Cosmetic Procedures
Laser Skin Rejuvenation

Today’s lasers can diminish many signs of aging — from early wrinkles and age spots to deep lines and spider veins. A laser procedure often can be performed in less than an hour and may require little or no downtime.

Also Called
Numerous lasers and light devices are used to rejuvenate the skin. These devices are generally grouped into the following categories:

  • Non-ablative laser rejuvenation – No downtime. Best for early signs of aging.

  • Intense pulsed light (IPL) – Not a laser, this light therapy penetrates deeper into the skin than a non-ablative laser. IPL does not injure the surface of the skin, so there is usually no downtime. IPL can improve skin texture and color as well as reduce pore size.

  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) – This is a two-step procedure. First, a solution that makes the skin more sensitive to light is applied and left on for 30 minutes or longer. Then light from the laser or other source is beamed onto the treated area. Downtime is minimal. PDT decreases redness, reduces age spots and freckles, and improves the overall texture and appearance of the skin.

  • Fractional laser rejuvenation – Offers deeper rejuvenation. Recovery time is short. Best for diminishing signs of aging such as age spots, wrinkles, and skin discoloration.

  • Ablative laser resurfacing – Heats the skin to cause a visible wound, which means some downtime for recovery. Effective for deeper wrinkles and diminishing aging caused by years of unprotected sun exposure. A type of laser called a fractional ablative laser causes no visible wounds. Fractional ablative laser resurfacing requires less downtime than ablative laser resurfacing.

Signs of Aging Treated
Lasers and other light-based devices are used to treat these concerns:

  • Age (sun) spots

  • Dark circles under the eye

  • Dry, dull skin

  • Fine lines

  • Freckles

  • Hand rejuvenation (age spots, loose skin, and lines)

  • Melasma

  • Redness and flushing

  • Scars

  • Seborrheic keratoses (flat only)

  • Skin texture (treats roughness)

  • Skin tone (treats mottled complexion and skin discoloration)

  • Spider veins

  • Stretch marks

  • Tattoos (removal)

  • Unwanted hair

  • Varicose veins

  • Wrinkles

What Happens During Laser Skin Rejuvenation?
If you are considering a laser or other light-based treatment to rejuvenate your skin and want to know what would happen if you underwent one of these procedures, visit Laser Skin Rejuvenation: What to Expect Before, During, and After.

When See Results from Laser Skin Rejuvenation

Improvement is gradual. It may take several months to see the full effects. When a laser that does not require downtime is used, a series of treatments may be necessary to see the desired results. The number of treatments varies from person to person; however, between 3 and 6 treatments is the norm.


Age spots and freckles on a woman’s face

Woman after treatment with intense pulsed light (IPL)

Intense pulsed light (IPL) can effectively treat some age spots and freckles.

The same patient shown 5 months after 1 IPL treatment. Some concerns can be safely and effectively treated in 1 session.

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

Research shows that laser rejuvenation can dramatically reduce fine lines around the eyes and mouth and on the cheeks. With 1 treatment, age spots can be diminished by 50% and may be completely eliminated with follow-up treatments. Laser skin resurfacing can significantly reduce deep lines, effectively remove some shallow scars, and tighten the skin.

While lasers may sound like magic wands, they are not. It is important to have realistic expectations. Laser skin rejuvenation can be effective, but does not work for everyone.

Some skin tightening is possible, but lasers cannot produce the same degree of lifting seen after a surgical facelift or eyelid lift. Wrinkles caused by constant muscle movement such as frown lines can be hard to treat with lasers alone. Another procedure such as botulinum rejuvenation may be used along with a laser to obtain the desired results.

Possible Side Effects
While lasers and other light therapies have fewer side effects than more traditional skin resurfacing procedures such as chemical peeling and dermabrasion, there are still risks. The most common is unwanted temporary darkening or lightening of the treated skin. There also is a relatively small risk of scarring.

The success of every cosmetic procedure is highly dependent on the skill level and knowledge of the person performing it. The American Academy of Dermatology advises patients to do their homework and discuss their options and expectations with a board-certified dermatologist before undergoing any skin resurfacing treatment.

How Long Results Last
It is possible to permanently remove some signs of aging such as a spider vein, age spot, or scar. However, laser skin rejuvenation cannot stop the skin from continuing to age. Crow’s feet may re-appear and new age spots can develop. Because sun exposure accelerates signs of aging, protecting the skin from sun exposure will lengthen the amount of time that the results last. Protecting the skin from the sun also can prevent some signs of aging from re-appearing such as blotchy skin and dark patches.

Related Links
10 Questions to Ask Before a Cosmetic Procedure
Facial Skin Rejuvenation (AAD pamphlet)

Alexiades-Armenakas MR, Dover JS, Arndt KA. “Laser Therapy.” In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Rapini RP et al, editors. Dermatology. 2nd edition. Spain, Mosby Elsevier; 2008. p. 2099, 2111-6.

Alexiades-Armenakas MR, Dover JS, Arndt KA. “The spectrum of laser skin resurfacing: nonablative, fractional, and ablative laser resurfacing.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2008; 58: 719-37; quiz 38-40.

American Academy of Dermatology. “Saving Face Without Surgery? New Minimally Invasive Technologies Can Rejuvenate Skin with Minimal Downtime, Less Risks.” News release issued July 30, 2008. Last accessed September 19, 2008. 

American Academy of Dermatology. “Keep Father Time From Marching On: New Laser Treatments Offer Gentle and Effective Skin Resurfacing in a Flash.” News release issued February 3, 2008. Last accessed September 19, 2008.

American Academy of Dermatology. “New Approach for Treating Aging Skin Combines Minimally Invasive Procedures.” News release issued February 4, 2007. Last accessed September 19, 2008.

American Academy of Dermatology. “Fractional Rejuvenation.” News release issued February 21, 2005. Last accessed September 19, 2008.

Hruza GJ, Fitzpatrick RE, Arndt KA et al. ”Lasers in Skin Resurfacing.” In: Kaminer MS, Dover JS, Arndt KA, editors. Atlas of Cosmetic Surgery. United States of America, W. B. Saunders Company; 2002. p. 328.

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Dermatologists also use lasers and other light technologies for:





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Page last updated 11/13/08

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