Laser peels can improve fine to moderate wrinkles, smooth skin texture and improve pigmentation. Lasers resurface the skin by precisely applying heat to the outer layers of the skin to cause controlled damage. The damage caused by this heat is enough to elicit a healing response by the body, leading to smoother, tighter and younger looking skin.

Lasers essentially improve the quality of your skin. They do not replace a facelift and they do not replace lost facial volume. Lasers are often used in combination with other treatments like injectable fillers, Botox and facelifts to achieve balanced, natural looking results.

Laser Results versus Peel Depth

Lasers are very precise and can be used for light peels with minimal down time or very deep peels that require weeks of healing. The type of peel you need depends on the severity of your skin problem and the amount of down time you can tolerate. In general, lighter procedures cause minimal down time, but provide mild results. Deeper peels provide a much greater improvement, but require a greater amount of time invested in healing. Undergoing many lighter peels over a period of time seems to have a cumulative effect, providing results that compare to a moderate depth peel. This approach can help people without the luxury of taking significant time away from responsibilities.

Types of Lasers

There are two main types of lasers used for skin resurfacing: carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium. They can both provide great results. The skill of the plastic surgeon operating the laser is more important than the device itself when it comes to getting great results and avoiding complications.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser

CO2 lasers were the first to be used for skin resurfacing in the 1980s and 1990s. This is the standard against which other resurfacing devices are judged. Older versions of this type of laser tended to lighten the skin too much and caused redness that took months to resolve in the healing phase. Newer versions of carbon dioxide lasers have improved and can give excellent results.

Erbium Laser

Erbium lasers were designed to reduce side effects and complications associated with CO2 lasers, namely prolonged redness and excessive skin lightening. Erbium lasers target the desired tissues without excess collateral damage, reducing healing time. Some believe that erbium lasers do not cause as much tightening as CO2.   

Fractional Lasers

Fractional lasers were developed to reduce healing time from laser treatments. These devices use laser energy to treat the skin at thousands of tiny spots in a grid-like pattern, rather than treating the entire surface. This stimulates a wide area to heal and produce collagen, but leaves undamaged skin to facilitate faster healing. The laser can be tuned to create a deeper or a lighter peel to affect down time and results. Fraxel® is a brand name fractional CO2 laser used frequently across the United States, but there are other lasers using fractional technology that provide great results. Fractional lasers may be erbium or CO2.  

What to Expect if You Have a Laser Peel

Anesthesia: Local for light peels, general or heavy sedation for deep peels

Location of procedure: Office or hospital.

Length of procedure: 15-60 minutes.

Length of stay: Outpatient (home same day).

Discomfort: Mild to severe. Anticipate 0-5 days of prescription pain medication.

Swelling: Mild to moderate depending on depth. It will improve over 5-7days.

The peeling process: Light peels cause very mild redness for 1-3 days and mild peeling may last up to a week. Deep peels cause the face to be raw and weep for several days to a week. Peeling lasts 7-14 days.

Presentable in public: 1-2 days for light peels and 1-3 weeks for moderate to deep peels

Sun protection: SPF 15 or higher should be worn indefinitely.

Final result: 1-3 weeks for light peels and 2-3 months for deep peels

Laser Peel Cost

You can learn more about the cost of cosmetic procedures on our cost page.

Conclusions on Laser Peels

Lasers help improve the quality of skin by tightening, smoothening texture, improving fine to moderate lines and wrinkles, and improving pigment changes. The type of treatment and recovery will vary depending on your goals.

Learn more on our Laser Tips and Traps page.