You can use facial lasers to treat skin problems such as wrinkles, brown spots and acne scars in a procedure called resurfacing. Unlike many other skin treatments, no bleeding or bruising is involved, and laser treatments tend to be more affordable than microdermabrasion and chemical peels. Side effects associated with laser resurfacing include sensitive skin and burns, redness that can last months and swelling that remains for weeks, whitening or blotchy skin that eventually disappears.
The CO2 laser is an ablative laser and, according to the Mayo Clinic, "Ablative lasers remove the top layer of the skin (epidermis)." Because this treatment essentially burns off the outer, damaged layers of your skin, you typically see significant results after just one treatment. CO2 laser can be used over your entire face, in which case you will likely need to undergo general anesthesia, or to treat specific areas, requiring only a local anesthetic at the treatment site. While you may have to wait four months for your skin to heal completely, your results typically last five to seven years.
The erbium laser is a gentler form of ablative laser appropriate for less pronounced wrinkles and fine lines. Because erbium treatments are less invasive, you can expect less downtime. "Recovery time for treatment with the CO2 laser is typically two weeks; the erbium laser requires a recovery of only about one week," states the website DocShop.com. In addition, redness following erbium treatments persists one to four weeks, while redness after CO2 treatments can last up to four months. "Interestingly, as much as everyone hates to be red, the longer you are red, the better your final result," reports the website Infoplasticsurgery.com. Ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to determine which ablative laser is right for you.
Fraxel is an example of a non-ablative laser, also known as fractionated laser. Unlike the ablative lasers, non-ablative lasers target only small areas of skin and leave the surrounding area alone, which results in a significantly shortened recovery time following the procedure. Because fraxel is relatively noninvasive, you will need a series of treatments before you see improvements and the results only last up to three years. Non-ablative lasers are good for candidates requiring minimal downtime.