Ablative Erbium 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 and wrinkles, as well as pigmentation differences or scars. There are many different types of lasers, but of the lasers considered more aggressive or ablative, the most common are the erbium laser and carbon dioxide. These can also be used in combination or in sequence for amplified results.

Ablative Erbium Laser Overview - Everything You Need to Know

The Skinny

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

About the Procedure

Last Updated: 08.02.2021

Similar to CO2 laser, the erbium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet laser targets water in the skin tissue leading to controlled vaporization of superficial cells and thermal injury in the dermis that results in collagen remodeling and healing. Also known as Er:YAG, or Erbium laser for short, this technique is performed in a similar manner to other laser treatments. The wavelength of the laser is 2,940nm and is absorbed much more efficiently by water in tissues than the CO2 laser. This results in less associated thermal damage to surrounding tissues to achieve tissue ablation, which then results in faster re-epithelialization and faster recovery times. These properties also made the hemostasis achieved with this laser less than with CO2 laser, and newer techniques have modulated the properties of the Erbium laser, or combined its use with CO2 laser, to improved hemostasis while maintaining the benefits associated with the Erbium laser. The depth of penetration is to the reticular dermis at most. The Erbium laser is a more superficial ablation compared to traditional CO2 laser. Also, the changes in skin color utilized during CO2 laser ablation that correspond with tissue depth are not present with the Erbium laser due to the fact that it does not cause the same coagulative effect. Instead, pinpoint bleeding it utilized to monitor for proper depth of treatment.

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 week. Typically the recovery of an erbium laser treatment will be around half the time of a CO2 laser ablation. There will be some mild swelling and discomfort in the first 1-2 days althouhg redness may persist for several weeks. Antibiotic ointment or pills as well as antiviral pills may be given to prevent any infection.

Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate for erbium laser resurfacing has a lighter skin tone and wishes to target localized areas of wrinkles around the mouth or eyes, for example, may with to utilize a technique with the precision of a laser compared to other options such as chemical peels. Erbium laser ablation is ideal for someone with more mild to moderate lines and sun damage that would prefer an easier recovery compared to CO2 laser ablation.

Not Recommended For

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

Side Effects

Side effects from erbium 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
  • less postoperative discomfort
  • less risk of demarcation lines
  • safe on the neck
  • safe on the chest


  • less dramatic results
  • hyperpigmentation
  • demarcation lines at the borders of treatment
  • light sensitivity

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