How to Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing

Three Parts:Deciding if Laser Skin Resurfacing is the Right ChoiceSelecting the Correct Laser TreatmentUndergoing Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing is an effective way to address many skin problems including sun spots, blotches, wrinkles, lines and some cases of acne. There are different methods for administering laser skin resurfacing and they address different degrees of skin problems. Decide if the process is right for you.[1]

Part 1
Deciding if Laser Skin Resurfacing is the Right Choice

  1. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 1
    Determine if you're a good candidate for treatment. Decide if your skin type can be effectively treated by laser resurfacing. Keep in mind that laser skin resurfacing is not a permanent cure for skin problems. Still, it can set the clock back—the treatment’s good effects can last for several years.
    • Of patients surveyed thirty months after receiving skin resurfacing, seventy-five percent were pleased with the results.[2]
    • Pigmentation in darker skin lends itself to absorbing more heat from the laser and is prone to side effects such as blistering or discoloration.[3]
    • Skin imperfections that are minor do not warrant laser skin resurfacing. Other less substantial treatments are appropriate for minor skin problems.
    • Resurfacing is good for minor wrinkles and lines and scarring from acne. However, active acne can present problems in tolerating the process.
    • Liver spots, sun-damaged skin, aging skin and some birth marks are problems that can be addressed by the laser procedure.[4]
    • If you scar easily, you’re not a good candidate for laser resurfacing of large areas of skin.
  2. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 2
    Understand how your medical history impacts the procedure. Your medical background might affect your ability to tolerate the procedure. It could be a factor in how well the procedure works for you.
    • Skin that is not oily is less likely to scar after the procedure.
    • The procedure is best performed on patients who don’t have current medical problems such as a connective skin disorder.
    • If you’re on medication, speak to your doctor. People who are on medications that can cause complications for the procedure might not be good candidates.
    • Acne elevates the risk of infection. So even though acne can be treated by the procedure, it also can pose problems.[5]
    • Tell your doctor if you smoke. Smoking can prolong recovery from the procedure.[6]
  3. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 3
    Make an appointment for a consultation. Select a surgeon based on education and experience. Look for a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. There will be a fee for the consultation. Discuss with your doctor/dermatologist what to expect in terms of the aesthetic improvements to your skin and the recovery period.
    • Be prepared to discuss your medical history including allergies, surgeries and medications.
    • Tell your dermatologist if you’re at risk for cold sores or blisters around your mouth.
    • Discuss past skin treatments that you’ve received.
    • Request a look at photographs of patients who had skin problems similar to yours that were treated by laser skin resurfacing.
    • Ask about the possibility of scarring.
    • Ask your doctor to clarify the risks involved in the procedure.[7]
  4. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 4
    Inquire about the fees for the procedure. Fees will vary in accordance with where you’re having the procedure done. Be aware that medical insurance does not usually cover this type of cosmetic surgery.
    • The average cost of laser skin resurfacing is about two thousand three hundred dollars.
    • There are some cases when insurance might apply, such as for taking out pre-cancerous growths.
    • Inquire about financing. There may be a payment plan offered by your physician.[8]

