About CO2 laser treatment

In skin rejuvenation treatments, doctors may utilise carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers. The aim of treatment is to stimulate the production of new skin cells and remove the topmost layer of skin to improve the skin’s appearance. 


CO2 laser treatment may treat skin conditions like acne scars, warts and moles, fine lines and wrinkles, or skin ageing.


This article explores the operation of CO2 lasers, the differences among CO2 laser types, and the possible benefits. Other topics covered include the period of recovery, other options, and potential negative effects of this treatment.


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What is a CO2 laser, and what does it do?
What is a CO2 laser, and what does it do?

CO2 lasers are part of a laser resurfacing process, which is a facial rejuvenation procedure that uses a laser to improve the skin's appearance or treat minor facial flaws. The wavelength of the energy emitted by the laser is around 10,600 nm (nanometers). This type of wavelength is absorbed by the water within skin cells, resulting in the topmost layer of skin being abraded.


CO2 lasers also stimulate the skin, causing the formation of collagen. Collagen helps maintain a well-organised network of fibres in the body and adds to the skin's suppleness. Following laser therapy, new skin that may be smoother, tighter, or more elastic begins to form as the skin heals.

Fractional CO2 laser - is it ablative or non-ablative?
Fractional CO2 laser - is it ablative or non-ablative?

Ablative CO2 lasers involve vaporising the skin tissue. When compared to non-ablative lasers, this treatment is more aggressive. As a result, ablative treatment might result in more noticeable improvements and more significant effects on the skin.


Fractional CO2 laser is an ablative treatment involving the use of a number of microbeams. This creates columns of ablation through the skin while allowing the nearby skin to remain untouched.


Because the laser beam columns of fractional CO2 lasers are targeted, the risk of adverse effects is minimised. There is a shorter recovery period with this type of laser treatment.


Fitzpatrick type 1 or type 2 skin types perform effectively to CO2 lasers. The skin's reaction to sunlight is classified by the Fitzpatrick system. As paler skin has fewer melanocytes, ablative CO2 lasers are more effective on Fitzpatrick type 1 or type 2 skin. Therefore, there is less likelihood that the patient would have hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation after the operation. In addition, those with darker skin tones might benefit more from other non-ablative CO2 lasers.


With fractional lasers, those with certain skin types and the following ailments could see improved outcomes:

  • acne
  • acne scars
  • stretch marks
  • Scarring
Benefits of CO2 laser treatment
Benefits of CO2 laser treatment

Ablative lasers like CO2 lasers, may help treat certain skin conditions, included:

  • Moles and warts
  • Small or fine wrinkles
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Acne scars
  • Scars from chickenpox
  • Mild scarring
  • Actinic keratosis
  • Seborrheic keratosis


Ablative fractional CO2 lasers were effective in treating acne scars. However, those with scars from ice-pick acne can benefit more with combined therapy.


Fractional CO2 lasers may benefit individuals with post-burn scars with only minor adverse effects, like redness, crusting, and inflammation. 

Side effects of CO2 laser treatment
Side effects of CO2 laser treatment

A CO2 laser treatment can result in some side effects, including: 

  • Wound healing delay
  • Infections
  • Skin peeling
  • Scars
  • Skin redness
  • Milia: tiny, white or yellow cysts that tend to cluster together
  • Variations in skin colour


It is important to talk about any possible risks and side effects with the doctor who is administering the treatment.

CO2 laser treatment recovery
CO2 laser treatment recovery

It usually takes 2-4 weeks to heal completely after CO2 laser treatment. Around two weeks after laser treatment, new skin starts to grow.


After treatment, your skin may appear raw and may also have some drainage. Sunburnt-like appearance and feel are normal. To avoid damaging the skin while recovering, you should:

  • Stay at home and avoid outdoor physical activities. 
  • We recommend not using makeup for 7-10 days
  • Avoid picking or scratching the recovering skin.
  • Limit exposure to direct sunlight and put on sunscreen
  • You may use over-the-counter painkillers or ice packs to relieve pain
  • Keep up with follow-up appointments to monitor your post-treatment/recovery progress.
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