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Ablative Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser

Laser skin resurfacing is a technique used to rejuvenate the skin and is an alternative to dermabrasion or chemical peel. It is utilized to treat fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation differences, and scars. There are many different types of lasers, but of the lasers considered more aggressive or ablative, the most common are carbon dioxide laser and the erbium laser. These can also be used in combination or in sequence for amplified results.

Ablative Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser

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The Skinny


Average Recovery

2 weeks

Permanence

Temporary

Application

Laser/Light Therapy

Surgical

No

Cost

$2000 - $2500

The Specifics


What is ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing?

An ablative carbon dioxide (C02) laser skin resurfacing procedure is an aggressive form of laser resurfacing. The ablative component means intense heat is used to vaporize skin cells (unlike non-ablative lasers, which do not destroy, but rather warm skin cells). Ablative laser treatments stimulate collagen production, tighten and tone skin, and vaporize damaged or unevenly pigmented skin cells. A C02 laser is more intense than an ablative erbium laser in that it may cause more surrounding cell damage. Carbon dioxide penetrates deeper for more dramatic results, but also has longer recovery.

What cosmetic concerns does an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure treat?

Ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing destroys damaged and/or unevenly pigmented skin cells, encourages new collagen production, and skin cell growth. 1. Fine Lines & Wrinkles: Ablative laser energy promotes collagen and fills early signs of aging. 2. Facial Skin Laxity: Collagen promotion plumps and firms skin. 3. Uneven Skin Tone: The CO2 laser breaks down old hyperpigmented skin cells. 4. Uneven Skin Texture: Ablative laser energy removes build ups of dead and damaged cells to smooth skin texture. 5. Acne Scars: Ablative lasers remove scar tissue and allow healthier skin to grow in its place.

Who is the ideal candidate for an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure?

The ideal candidate for an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing has more extensive sun damage, scarring, fine lines and/or wrinkles, skin laxity, changes in skin texture and tone, or some variants of precancerous skin lesions. Ablative C02 laser skin resurfacing is not recommended for those with dark skin tones due to the risk of hypopigmentation (areas of paleness).

What is the average recovery associated with an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure?

Most patients experience one to two weeks of downtime after an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing. Red and raw skin, swelling, and itchiness are common following laser resurfacing treatments. Patients should expect skin discoloration (redness/pinkness) to persist for several weeks. Hydrating lotions, skin care, and limited sun exposure can reduce recovery time.

What are the potential side effects of an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure?

Potential side effects following an ablative C02 laser skin resurfacing include burns or skin cell damage, scar development, patchy hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, reactivation of herpes simplex (cold sores), bacterial infections, and milia (white bumps).

What can someone expect from the results of an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure?

The results of an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing will not be directly apparent following the procedure, and will evolve over a few weeks as skin heals. Patients should limit sun exposure and utilize sunscreen during the time after the laser treatment to reduce the risk of irregular skin pigmentation. The results of an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing will change with aging and sun damage over time.

What is the average cost of an ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure?

An ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing procedure can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500. The actual cost of an ablative C02 laser skin resurfacing is dependent upon location, provider, and length and involvement of the cosmetic procedure.

Pros

precisioncan target tiny areasdepthmore controlled than chemical peelsminimal bleedingless postoperative discomfortone treatment

Cons

hyperpigmentation riskhypopigmentation riskdemarcation lineslight sensitivityhigher risk of side effects

Invasiveness Score

mildmoderatesevere
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Invasiveness is graded based on factors such as anesthesia practices, incisions, and recovery notes common to this procedure.

The Takeaway


An ablative carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing treatment provides improvements to skin tone, texture, and facial aesthetic. Ablative C02 lasers are more penetrative for improved, more dramatic results.

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Source List

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AEDIT uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Many Ways to Firm Sagging Skin
  2. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery Skin Tightening americanboardofcosmeticsurgery.org
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