Laser Skin Resurfacing

Quick Summary
Laser Skin Resurfacing
Procedure Length
30-45 minutes for partial face and up to two hours for full face
Local anesthesia
Types of Lasers
Ablative and non-ablative lasers
Recovery Time
Most patients are able to return to work and normal daily activities after a week
Side Effects
Redness, hypo- or hyperpigmentation, scarring, infection, etc.
Final Appearance
Within the first week, patients may see improvement in skin texture and tone, but it will take approx 3-6 months for final results.
Duration of Results
While the effects can last for several month or years, the normal aging process means wrinkles and lines will eventually reoccur.
Average Cost
Average cost of laser skin resurfacing can range from $200 to $5,000 depending on type of laser and size of treatment area, etc.

What is laser skin resurfacing?

As you get older, you may begin to notice signs of skin damage that occurs naturally from aging. It is normal to accumulate damage over the years from sun exposure, acne flare-ups and other lifestyle choices. You may also get wrinkles or fine lines as you get older because the collagen that keeps skin tight begins to break down. If you are looking for a treatment to rejuvenate the appearance of your skin, laser skin resurfacing may be right for you.

Cost of laser skin resurfacing

On average, the cost for laser skin resurfacing ranges from $200 to $5,000 per treatment session. The following are the average price ranges for different types of laser treatments:

  • Non-Ablative: This is a milder form of treatment that typically costs between $200 to $800 per session. Multiple sessions may be required for optimal results.
  • Fractional: Fractional laser treatments are more intensive and may cost between $1,000 to $2,500 per session. Again, multiple sessions may be needed.
  • CO2 Laser: CO2 laser resurfacing is a more aggressive and can range from $2,000 to $5,000 or more per session. Fewer sessions are usually required compared to non-ablative or fractional treatments.
  • Erbium: Erbium laser treatments typically cost between 1,500 to $4,000 per session.

Factors affecting the cost of treatment

The cost of laser skin resurfacing can vary widely depending on many factors. Below are some common factors that may influence the cost of your treatment.

  • Your Provider: The experience of the healthcare provider performing your laser skin resurfacing procedure can make a difference. Highly skilled providers often charge a premium for their services. The ideal type of provider for this treatment is a dermatologist, plastic surgeon on facial plastic surgeon.
  • Location Matters: The cost of living and the average pricing for medical services in a particular area influencing pricing. In general, urban areas tend to have higher procedure fees.
  • Treatment Area: The cost will also vary depending on the size of the treatment area. Larger areas will be more expensive.
  • Number of Sessions: Some treatments require multiple sessions for the best results, and each session comes with its own cost.
  • Additional Procedures: Your cost may be higher if you are having other procedures done with your laser treatment such as dermal fillers to enhance the overall results.

How does it work?

Laser Skin ResurfacingLaser skin resurfacing works by focusing a laser that emits light of a particular wavelength to a targeted area of skin. Water in the skin absorbs the light energy and gets converted into steam, resulting in controlled damage to the skin.

Laser skin resurfacing removes the thin top layer of damaged skin and heats the lower layer. The injury the laser causes stimulates a healing response, promoting the growth of new collagen and the appearance of fresh and tighter looking skin.

The type of laser that is used during the procedure will depend on skin colour, the type of blemish you would like treated and how quickly you would like to recover from the treatment.

Ablative vs. non-ablative lasers

There are two main types of lasers used during the procedure, namely ablative and non-ablative lasers.

  • Ablative – Ablative lasers are more invasive and remove the outer layer of damaged skin, while also heating the lower layer to stimulate collagen growth. Two frequently used ablative lasers are carbon dioxide (CO2) and Erbium. CO2 lasers are good for treating scars, warts, wrinkles and deeper skin blemishes. Erbium may be best used for individuals with darker skin and can treat fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. Since ablative lasers remove the top layer of skin, the healing process may take longer.
  • Non-ablative – Non-ablative lasers are considered to be non-wounding because they pass through the outer layer of the skin and do not remove that layer. Instead, they heat the lower layer to stimulate collagen growth. This results in a shorter healing time, but also may make non-ablative lasers less effective. Types of non-ablative lasers are pulsed-dye, ND: YAG and Alexandrite. These types of lasers can be used to treat skin colour changes, redness and rosacea.

Both ablative and non-ablative methods can use a fractional laser, which breaks up the laser into multiple beams so that some sections of the skin area remain untreated. Fractional lasers can help promote a shorter recovery time.

Types of cosmetic lasers

There are several types of lasers that are used to treat a variety of skin conditions, and new ones seem to be introduced on a regular basis. Among the most commonly used lasers are:

  • Fractionated lasers: These types of lasers use ablative laser technology. They were developed as an alternative to more intense treatments. They are excellent treatments for sun damaged skin, acne scars, wrinkles, and for improving skin texture. Fractional lasers are a popular choice because they involve considerably less downtime and recovery than traditional lasers.
  • Carbon Dioxide Laser (CO2): CO2 lasers are ablative lasers frequently used to improve acne scars, wrinkles, skin tone and skin texture. The main downside of CO2 lasers is that they are invasive, meaning there is considerably more recovery time involved and you will have some lingering pinkness in the treatment area for approximately a month.
  • Erbium-YAG (yttrium/aluminum garnet) or Er:YAG: Energy from Erbium-YAG lasers are absorbed by the superficial layers of the epidermis, getting rid of damaged or unwanted tissue. The pulsing actually lessens the heat on the skin, resulting in less damage. This laser is a less invasive alternative to CO2 lasers and is frequently used to treat sun-damaged skin. These lasers are not as effective for deeper wrinkles, but the recovery time is shorter.
  • Q-switched Nd:YAG laser: These types of lasers are commonly used to remove tattoos. They can remove pigmentation lesions and black or blue tattoos.
  • High-Power Long-PulsedNd:YAG: This system is a popular choice for vascular lesions and to remove unwanted hair.
  • Long-Pulsed Nd:YAG laser: This laser is ideal for vascular lesions, broken capillaries, redness, facial flushing and telangiectasia (blue or purple spider veins on the face).

