laser resurfacing has become one of the most popular, effective cosmetic procedures. You can choose from a variety of laser procedures, and with the appropriate treatment, you can improve your skin quickly. With promises to reduce fine lines and age spots, firm sagging skin, and fade hyperpigmentation, this relatively non-invasive technology seems like a gadget in a sci-fi movie. Like any surgical procedure, however, laser resurfacing has some downsides you’ll want to be mindful of. 

What is laser resurfacing?

Laser stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” and is a relatively non-invasive skin treatment. The procedure is quick and almost entirely painless, and a cosmetic surgeon, dermatologist, or trained skin specialist performs it.

Many types of laser resurfacing treatments exist, including Fraxl, IPL, C02, Erbium, and more, depending on the laser type and brand name. But regardless of the name, they all fall under two types of laser resurfacing treatments: ablative and non-ablative.

Ablative skin resurfacing

Ablative lasers are a minimally-invasive laser resurfacing treatment, meaning they penetrate the skin using a laser. Ablative lasers physically remove skin cells from the surface and intentionally cause micro damage to the skin. Injuring the skin triggers the skin’s healing response, and the cells work quickly and efficiently to regenerate and repair those damaged cells. Skin is left looking and feeling healthier and more radiant. Ablative laser is an effective procedure that can be performed over several treatments and usually lasts a few years.

Non-ablative skin resurfacing

Non-ablative laser resurfacing is a non-invasive procedure in which light and heat stimulate collagen production. Stimulating these cells causes thermal damage to the dermis (the second layer of the skin), without causing any damage or harm to the skin’s surface. This technique helps improve the skin’s tone, texture, and appearance, treating concerns deeper in the skin. Because of their non-invasive nature, non-ablative lasers usually require more treatments to see results.

What does laser resurfacing treat? 

Laser resurfacing can treat a wide range of skin concerns, from the most common, like fine lines and age spots, to the more complex, such as removing or minimizing growths on the skin’s surface. Depending on your concerns, a cosmetic surgeon will recommend either ablative or non-ablative laser resurfacing.

Ablative lasers can treat and improve surface-level conditions, such as:

  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Age spots
  • Growths
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Surface scarring
  • Large pores
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Texture

Non-ablative lasers treat deeper-level skin concerns, such as:

  • Sagging skin
  • Deeper scarring
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Melasma

If you aren’t sure whether your particular concern can be treated with laser resurfacing, it’s best to make an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon. During your consultation, they will help you determine the best treatment for your concerns and skin goals and prescribe a treatment plan. 

What are the downsides of laser resurfacing?

Laser resurfacing treatments have become popular because of their effectiveness and minimal downtime. But while this procedure is safe and quick, there are several drawbacks to laser resurfacing.

Physical Reaction

Although laser resurfacing is relatively painless, you may experience unpleasant physical reactions. Some symptoms can occur in the treated area, particularly if you’re receiving ablative laser treatments. Some of these symptoms are common, while others are rare. 

More common symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Temporary hyperpigmentation

Rare symptoms include:

  • Scarring
  • Skin discoloration
  • Infection

The common symptoms are of little concern, and generally only last a few hours to a few days. Although the symptoms can be unpleasant and cause mild discomfort, they’re usually not severe enough to require downtime. Symptoms go away on their own, and your dermatologist or technician may suggest ice packs to soothe inflamed skin.

It’s also best to avoid sunlight during the healing process, as it can cause hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration and also prolong the inflammatory symptoms.

The rare symptoms can occur due to several factors, such as an inexperienced or untrained skin specialist or unhygienic aftercare. If you experience any of the rare symptoms, you should contact your cosmetic surgeon as soon as possible.

There’s another drawback to laser resurfacing: not everyone is a good candidate. If you have active acne, for example, a cosmetic surgeon may suggest other treatments to reduce the inflammation before laser resurfacing. In addition, very dark skin is at greater risk of hyperpigmentation, so laser resurfacing may not be recommended. And if you have deep wrinkles or excessive sagging skin, laser resurfacing may not be beneficial to your condition.

Speak to a cosmetic surgeon to find out if you’re a good candidate for laser resurfacing.

Ongoing Treatment

Laser resurfacing is an effective procedure that can produce outstanding results. And while results can happen quickly and last several years, they require multiple visits, and maintaining them will eventually require another treatment.

Anyone considering laser resurfacing should understand that it usually means several months of treatments to get the desired results.

Financial Investment

Laser treatment works effectively, and the results can last several years. But it’s not the most inexpensive treatment available. 

As mentioned, treatments are generally ongoing. So if you’re thinking about laser resurfacing, consider the financial investment you’ll need to make each time you visit the clinic.

Alternatives to laser resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a beneficial skin treatment, but if you’re not ready to take the plunge, consider treating your skin at home with active skincare. While you can’t perform skin resurfacing on your own, some products are available that resurface and regenerate the skin safely.

The Crystal Ball Microdermabrasion Treatment contains volcanic pumice, which works as a manual exfoliant to gently resurface the outermost layer, removing dead skin cells and revealing healthier, more youthful skin. It soothes with green tea, chamomile, and licorice while fortifying the skin’s barrier with lipid-rich plant oils like kukui, borage, and sunflower.

The Fake ID Glycolic Rejuvenating Serum is an excellent choice if you prefer a chemical resurfacer over a manual one. It contains glycolic and lactic acids for effective resurfacing and improvement of your complexion. Rich in centella asiatica extract, this serum revitalizes the skin’s barrier and contains sea whip to keep the skin calm.

For a passive skin resurfacing treatment that works in your sleep, try the All Nighter Age-defying Night Resurfacer. This wonder serum packs a powerful punch with retinol, bioactive peptides, and vitamin A and D derivatives. It also contains advanced BTX, an anti-wrinkle muscle relaxer to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Use a few drops of this serum at night and wake up to a new you every morning.

Closing thoughts

Laser resurfacing has become a popular and common treatment option in just about every cosmetic skin clinic. And even with the downsides, for most people it’s still one of the safest and best procedures to achieve the skin of your dreams. 

Searching for the best skincare routine for healthy, moisturized, and younger-looking skin? Chat with our product professionals on a free, personal call to learn exactly what your skin needs.