CO2 Laser

CO2 Laser Resurfacing

Laser technology has been used for several decades in skin care, and the CO2 laser is a very common procedure option in physician offices. This technology has been applied in the treatment of a variety of issues; from wrinkles around eyes, to dark spots on face, and acne scars not treatable with Dermabrasion. But its early popularity is what also caused the CO2 laser to see many changes over the years. For example, earlier versions of these devices were often accompanied by significant discomfort and side effects in the form of redness, inflammation, and peeling skin. As consumer demand for minimally invasive treatments increased, the technology evolved with the addition of various cooling mechanisms to increase patient comfort, and strategies to limit skin damage through a more methodical laser beam application. The CO2 laser treatment of today has improved significantly from its predecessors, but risks of skin damage and painful side effects have not disappeared completely.


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CO2 Laser Technology

The CO2 laser creates infrared waves, which are then amplified through a series of mirrors and lenses to deliver a powerful energy beam to the surface of the skin. Physicians use specially-designed versions of this device to selectively damage skin tissues, a process called ablation, and spur the body’s natural healing process.

In the more traditional applications, the CO2 laser would fully burn off the top layer of skin in the entire treatment area, providing for a type of laser peel. Damaged skin cells were completely vaporized, and fresh, glowing skin was present beneath. The intensity of this procedure, however, is too painful for some patients to endure, and the CO2 resurfacing laser treatment was altered over time to use a fractional approach.

The fractional version of the CO2 laser, or fractional Co2 laser, is very similar to the initial models, except for one key difference: it doesn’t burn off the entire upper layer of skin cells. Instead, this type of device destroys only tiny patches of skin within the treatment area, leaving much of the surface intact. This improvement on the CO2 laser allows for faster healing, but at the same time, may also require more treatments to show meaningful results.

CO2 Resurfacing Laser Treatment

The use of the CO2 laser is most common for conditions that can benefit from removal of damaged skin cells. Hyperpigmentation issues, liver spots, medium to light wrinkles, fine lines and crow’s feet can all be addressed with laser resurfacing. Because the treatment literally burns portions of the skin, the need for a topical pain cream is highly likely, and in severe cases general anesthesia may be required.

However, this technology is not thought to be as effective at long term skin tightening because it doesn’t focus on collagen stimulation. This protein is found in the dermis layer of the skin, but the CO2 laser resurfacing treatment isn’t meant to go that deep. Further, collagen is best stimulated by being heated and coagulated, as opposed to being completely vaporized. Therefore, other technologies like Thermage and Sublative Rejuvenation may need to be utilized instead of a CO2 laser for long term anti ageing effects.

Side Effects of CO2 Laser Resurfacing

Any CO2 laser treatment is likely to cause discomfort and require 3-4 days to recover. However, some individuals may be at a higher risk because of previous medical problems. For example, patients with infections in the treatment area should not have the procedure as the micro wounds could easily become infected, exacerbating the problem.

Individuals who have undergone a chemical peel in the last few months, or who has had Dermabrasion performed is also not a good candidates for CO2 laser treatment. The idea behind many such treatments is the same as with laser resurfacing; to break down the already damaged cells on the surface and allow the skin to heal itself. If a CO2 laser procedure is performed soon after, the damage may be too severe for the body to easily handle and may lead to permanent skin discoloration or scarring.


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8 replies
  1. Johnny
    Johnny says:

    I live in the NSW outback where I have a farm. I live under the harsh Australian sun and as a result my skin suffered. After moving on from the farm to Sydney, my wife forced me to get a procedure done to fix my skin or as she put it to start looking my age. I was recommended the CO2 resurfacing treatment by a dermatologist. At first I was a little concerned as it seemed that my skin got worse right after the procedure, I didn’t realise there would be such a long recovery time. After the recovery time which took a couple of weeks I can say it was a transformation. Both my wife and I were very happy with the doctor and the outcome.

  2. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    My experience with the laser resurfacing was amazing. My skin had been compromised by excessive sun exposure due to my line of work and had some scarring from acne. There is some downtime after having this procedure, I had to wear a bandage over my face for a few days after the treatment but the recovery was with no issues. In the following weeks as my skin was recovering and I started noticing the results I was very impressed. My skin is looking great, the damage from the sun has all gone and any scarring disappeared.

