Laser Skin Resurfacing

Learn about laser skin resurfacing, a type of laser surgery, and how Mass General plastic surgeons use this cosmetic procedure to tighten, smooth and rejuvenate your skin.

Why Choose Mass General for Your Laser Treatment

  • Harvard affiliated
  • Highly experienced in the latest procedures
  • IRB-approved clinician studies on scars management
  • Authors of book chapters and clinical review on laser surgery

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Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing, a type of laser surgery, is a cosmetic procedure that can dramatically improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, scars and hyper pigmentation.

At Mass General, we offer laser surgery to treat:

  • Acne
  • Facial aging
  • Melasma (sun spots or age spots)
  • Pigmentation and pigmented lesions
  • Rosacea
  • Scars caused by surgery
  • Telangiectasia (dilated or broken blood vessels or capillaries)
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Wrinkles and fine lines

Our plastic surgeons can incorporate laser surgery with cosmetic surgery to achieve optimal results with minimal downtime.

We also offer skin tyte, a noninvasive skin-tightening procedure that uses infrared light to tighten loose skin.

How Laser Skin Resurfacing Works

Recent Research

Treatment of facial scarring: Lasers, filler and non-operative techniques. Cooper, J.S., and Lee, B.T. Facial Plastic Surgery (2009), pages 311-315.

Aesthetic head and neck surgery. Chapter 45: Fillers. McGraw-Hill, in press.

Learn more about Dr. Cooper

Laser skin resurfacing uses laser light to target superficial and deep layers of the skin. At Mass General, we incorporate full field ablative, fractional (Fraxel) and intense pulsed light (IPL) laser treatments for optimal results.

Ablative full-field laser treatments tighten collagen within the deeper layers of the skin’s dermis. This is an extremely powerful technique that effectively erases deep wrinkles and smoothes the skin without the need for a surgical procedure.

Fractionated laser treatments target small areas of skin where damage has occurred, leaving the surrounding skin untouched. This facilitates more rapid healing and results in a shorter recovery time.

IPL laser treatments use broad-spectrum pulses of infrared light that are absorbed into the skin and eliminate enlarged blood vessels and hyper pigmentation (brown spots). IPL also helps to decrease pore size and minimize fine wrinkles by stimulating collagen production.

Are You a Candidate for Laser Skin Resurfacing?

You may not be a candidate for laser skin resurfacing if you:

  • Take anticoagulant medications
  • Have taken Accutane, an acne medication, in the last year
  • Are pregnant
  • Are unable to follow the post-treatment care regime recommended by your surgeon

What to Expect at Your Appointment

At your first appointment, the surgeon will conduct a clinical examination to assess your skin type and ask you about your medical history and goals for treatment.

Next, the surgeon will work with you to develop a personalized plan to help you achieve your desired outcome. Many people achieve their desired result after just one treatment, though you may need a series of treatments to penetrate deeper areas.

Prior to treatment, the surgeon will anesthetize the treatment area with a topical numbing cream to minimize discomfort. Individual treatments typically take 15-45 minutes.

After the treatment, your skin will be very sensitive. You may experience swelling and redness similar to a mild sunburn for several days. Skin peeling or flaking also may occur, as well as skin “weeping” or crusting.

Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions to take care of your skin. It is important that you follow these instructions carefully.

Your surgeon also may recommend a special skin care regimen both before and after treatment to enhance your results.

Possible Side Effects of Skin Resurfacing Treatments

You may experience the following side effects during or after your treatment:

  • A feeling similar to snapping the skin with a rubber band
  • Redness after treatment; duration depends on type of treatment
  • Swelling, also depends on type of treatment
  • Pigment changes (skin coloring) after the treated area heals
  • Scarring
  • Bleeding, called “pinpoint bleeding,” which typically stops after a few minutes and has no lasting effect

Read pre- and post-treatment instructions (PDF) or learn more about the procedure (PDF).