CO2 laser is a type of laser used in pulses or continuous beams to resurface the skin at a fairly deep level in order to remove blemishes and irregularities of texture, including wrinkles, warts, and scars. CO2 laser is used by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon in laser treatments.
CO2 Laser Procedure
Patients may be asked to stop taking certain medications including some blood-thinners prior to the procedure. This will be discussed in a consultation visit with the doctor prior to the day of the procedure.
CO2 laser is commonly used under local anesthesia. In order to prevent pain during the procedure, numbing medicine must be injected in or near the areas that will be treated. The CO2 laser targets water in the skin, heating it up very rapidly and destroying the surrounding skin. New, healthy skin grows in to replace the damaged skin weeks after the procedure. Localized areas like the skin around the eyes or mouth may be treated individually or the whole face may be treated.
The benefits of the procedure last for years due to the depth that the laser reaches. Unlike more superficial treatments, it does not need to be repeated. However, due to the same depth of the procedure, recovery time is significant. The treated skin will be very red and weepy, and will need several weeks to heal. During this time, intense hydration and careful cleaning must be performed in accordance with the doctor’s recommendations.
Fractional CO2 lasers are a modified type of CO2 lasers that only treat a fraction of the damaged skin each time. They require far less anesthesia and recovery time, but fractional CO2 laser treatments need to be repeated several times to achieve desired results.
There are few complications. Infections are uncommon if post-treatment instructions are followed. Patients with a history of cold sores may need prophylactic antiviral medication. Due to the depth of the procedure, minor bleeding is a possibility. Sometimes, the treated skin can look very different from untreated skin leading to a noticeable difference at the border of the treated area. Scarring and discoloration can also occur in some cases.
CO2 Laser Costs
CO2 laser is usually considered a cosmetic procedure and is therefore not covered by health insurance. Treatments can cost $200 – $3000, depending on the size of the area treated.