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CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing

A carbon dioxide laser (CO2 laser) resurfaces skin with targeted beams of light. As the first laser designed for skin-resurfacing treatment, it’s been popular since the 1980s for the rejuvenation of aging and damaged skin. 

So how does a CO2 laser work? Electricity runs through a gas-filled tube to produce light that’s emitted in short, concentrated beams, which target water molecules and vaporize skin cells. The laser removes surface cells of the epidermis, making way for fresh, new skin.

At the same time, it penetrates the deeper dermis layer to stimulate collagen production, which tightens and plumps skin over time.

CO2 laser treatments can address fine lines and wrinkles; discoloration (including sun damage and age spots); acne scars; stretch marks; and uneven skin texture on the face, neck, and chest.

  • Invented in 1964, CO2 lasers have a long history of use and plenty of evidence to attest to their effectiveness and safety, particularly on light skin tones.
  • Doctors can customize CO2 laser treatments to best suit your skin type and concerns. There are several CO2 lasers on the market, and your provider will recommend the device, percentage of skin targeted, depth of treatment, and number of sessions that are right for you.
  • While it’s primarily for aging and damaged skin, laser resurfacing addresses a wide range of concerns. As long as the treatment can be performed safely, most people will see smoother, clearer, brighter skin once they’ve healed.

Who's a good candidate for CO2 Laser Treatments?

While CO2 lasers can improve many skin concerns, their technology limits who can benefit without substantial risk. 

For fully ablative treatments, the ideal candidate has a fair to light skin tone and notably wrinkled, sun-damaged, or scarred skin—the intensity usually isn’t worth it for fine lines or mild discoloration. Most doctors won’t fully ablate melanated skin, due to increased risk of burning and scarring as well as the potential for worsening pigmentation issues.

Fractional CO2 laser treatments are more accessible and may even be possible for medium to deep skin tones.

You might pursue fractional treatments for mild to moderate signs of aging and damage, including fine lines, rough texture, and hyperpigmentation. Doctors can increase or decrease the intensity as needed, to safely treat a range of skin types and tones.

What happens during a CO2 Laser Treatment?

CO2 laser resurfacing is an outpatient procedure. Appointments last from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the treatment area and aggressiveness of treatment.

If you’re having a fractional CO2 laser treatment, your doctor will first numb you with a local anesthetic and may also provide an oral sedative to help you relax.

For a fully ablative treatment, you’re likely to be put under general anesthesia so that you’re completely asleep. (Arrange for a ride home if you’re going to be sedated for the procedure.)

Once you’re numb or unconscious, your provider begins moving the handheld laser device across the treatment area as it emits its powerful light beam. The beam is usually a square, so the provider carefully moves the device section by section, lining up each ablated square in a grid-like pattern until the full area has been treated. 

You won’t feel or be aware of anything if you’re under general anesthesia. If you have just numbing cream or an injected local anesthetic, the sensation can feel like a rubber band snapping. 

After your provider has applied the laser beam to the full treatment area, they’ll cover your skin with a thick ointment and dressings.

What can you expect duting CO2 laser recovery?

Social downtime (when you won’t want to leave the house) can stretch for several days for fractional treatments and more than two weeks for fully ablative treatments.

During that recovery time, your skin will be swollen and develop scabs or crusting. You’ll first notice that your skin is raw, which can feel itchy and painful. You may also have some pinpoint bleeding, particularly following a more ablative treatment.

It will feel like an exaggerated sunburn, but ice packs will help take down the sting within one to two hours. Over-the-counter pain relievers can offer some additional relief, and doctors may prescribe stronger pain medication for aggressive fully ablative treatments. 

Swelling can be managed with prescription steroids and ice packs as well as keeping your head elevated while sleeping. 

Follow your doctor’s precise instructions for gently cleansing and moisturizing the treated area. They may recommend or even provide specific medical-grade skin-care products for you.

It’s important to keep your skin protected and moist throughout the healing process—initially with ointments and thick creams, then with lighter creams and serums down the line—to encourage healthy cell turnover and prevent scarring. 

After the initial healing phase, your skin can remain pink for several weeks. You can apply makeup, to conceal redness, but only after new growth covers the treated area. 

When you go out of the house, be especially mindful of sun exposure. Your fresh, new skin will be sensitive, so a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is a must.

When will you see CO2 Laser results?

How soon you’ll see results depends on the intensity of your treatment and how long healing takes. You won’t really see results until after your skin has completely healed and any lingering redness resolves, which can be several weeks for fractional treatments and a couple months for fully ablative treatments. 

Surface skin results will be apparent as soon as healing’s complete, but it takes a few months to see the firming effects of increased collagen as your body naturally produces new cells and structural proteins.

How long do CO2 results lasts?

Your results can last years, but their longevity will depend on the intensity of your treatment and how well you take care of your skin afterward. To avoid recurring damage, establish a hydrating, antioxidant-packed skin-care routine and strong sun protection habits. 

That said, nothing stops the hands of time, so your skin will continue to age with the rest of you.

You can help maintain your results with ongoing laser treatments or other skin rejuvenation treatments. Fractional lasers should be done every quarter to maintain results, whereas the fully ablative CO2 laser can be done every one to two years.

Mixto Sx CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing
Before and After

Schedule a Free Consultation.

Call us at 909-902-1988 or fill out the form below:

By submitting this form you agree to be contacted via phone/email

Schedule a Free Consultation.

Call us at 909-902-1988 or fill out the form below:

By submitting this form you agree to be contacted via phone/email