Ablative or Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Written by Virginia Surgical Arts on .
Ablative or Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing?
  • Home
  • Blog
  • Face
  • Ablative or Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Ablative and non-ablative laser resurfacing is a great rejuvenation tool for the skin. But it’s also important to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when you pick one of these skincare treatments. 

Skin rejuvenation has a number of different names including laser resurfacing, laser peel, laser surgery, and others. But no matter what name you hear it referred to as, all these laser treatments use energy to penetrate through the layers of skin to improve the appearance of wrinkles, skin discoloration, acne scarring, and other signs of aging. 

What Is Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing is a surgical technique where laser beams are directed at various layers of the skin to either remove wrinkled and damaged skin or stimulate collagen production. The technology has come a long way in recent years, and many patients find the process comfortable or experience only a mild sunburn or snapping sensation. This procedure can be used to correct any number of skin abnormalities, including:

  • Uneven skin pigmentation
  • Wrinkles and lines
  • Undesirable skin texture
  • Liver or age spots
  • Acne or chickenpox scars
  • Sun damage
  • Warts
  • Large oil glands

Ablative vs. Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing

The difference between ablative and non-ablative treatments is that ablative lasers remove the topmost layer of skin while non-ablative lasers heat the underlying skin tissue, forcing your body to produce new collagen without harming the surface. 

Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Non-ablative lasers are the best at improving overall skin texture and tone. For some patients, they can also be used to improve the appearance of fine lines, pigmentation problems, and mild wrinkles. 

The non-ablative procedure is substantially different from the ablative procedure, as the epidermis is not altered in any way. Instead, the lasers target the dermis to stimulate tightening and collagen growth.

Because the top layer of skin isn’t removed with non-ablative laser resurfacing, patients tend to experience less redness, swelling and discomfort with the non-ablative procedure and may not need any downtime before returning to work. Non-ablative skin resurfacing generally comes with a mild recovery in comparison to ablative treatments, however, multiple treatments may be required to achieve desired results. Other than mild redness and/or swelling, the skin is not visibly affected. Most patients are able to resume normal activities right after the procedure. 

Best candidates for non-ablative laser resurfacing

The best candidates for non-ablative resurfacing are patients who:

  • Want a treatment with no downtime
  • Are willing to undergo multiple treatments to reach desired results
  • Have mild to moderate signs of aging
  • Have minimal skin sagging
  • Are relatively young (between the ages of 25 and 65)

Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Ablative laser skin resurfacing is generally heralded as the more effective technique because it delivers more drastic results when used to correct wrinkles, skin pigmentation and texture issues. However, this is a bit misleading, as non-ablative laser skin resurfacing can be equally effective for patients with different needs.

Ablative lasers are more invasive and are great for treating mild to moderate scarring, skin discoloration, and wrinkles. Patients generally see dramatic differences after just one treatment but most need two weeks or more for recovery. The recovery period often involves some discomfort, swelling, and crusting of the skin. 

During the ablative procedure, a dermatologist purposefully removes the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, using either carbon dioxide or erbium laser beams. This process vaporizes the skin that is already aged or damaged. At the same time, the dermis, the layer just beneath the epidermis, tightens for fresher-looking skin.

Traditional ablative laser skin resurfacing has a longer two- to four-week recovery period compared with non-ablative procedures. The patient may wish to take a week or two off work until the initial skin damage subsides. However, most patients are ready to return within two weeks and are even able to put on makeup at this time to counteract any remaining redness from the procedure. The skin continues to heal and rebuild itself over the course of months, leading to younger-looking skin that can last for years!

Best candidates for ablative laser resurfacing

The best candidates for ablative resurfacing are patients who:

  • Show significant signs of aging
  • Have deep or pitted facial scarring
  • Want to see significant results quickly
  • Have time to dedicate to recovery

Fractional Laser Skin Resurfacing

You may have heard of fractional laser skin resurfacing and wondered how it compares to the ablative and non-ablative procedures. In fact, fractional technology is not separate from these forms of laser skin resurfacing – it is merely a more modern technique that maximizes the effect of surgery.

During both fractional ablative and non-ablative laser skin resurfacing, the laser beams are delivered to specific areas of skin rather than the whole face to target problem areas more effectively. This way, the healthy skin surrounding the treated areas can help skin bounce back, quickening the recovery process and delivering more impressive results.

So which is right for me: ablative or non-ablative laser skin resurfacing?

The best way to determine which treatment is right for you is to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced skincare experts here at Virginia Surgical Arts. We are able to help you make the best decision based on your skin type and your cosmetic goals. Contact us today to schedule a personal consultation with us!

Written By Virginia Surgical Arts

Our oral and cosmetic surgery facility in Virginia Beach serves all of Hampton Roads and offers oral/facial reconstruction, bone grafting, and facial and body rejuvenation. We are fully licensed and accredited. When you are ready to begin truly appreciating and evoking the real you, Virginia Surgical Arts is here–ready to work with you.