Special considerations, risks and recovery
Skin that's treated with laser resurfacing may react in different ways. But most of the time, it will feel like a mild sunburn. You'll have some redness and swelling. You may also experience itching or stinging for a few days after the procedure.
Depending on the treatment, some people may have what looks like a severe sunburn. The skin will be raw, oozing and may even blister. A yellow liquid may ooze from treated areas to form a crust. Do not scratch or pick at crusts because this can cause scarring.
Usually, about five days to a week after laser skin resurfacing, your skin will become dry and peel.
To achieve an optimum look, follow these steps as part of your recovery:
- Clean the treated areas two to five times a day with saline or a diluted vinegar solution as directed by your plastic surgeon.
- Apply protective skin care treatments that are recommended by your doctor to help your skin heal.
- After healing, you'll need to use sunscreen, particularly one that's formulated for the sensitive, rejuvenated skin on your face. Every day. No exceptions! Your plastic surgeon will help you select the correct type of sunscreen to best protect your treated areas.
- If directed to do so by your plastic surgeon, use a liberal amount of moisturizer each day on your new skin.
You can expect that the treated area will peel. After that, the new, rejuvenated skin will be pink, but it will gradually lighten over two to three months. It may take up to a year for the pinkness to go away. It is very important to protect your skin during this time of healing. Redness tends to last longer in blondes and redheads.
You may resume application of Retin-A and/or glycolic acid products around six weeks after laser resurfacing or as directed by your physician.
Complications of laser skin resurfacing can include:
- Acne flares. Your doctor will recommend a treatment regimen.
- Bacterial infection. Your doctor may recommend taking an antibiotic prior to the surgery and afterwards.
- Cold sore reactivation. This may occur if you have laser resurfacing around your mouth. Be sure to tell you doctor about your history of cold sores (herpes). You can prevent the reactivation by taking an antiviral medication before and after the procedure.
- Hyperpigmentation. It's possible the treated area can become darker in tone. Your physician may recommend a bleaching solution. More rarely you may have hypopigmentation, a lightening of the skin tone.
- Milia. These small white bumps may appear during healing. They can be removed by gentle cleansing with a washcloth.
- Prolonged redness. For some people, the redness just takes longer to disappear.
- Scarring. This is rare, but possible.
- Swelling. If you are having laser skin resurfacing around your eyes, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids to manage this swelling.
Tips for an easier recovery:
- Elevate your head with an extra pillow at night.
- Use an ice pack during the first day or two to ease swelling and discomfort.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco smoke will complicate the healing process.
Recovery times will vary depending on your treatment:
CO2 laser resurfacing: Generally up to two weeks.
Erbium laser resurfacing: One full week.
Camouflage the pink or red skin
Once your treated areas have healed, makeup may used to tone down the color. Try a green-based makeup to neutralize red color. Be sure to opt for an oil-free makeup.