A Complete Guide to Everything Lasers Can Do for Your Skin

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Redefining skin care since they were first introduced, lasers continue to raise the bar in tackling a range of concerns, including pigmentation, redness, scars and wrinkles. “What’s so nice about the fractional technology we currently utilize is that we can essentially treat all skin types,” says Houston dermatologist Paul Friedman, MD. “It’s for patients of all ages with a variety of skin conditions, from those with residual acne scarring to those with signs of photoaging.” Leveraging the power of light energy, these treatments work to regenerate damaged skin, leaving it refreshed, even and polished. 

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Nonablative

Ideal for those with minor skin concerns—like age spots, scars, sun damage and wrinkles—nonablative lasers offer a more gradual approach to transforming skin. “These lasers allow us to safely treat off-the-face areas, like the neck and chest; areas we wouldn’t have resurfaced in the past due to the higher risk of scarring with traditional laser resurfacing,” says Dr. Friedman.

Brand Names: Clear + Brilliant, Fraxel DUAL, Fraxel re:store, Halo, LaseMD, and ResurFX

Who They’re For: Patients with minor skin imperfections

Who They’re Not For: Patients with severe concerns or significant tissue laxity may need a more intense laser or a lifting procedure.

What to Expect: There may be some redness, but it shouldn’t interfere with a daily routine. The pain associated with a nonablative laser is often compared to a three on a scale of one to 10. Washington, D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD adds, “A series of four to six monthly treatments are typically recommended with progressive clinical improvement noted after each treatment.”

Average Treatment Cost: $500–$1,000


Ablative

These more intense lasers dive deeper into skin to undo more prominent concerns such as prolonged sun damage, discoloration, severe texture issues, and stubborn lines and wrinkles. “They use intense beams of focused infrared light at high energies to vaporize the skin in a layer-by-layer fashion,” says Dr. Alster. Ablative treatments require anesthesia and a longer healing period. “We’re creating microscopic columns in the skin that break its barrier, which creates a small risk for infection. We recommend wound care with prophylactic antibiotics, topical antiseptic soaks and an emollient moisturizer throughout the day until the skin is healed,” adds Dr. Friedman.

Brand Names: CO2RE, Fraxel DUAL, Halo, UltraPulse ActiveFx, UltraPulse CO2, and UltraPulse DeepFx

Who They’re For: Patients with paler skin and without recent sun exposure who have rhytids, mild skin laxity, atrophic acne scars and/or large pores

Who They’re Not For: “Patients who have had recent sun exposure, plan on more sun exposure, or have inflammation or an infection in the treatment area,” says Dr. Alster.

What to Expect: Red, raw skin for a week or longer, during which adherence to a post-treatment regimen is crucial

Average Treatment Cost: $1,000–$7,500