Ablative 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 CO2 Laser Overview - Everything You Need to Know

The Skinny

Ablative CO2 Laser
avg. recovery
2 weeks
Laser/Light Therapy
$2000 - $2500

About the Procedure

Last Updated: 07.27.2021

The basic idea behind any ablative laser skin procedure is the vaporization of more superficial layers of the skin, with some minor injury to the deeper layers which stimulates the bodyÕs natural healing properties to induce collagen formation to lead to clinical results. A carbon dioxide (CO2) laser with a wavelength of 10,600 nm is utilized for laser skin resurfacing. This particular wavelength is well absorbed by water. The skin contains water which is targeted and leads to a precise ablation with consistent results. Hemostasis is excellent with this technique. The depth of ablation is assess by characteristic color change. The maximal depth is the reticular dermis, and the superficial aspect of this layer is reached when a gray color. Less aggressive ablation may be performed and as the skin turns pink this is confirmation that the papillary dermis has been reached. Given the precision associated with lasers, particular scars, deep lines, or lesions may be specifically targeted for more extensive treatment. CO2 lasers can cause debris or char as the skin is ablated, and this must be wiped away to proceed. Take care to blend at the periphery of the treated region to prevent any sharp demarcation lines. Often CO2 laser is performed on the full face to avoid this issue, but care still must be taken at the margins of treatment at the hairline or the neck. Always take laser precautions including eye protection when using the laser. Remember that the CO2 laser itself is not in the visible spectrum, a red aiming beam may be utilized to focus on target tissue, but this is not the CO2 laser itself.

Laser skin resurfacing is used to reduce skin imperfections. Sun damage, fine lines or wrinkles, skin laxity, brown spots, blotchiness, scars and certain precancerous growths can be addressed with laser skin resurfacing.

Recovery Notes

Healing will take approximately 1-2 weeks. There will be some mild swelling and discomfort in the first 1-2 days. The skin will crust and flake around day 5. Redness may persist for several weeks. Makeup may be worn after around 10-14 days. Antibiotic ointment or pills as well as antiviral pills may be given to prevent any infection.

Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate for CO2 laser resurfacing has fine and heavy wrinkles, pigmentation irregularities, and scars that require a more invasive skin resurfacing procedure and prefers the consistency associated with laser techniques versus the slight uncertainty of medium or deep chemical peel penetration depths or the operator dependent nature of dermabrasion.

Not Recommended For

CO2 laser resurfacing is not recommended for use on darker skin tones due to risk of hypopigmentation.

Side Effects

Side effects from CO2 laser skin resurfacing may include burns or other injuries from the laser's heat, scarring, changes in the skin's pigmentation (including areas of darker or lighter skin), reactivating herpes cold sores, bacterial infection, and milia may appear in the laser-treated areas during healing.


  • precision
  • can target tiny areas
  • depth
  • more controlled than chemical peels
  • minimal bleeding
  • less postoperative discomfort
  • one treatment


  • hyperpigmentation risk
  • hypopigmentation risk
  • demarcation lines
  • light sensitivity
  • higher risk of side effects

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