Angie's LIST Guide to
Laser Skin Treatment

Laser skin treatment is a cosmetic process that revitalizes your skin's appearance. The procedure diminishes common skin imperfections, such as wrinkles, acne spots and enlarged pores, and helps with dull complexion, sun damage, age spots and warts.


laser hair removal
Laser skin treatments include a variety of procedures to address everything from wrinkles to hair removal. (Photo courtesy of Kent Kallberg)

How does laser skin treatment work?

Laser skin treatment is an outpatient process that involves a physician aiming small bursts of light at the imperfections, removing the outer skin layers one by one. The accuracy of the laser allows the doctor to target delicate zones, such as around the eyes and mouth.

These treatments also can be called laser resurfacing, lasabrasion or laser peel. They generally take between 30 and 90 minutes to perform.

Laser skin treatment works best for those who have subtle lines and wrinkles on the face or superficial blemishes or who just want a fresher look. The treatment does not aid in the eliminations of stretch marks.

Deep wrinkles, drooping skin, darker skin and acne flair-ups are not responsive to laser skin treatment.

The physician caters the treatment to each patient. Sometimes, a pretreatment plan will begin up to two months before you can undergo the procedure. Before beginning the treatment, the doctor cleans the area, and you'll wear protective eyewear.

CHECK OUT: How to Find the Best Dermatologist

You'll need to cease taking sertain medications and stop smoking before the procedure is performed.

Doctors use carbon dioxide (CO2) or erbium lasers. The carbon dioxide method removes fine layers of skin by aggressively shooting quick spurts of light at the skin. It eliminates the damaged outer skin layer while warming the second level of skin, causing collagen cells to shrivel and leaving the skin firmer as it heals.

This method works for slightly deep wrinkles and larger areas.

The erbium method is less aggressive and does not involve the removal of skin cells. The laser destroys the collagen under the skin, motivating fresh collagen development, making the skin firmer. This process is typically shorter than the carbon dioxide laser procedure and ideal for superficial blemishes.

Laser skin treatment recovery

Undergoing this skin care procedure is not a relaxing occasion. It is uncomfortable process, and the lasers sting.

Patients can experience pain during the process and afterwards. They'll be given Anesthetics, numbing agents or tranquilizers to help with pain. The treatment area will become sore, irritated and swollen. The skin may secrete milky mucus and form scabs.

Those looking for skin and cosmetic care have a variety of options and services. From major surgery to small procedures performed at day spas, there are treatment options to suit every preference.

Refrain from picking and scratching the skin during this time to prevent scarring. The doctor will apply an ointment to help with healing and will recommend elevating the face at night to avoid more swelling.

You'll want to cleanse and moisten your face daily with products recommended by your physician. Your skin will start to peel and look reddish as it heals. You'll need to apply a high SPF sunscreen, specially designed for the face, daily.

Don't wear makeup on the affected skin during the period of healing. Smoking is not recommended, as it hinders the healing process.

If your pain is too great, your physician may recommend light activities and using cold presses until the skin has healed.

Once the skin heals, it will take on a pink tone as new skin forms over the treated area. The carbon dioxide method usually takes about two weeks to heal, and the erbium laser treatment takes a week.

Your doctor will let you know when to resume stopped medications.

Precautions for laser skin treatment

Treated areas react to laser treatment differently. Numerous sessions are sometimes required, depending on the state of your skin.

The procedure will also trigger acne breakouts in some patients. Patients with darker skin may experience hyperpigmentation, or dark patches. The physician will determine if it is possible to use a skin lightener afterwards.

Some skin tones may experience a loss of pigmentation.

Cold sores may emerge after treatments around the mouth. If the patient has a history of cold-sore outbreaks, a physician can prescribe preventive medication. Bacterial infections are also possible, as the skin will be raw after the procedure. Tiny white bumps and blisters that form will need to be pierced to release the liquid. Swelling around the eyes may cause vision issues.

Costs for the treatment varies, based on the region and doctor, but the price can start at more than $1,000. Extra fees may include the cost of anesthesia, clinical space and other medications and ointments. Expect these fees charged for each laser session. 

Laser treatment is an elective, cosmetic technique, and your insurance company may not cover the procedure, unless it's deemed a necessity.

Otherwise, expect to pay the costs out of pocket or finance them through other alternatives.

Because of the nature of this procedure, finding the right doctor to peform laser skin treatment is crucial. Check Angie's List for member reviews and ratings of doctors in your area.

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Bruce M Moyer

Subject: XTrac Psoriasis Laser Treatment

Advertised on TV as the new effective treatment, XTrac goes so far as to offer to refund any insurance Co-Pays (up to $400 total). They refer you to a local practicianer after checking your insurance and asking questions to determine if the treatment would be effective for you. Only after the treatment has started and you request paperwork for the co-pay reimbursement do they inform you that you have the wrong kind of insurance. (What does that have to do with co-pay reimbursement). The local dermatologist referral shares quarters with a dog grooming outfit, and your treatments are not administered by a Doctor or even a PA or a nurse, but by an apparent office employee.

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