Should I get ablative or non-ablative laser resurfacing?

When used correctly, ablative and non-ablative laser resurfacing are both effective rejuvenation tools for the skin. That being said, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before settling on any particular treatment.

Skin rejuvenation is known by many names: laser resurfacing, laser surgery, laser peel and more. But no matter what it’s called, all laser treatments use energy to penetrate through various layers of the skin to repair the appearance of wrinkles, discolorations, acne scars and other signs of aging.

Ablative vs. Non-Ablative

The basic difference between ablative and non-ablative treatments is that ablative lasers remove the top layer of skin, while non-ablative lasers work by heating up the underlying skin tissue (without harming the surface) so that your body will produce new collagen.

Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Ablative lasers are more invasive, making them a great option for treating mild to moderate wrinkles, facial scaring and skin discoloration.

Dramatic improvements can generally be seen after a single treatment, but most patients need two weeks or more of recovery time. During recovery, it’s common to experience some discomfort accompanied by swelling, oozing and crusting of the skin.

Ablative laser resurfacing is the best choice for patients who:

  • Show signs of significant facial aging
  • Have deep or pitted facial scars
  • Want to see significant results fast
  • Can take time off from work to recover

Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Meanwhile, non-ablative lasers are best at improving skin texture and tone. In some cases they may also be used to improve the appearance of fine lines, mild wrinkles and pigmentation issues as well.

A number of separate treatments are usually needed to see significant results, but recoveries are generally mild (especially when compared to ablative treatments). Other than some mild redness or swelling, the skin is not visibly affected, and most patients can resume normal routines right away.

Non-ablative laser resurfacing is the best choice for patients who:

  • Are relatively young (between 25 and 65 years of age)
  • Have mild to moderate signs of aging (with minimal skin sagging)
  • Are willing to undergo multiple treatments before seeing results
  • Can’t afford to take time off from work

Which laser resurfacing treatment is right for you?

The best way to find out which treatment is right for you is to schedule a personal consultation with a qualified cosmetic surgeon. He or she will be able to make a recommendation based on your skin type and cosmetic goals.

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Dr. Michael J. Will cosmetic surgeon Maryland received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Jefferson College, his dental degree from Georgetown University and his medical degree from the University of Texas.

He completed his General Surgery and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery training at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Will also completed a General Cosmetic Surgery fellowship at the Cosmetic Surgery Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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