Conditions treated

A good candidate for laser skin resurfacing is someone who wants to improve any of the following:

  • Fine lines
  • Loss of skin tone or uneven skin tone
  • Scars
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Age spots
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Mild to moderate acne scars
  • Liver spots
  • Enlarged oil glands
  • Warts

Signs you may not be a candidate

You may need to discuss with your doctor your eligibility for this procedure if you have the following:

  • A history of poor scarring or keloid development (raised scars)
  • A history of herpes
  • Darker skin tone
  • Pregnant
  • Allergies to topical anesthetics
  • An autoimmune disease or weak immune system
  • Radiation therapy to the face
  • Active acne
  • Deep wrinkles
  • Taken the acne medication isotretinoin for the last year

This procedure is not used as a skin tightening treatment.

Before getting laser skin resurfacing, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and medications you take to determine your eligibility for the procedure.

Some medications, such as isotretinoin, can interfere with healing. Your doctor will also examine your skin and explain to you how your skin tone or skin thickness may affect your results.  If you are prone to cold sores, you will be advised to take medicine to prevent herpes infection. Sometimes the procedure can promote herpes flare-ups.

You will need to avoid unprotected sun exposure 2 months before the procedure because darker skin can negatively affect results. You will also be required to stop smoking at least 2 weeks before the procedure.

Procedure overview

Laser skin resurfacing is usually performed in an outpatient office. You can expect the whole procedure to take between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending on the size of the area being treated. The procedure consists of the following steps:

  1. Your doctor will first numb your skin to prevent you from feeling pain. You may be given a sedative if treating the whole face.
  2. The doctor will apply the laser to the area of skin being treated. If you are awake during the procedure the pulse of the laser may feel a bit uncomfortable, similar to a rubber band snapping against your skin.
  3. The treated area will be covered with an airtight and watertight dressing. Expect to arrange a ride home if you are sedated.

Recovery time

After the procedure, it is normal to feel like the treated skin area has a mild sunburn. Your skin may be raw, swollen, itchy and stinging and may also ooze and blister for a few days. During this time you will be given a pain reliever and cool compresses to soothe the area.

It usually takes one week for the skin to heal after using the Erbium laser and up to two weeks if a CO2 laser was used. After 4-7 days your skin will start to peel.

For you to recover, you will need to follow the instructions given by your doctor. You will usually need to clean the treated area multiple times a day to prevent infection. Your doctor may also recommend skincare treatments and the application of sunscreen and moisturizer. You will want to keep your skin protected from the sun for one year, as the sun can produce damage to the treated skin.

You will also need to stop using makeup and stop all activities that may give you a risk of infection, such as swimming or going to the gym, until the skin has healed.

It is important to note that non-ablative resurfacing produces a shorter recovery time. You may still have redness, swelling and discomfort but you will be able to resume normal activities and skincare immediately after the procedure.

Safety information

It is normal to have redness, swelling or discomfort after the procedure. However, like any other laser treatment, laser skin resurfacing has other potential side effects. These can include:

  • Erythema (redness) that can last from weeks to several months
  • Hypo- or hyperpigmentation (skin color changes)
  • Scarring
  • Herpes flare-up
  • Skin tightness
  • Burning
  • Oozing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Acne flares

When will you see results?

Results after laser skin resurfacing can vary depending on the type of laser used, your specific skin condition and other individual factors. However, here’s a general time frame of what you migth expect:

  • Immediately After: Your skin may appear red, swollen, and slightly inflamed.
  • Days 1-7: In the days following your procedure, the redness and swelling will likely increase before gradually subsiding. Your skin may also begin to peel or flake, revealing fresh skin underneath.
  • Weeks 1-2: Within the first two weeks, you should see improvements in skin texture, tone, and a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Weeks 2-6: Over the next several weeks, you’ll continue to see improvements in skin texture and tone. Collagen production and remodeling will contribute to a more youthful appearance.
  • Months 3-6: The most significant and long-lasting results from laser skin resurfacing typically become noticeable around three to six month, however your skin should continue to improve in terms of fine lines, wrinkles, and overall skin quality.

How long will your results last?

The duration of results can vary depending on several factors, including the type of laser used, the specific skin condition, your age, skin type, and skincare routine. In taking these factors into consideration, on average results can last from several months to several years.

Alternatives to laser skin resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing has the benefits of being safe and more precise in the amount of skin that can be removed. However, other methods can produce similar results. Some of these alternatives include:

  • Chemical peels: This method uses chemicals to peel away outer layers of skin to reveal smoother skin below. Chemical peels are good for the treatment of age spots, wrinkles, fine lines and acne scars.
  • Dermabrasion: This mechanical method uses an abrasive wheel to remove the outer layers of the skin. Since it creates a wound, healing is stimulated and smoother skin underneath replaces damaged skin. This method is good for treating deep acne scars.
  • Microdermabrasion: This mechanical method removes the thin outer layers of the skin by using a handheld device that has an abrasive surface, such as crystals, at the end. Microdermabrasion is considered safe and you can resume normal activities right after.
  • Microneedling: This method depends on the body’s natural healing response to rejuvenate skin. Fine needles are used to induce small injuries to the skin. These injuries trigger a healing response that promotes collagen growth.

To learn more about laser skin resurfacing, visit the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) website. relies on sources such as professional medical organizations, government agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals to write it’s articles. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, in-depth, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

*Medical Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. Read more