Part 2
Selecting the Correct Laser Treatment

  1. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 5
    Consider ablative laser resurfacing. Ablative lasers deliver strong bursts of light that peel away layers of skin. The ablative laser process is more invasive than non-ablative laser skin resurfacing.
    • The effects of ablative skin resurfacing are more dramatic than with other resurfacing methods and can last for many years.[9]
    • Ablative laser resurfacing works well on aged skin, deep wrinkling, acne and chickenpox scars.[10]
    • After the procedure the skin will be raw and could ooze and crust. The skin is “wounded” and pain will be present.
    • You’ll need ice packs to reduce swelling and an over-the-counter pain killer.
    • It will take one or two weeks for new skin to cover the resurfaced areas.
    • The risks and side effects from ablative resurfacing include redness and swelling of skin, changes in the color of the skin, acne and infection.[11]
  2. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 6
    Consider non-ablative laser resurfacing. Non-ablative resurfacing is gentler than ablative. It's a non-wounding procedure which targets tissue that's underneath the skin. This process doesn't injure the skin; it stimulates a healing process which creates new skin. Its effects are not as dramatic as the ablative process.
    • Non-ablative laser resurfacing is effective for mild skin problems including moderate wrinkling and stretch marks.
    • You may need ice packs to reduce the redness and swelling of skin, but the swelling is temporary and not as painful as with the ablative procedure.[12]
    • The results of the non-ablative procedure are not immediately noticeable. The improvements to your skin will become visible over a period of several months.
    • This treatment may have to be repeated several times to wholly address the skin problem.
    • The risks of the non-ablative procedure include some swelling and redness of skin and a potential for infection. Darker pigmented skin may become temporarily darker.[13]
  3. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 7
    Consider fractional laser treatment. Fractional lasers focus light on very small areas of the skin. This technique could be thought of as a hybrid between the ablative/non-ablative treatments. It works with the outer layer of skin and the layer beneath and stimulates the formation of collagen.
    • Wrinkling skin, lines in the skin and pigmentation problems can be treated with fractional laser skin resurfacing. The treatment is appropriate for neck, hand and chest areas.
    • Fractional laser treatment is accompanied by some pain. A topical anesthetic may be administered.[14] A cooling device may be used during the procedure to help reduce pain.
    • The treatment process will require subsequent treatments, four to five, and the results will be gradually apparent.
    • The risks and side effects from this process include the possibility of infection, and some swelling and peeling of skin. Most patients tolerate this process well.[15]

Part 3
Undergoing Laser Skin Resurfacing

  1. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 8
    Prepare for the procedure. Many doctors think of this procedure as a type of surgery. It’s not as invasive as conventional surgery, but still requires preparation. Laser skin resurfacing can also have a fairly lengthy recovery process depending on which laser treatment you select.[16]
    • You may be told to refrain from taking medications prior to the procedure.
    • The doctor may ask you not to take vitamin E.
    • You may be given special creams to apply to your skin a few weeks before the resurfacing.
    • An antiviral medication may be prescribed if you’ve suffered from herpes.
    • Your doctor will advise you to refrain from excessive sun exposure.
    • Smokers will have to stop two weeks before the resurfacing date, as smoking extends the healing period.[17]
    • Line up someone who can drive you home from the treatment facility and stay with you on the night of the procedure.[18]
  2. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 9
    Know what to expect from the procedure. The procedure will most likely be performed in the physician's office. It also could be performed in a hospital or ambulatory facility. Laser skin resurfacing is an outpatient procedure.[19]
    • The doctor may provide you with eye shields before the procedure begins.
    • Your heart, blood pressure and pulse may be monitored during the procedure.
    • Small areas of skin are numbed with a local anesthetic .
    • If larger areas of skin are being resurfaced, you might receive a general anesthetic .
    • The time range for the treatment is between 35 minutes and 2 hours, depending on how much of the skin is being resurfaced.[20]
  3. Image titled Choose Laser Skin Resurfacing Step 10
    Recover from resurfacing. The skin resurfacing treatment is an outpatient procedure.[21] Directly after the procedure you'll be taken to a recovery room and monitored. Once you get home, the recovery time will depend on which of the three resurfacing processes you choose.[22]
    • The recovery time for non-ablative laser skin resurfacing is minimal. For the most part, patients can resume work directly after the process.[23]
    • Fractional laser skin resurfacing also has a short recovery period with some swelling for 2-3 days after the process.[24]
    • Ablative laser skin resurfacing has a longer recovery period of about 2-4 weeks. The skin will feel sunburned and require ointment.
    • Ablative treatment will require several follow-up appointments with your physician.[25]


  • Deep treatments with the ablative process are effective for long periods of time.
  • Superficial treatments may require repeated procedures. [26]


  • Accutane® could present problems for laser skin resurfacing candidates. If you've used Accutane® be sure to let your physician know.[27]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (24)

Article Info

Categories: Health | Personal Care and Style