CO2 laser skin resurfacing treats a broad range of skin issues from wrinkles and fine lines to acne scars and liver spots. A simple, non-invasive procedure, CO2 treatment involves using targeted lasers to improve the skin’s texture and appearance.
CO2 skin laser resurfacing comes with a slightly longer recovery period and more aftercare requirements than other forms of aesthetic medicine. However, it can cause dramatic improvement for issues like uneven skin tone, scars, and age spots. This is because CO2 laser resurfacing removes damaged skin and allows firmer, healthier skin to grow in its place.
Undergoing any medical procedure is a major decision that no one should make without serious thought and careful research. If you are considering CO2 resurfacing treatment, we will provide a brief overview of what to expect below.
What Does CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Treat?
Most often, CO2 laser skin resurfacing addresses fine lines and wrinkles, but it has the capacity to treat a wide range of skin conditions.
CO2 can also improve:
- Scars from acne or chickenpox
- Enlarged oil glands
- Non-responsive skin after a facelift
- Sun-damaged skin
- Liver spots
- Yellow or gray skin tones
How Does CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Work?
CO2 works by removing damaged skin layer by layer. Your practitioner uses a carbon-dioxide laser to send short and concentrated pulses of light to remove the outermost layer of skin. The laser simultaneously heats the underlying skin, which stimulates collagen production. Today, the majority of CO2 resurfacing is done in a fractionated manner, which means little dots of skin are left untreated in between. This allows for faster healing and much lower risk of complications.
As a result, the new skin that is formed is healthier and tighter.
What Happens During CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing?
As CO2 laser skin resurfacing treats many different skin issues, the process varies from individual to individual. Talk to your practitioner closely about what to expect from your own procedure.
You may need a series of treatments done ahead of time to prepare your skin to safely undergo CO2 laser resurfacing. This decreases the risk of complication and increases the likelihood of an optimal result.
CO2 laser treatment itself takes about 30 minutes, though most patients will numb for about one hour prior to treatment. First, your practitioner applies topical anesthetic to reduce the pain. If you are treating a large area of skin, your practitioner may also recommend sedatives or pain killers.
During treatment, your practitioner cleans the skin and then systematically treats the designated area. Once treatment is done, your practitioner applies a barrier ointment to encourage healing and prevent infection.
Most people see the desired results with one treatment. Your practitioner will help determine how many treatments you will need.
How Long Is Recovery?
After treatment, you can return home right away, but will need three to ten days of downtime.
Your practitioner will send you home with an aftercare kit that should include a saline or vinegar-based facial cleanser. Clean your skin two to five times a day, depending on the provided instructions.
During your recovery, you can expect skin peeling, redness, and oozing, though all of these side effects are self-limited. You can use ice packs to reduce any swelling and pain.
You can safely engage in some daily activities during recovery, but will need to minimize contact with germs to prevent infection. This means avoiding places like the gym or crowded bars and restaurants. You must also avoid close contact with your pets which includes not having them sleep in bed with you. No matter how clean your pets are, they tend to carry certain bacteria that can cause an infection while you are healing.
After CO2 laser treatment, your skin will be sun-sensitive for up to a year. You need to be vigilant about wearing sunscreen whenever you go out, even on overcast days. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgeons recommends undergoing CO2 laser resurfacing during the fall or winter to minimize sun exposure in the direct aftermath of treatment.
Are There Side Effects?
Every procedure has potential side effects, but a good practitioner will make every effort to help you avoid complications. They will go over your medical history prior to treatment. Patients at a higher risk for infection may be prescribed precautionary antibiotics. You may be advised to stop taking or lower the dosage of certain medications that increase your risk of scarring or bleeding.
Side effects of CO2 laser skin resurfacing include:
Most side effects should pass on their own and others can be addressed with follow-up treatment.
How Long Do Results Last?
Most patients maintain their results for several years, although results are not permanent. You may need to repeat the procedure – or a similar type of treatment – eventually as your skin undergoes age-related changes.
A good skin care regimen that includes sunscreen can help you maintain results.
CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing: The Bottom Line
While CO2 laser skin resurfacing comes with a longer recovery time than similar treatments, it can yield dramatic results and improve notoriously difficult-to-treat conditions like age spots, scarring, and skin discoloration, as well as fine lines associated with the aging process.
Once the healing process is over, you will notice dramatic changes to your skin that can lead to a significant boost in self-esteem and self-image.