There’s not just one type of laser procedure. They vary, and some are better suited for certain skin types and needs. Hartman broke down the most common ones for us:
CO2: “Carbon dioxide lasers very precisely remove thin layers of skin with minimal heat damage to the surrounding structures,” Hartman says. “Carbon dioxide lasers treat wrinkles, photodamage, scars, warts, keloids, and more. The chromophore [part of a molecule responsible for its color; it absorbs light] is water, and therefore, patients should hydrate in preparation for the treatment.”
Hartman adds that ablative lasers, like the CO2 laser, work by traumatizing the skin. But don’t worry. It’s in a good way. “It removes the thin outer layer of skin (epidermis) and heats the underlying skin (dermis). This stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers,” he says. “As the epidermis heals and regrows, the treated skin appears clearer, smoother, and tighter.”
Fraxel: Hartman explains that this treatment uses microscopic columns to laser energy to treat only a fraction of the tissue at a time, leaving the area around it intact. “This allows swift healing and triggers the natural healing processes of the body to replace damaged or old cells with new, healthy, fresh, glowing skin,” he says. This type of treatment is effective for wrinkles and fine lines, acne scars, sun damage, excessive pigmentation, sun spots, actinic keratosis, and more. It’s also safe for men and women of any age and skin color.
Erbium: “An erbium laser provides a milder and less invasive treatment option than a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser,” Hartman says. “The CO2 laser is able to remove deeper layers of damaged skin than the erbium laser. However, an erbium laser treatment provides those whose skin damage is not as severe—or who would simply prefer a more rapid laser skin resurfacing recovery—with an excellent alternative.”
In this treatment, the erbium laser precisely ablates the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) to reveal underlying skin that’s smoother and younger-looking, Hartman adds. “The procedure also activates collagen to promote further tightening of the skin. An erbium laser skin resurfacing treatment is performed as an outpatient procedure with the use of a local or topical anesthetic,” he says.