  3. Vixie
    Vixie says:

    I know many of the girls or women don’t like pain. But we can handle pain more than man can, so this is not going to be a big deal, that is, if you decide to go for a treatment with the co2 laser. I can’t say that I’ve had the most pleasant experience. It’s not like going out to get your hair done, that’s all I’m going to say. It’s not that enjoyable, and I want to be realistic! The co2 laser resurfacing is not the most wonderful procedure there is out there, since it can hurt a lot… It is burning off your skin tho… I hated the entire process. It was so painful I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I thought I was never going to come back again. But after I started to notice the effect, I changed my mind…I still cringe a bit when I think of the pain I will put my skin through again, but… It’s worth every pennie.

  4. Tina
    Tina says:

    I know that the fraction co2 laser is so common in the beauty clinics these days, but I didn’t really try it until the last month. I finally got an appointment to do something about the spots I had on my face, and some acne scars. I get acne when I eat sweets, and every acne leaves a scar. I don’t know why, but my face is full of tiny little scars, and you know I can’t stop eating sweets. I liked it because the co2 laser cutter really did burn of the damaged skin, and the skin below it was amazing and fresh, but it didn’t treat the rest of my face, or didn’t do anything to is, so I need more treatment. I had to stay at home for two days because my skin was really red, and I had a bad reaction to the burning, which is fine, it wasn’t that terribly painful, more uncomfortable. If you are looking for something to make your face look instantly beautiful, this is not it. If you are not prepared to go more than once at least.

  5. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I have done quite a lot of research, and this is what I’ve got so far. The fractional co2 laser skin resurfacing is a procedure that has really undergone a lot of changes from the moment it was invented. It developed from an extremely aggressive and painful process to a much more comfortable and less aggressive. That’s a good thing, since patients nowadays are more sensitive then they were before, since their skin is so much more delicate and prone to infections.
    We don’t really take care of our skin as we should, plus all the pollution, unhealthy food, wrong skin regimen can really take its toll. Seems like the co2 fractional laser is a great option for ironing out the appearance of your wrinkles and lines, as well as scars, but it don’t do too much for your skin health. It’s not going to produce more collagen after the treatment. It’s good because it’s sort of like a chemical peel. But it’s not for the long term definitely. Many women don’t get their information, so they get the wrong treatment. Do your research women.

  6. Maria
    Maria says:

    I’ve had acne issues when I was a teenager, but my skin seemed to heal itself for some time. Then I just got to self-conscious of what my skin went through. It really looked old and dry, and damaged…I didn’t want to hide behind all the make up for the rest of my life. I googled more effective beauty procedures, and I’ve stumbled upon the co2 laser. The co2 laser skin resurfacing is a great procedure. I didn’t do anything to my skin before that, so I think it made it strong to go through something like this. It does create little damages in your skin in other to make it heal and produce new and fresh cells that will look even better. I handled if fine, and thank God, I didn’t have any infections or problems.

  7. Fraxel_Fan
    Fraxel_Fan says:

    The fraxel co2 laser is awesome for the skin. It’s a treatment like no other. I don’t know about your experience, but my impressions are awesome. I love the way my skin looks after the treatments. It looks fresh, young, it is so radiant, that it seems like I am five years younger. I don’t really have the best surgeon in the world, but it seems like I do! I would recommend the co2 laser treatment to everyone who needs a bit of touching up! It’s not a big deal, just grit your teeth a bit, and after you are finished you will be happy with the results. I got all my girl friend to try it, and now all of us have great and youthful looking skin. And I don’t need to waste any money on beauty creams that aren’t working anyways!

  8. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    After my pregnancy, my skin changed a lot. I used to have really beautiful skin, but I started getting spots all over my face, they are quite dark. So my face became discoloured, and I know this may be due to hormones, but it has been two years now, and they have stayed that way.

    I can’t tell you how annoying it can be, especially for someone that has nice skin like me! Or at least had it. When I was in Sydney, visiting my relatives I got a brochure from a very reputable clinic that stated that the co2 laser skin resurfacing is the number one technique to go with if you want to get rid of the spots from your face.

    I was immediately intrigued since I didn’t know anything about it. Then I browsed for the co2 fractional laser, to know more about the process. I was a bit discouraged when I saw the word ‘pain’ and ‘discomfort’. But it did get a lot of great reviews and people were saying that it really works, and removes all the damaged layers and spots, and crow’s feet, stuff like that. So, I’m going to invest in the treatment to see what it will do for me.


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