What is CO2 laser and how does it work?

L.A.S.E.R. stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.  There are many different types of lasers that are used in the medical field.  CO2 lasers use energy to excite the molecules of the CO2 gas to create a laser beam.  CO2 lasers can be used in cosmetic surgery for skin resurfacing to help improve the tightness of the skin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, treat acne scars, treat skin discoloration, as well as for removal of pre-cancerous and benign lesions.

The CO2 laser is considered an ablative laser.  This means that when the laser hits the skin, it heats it and causes a controlled burn to the skin.  The top layers of skin are shed by the body to reveal new, healthier skin.  Because the laser heats the skin and creates a controlled injury to the skin, the skin reacts by stimulating a healing process.  Part of this process includes the increased production of collagen and elastin in the skin.  Collagen and elastin are substances in the skin that help the skin look toned and youthful.  Throughout life we are always loosing collagen and making more in a continuous cycle.  As we get older, we loose more collagen than our bodies can replace.  The CO2 laser will help to resurface the skin as well as stimulate new collagen growth.

What is the difference between fractionated and non-fractionated CO2 lasers?

With a non-fractionated CO2 laser, nearly the entire surface of the skin surface is treated by the laser.  A fractionated CO2 laser randomly treats up to approximately 70% of the surface area of skin.  The laser beam leaves microscopic areas of skin that are not affected by the laser beam.  This allows the skin healing time to be decreased and provides the patient with a quicker recovery.  This also means that the results from a fractionated laser treatment, although very impressive, are less than a non-fractionated laser treatment.  Some other advantages of the fractionated CO2 laser are that the settings on the laser allow the physician to tailor the “power” of the laser to provide either a lighter treatment or a deeper more extensive treatment depending on the needs of the patient.

A non-fractionated CO2 laser treatment is typically done in the operating room, as heavy sedation is needed because of the discomfort from the laser.  With a fractionated CO2 laser treatment, these can often times be done in the office with topical numbing creams.

A typical full face non-fractionated laser resurfacing will take about two weeks of time for the skin to recover.

What is the recovery time for a fractionated vs a non-fractionated CO2 laser treatment?

The recovery time for a fractionated CO2 laser treatment is anywhere from 2 – 3 days to up to one and a half weeks depending on the depth and type of treatment provided.  This recovery can be as mild as some redness and mild peeling to significant peeling, swelling, redness and mild discomfort.  Once the skin heals, it may still be slightly red for a few days to a few months.  This however, can be easily covered with some light makeup.

The recovery time for a non-fractionated CO2 laser treatment is usually 2 – 3 weeks.  During this time there is significant swelling to the facial soft tissue, the skin is raw, red, peeling and moderately painful.  After the skin heals, there is a residual redness that lasts from 2 – 6 months.  Once again, however, this can easily be covered with some light makeup.

Who is a candidate for fractional CO2 laser?

Most people are good candidates for a fractional CO2 laser treatment.  Depending on your skin type and the type of results you are looking for will help determine if a CO2 laser treatment is the best treatment for you.

Call our office or contact us today for your consultation today!

Which fractionated CO2 laser do we offer?

The fractional CO2 laser that we offer here at Chau Plastic Surgery is the Equinox.  We feel that the Equinox fractional CO2 laser offers the most consistent and reproducible results.

To find out more information, call our office for your cosmetic consultation to see if a fractional CO2 laser treatment is right for you.  Let our caring staff help you reach your aesthetic goals.

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