Laser Skin Resurfacing

The Ultimate Guide to Laser Skin Resurfacing

Last fact-checked: 3 October 2020

One of the first parts of your body to show its age, sun damage, acne scars, age spots, wrinkles, furrows and other skin imperfections can be minimized with laser skin resurfacing.

Find out how you can safely improve your complexion with this treatment and discover quality-checked global providers with Medical Departures. 

How Does Laser Skin Resurfacing Work?

The treatment works by applying an intense wavelength of light to predetermined areas of the face which essentially vapourises the tiny outer layers of the skin.

The intense heat is controlled so that the skin underneath is not affected; only the blemished, sun-damaged layer of skin on top is removed. As the skin heals, it restructures and increases collagen production. The new layers which form are smoother and tighter.

Results should last between one and five years.

Am I Suitable for Laser Skin Resurfacing?

It’s important to prepare yourself for this procedure initially by discussing your cosmetic hopes and expectations with your dermatological surgeon. It should also be noted that:

  • You will also be asked to disclose your medical history, current and past health problems and any medication you take.
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen and vitamin E should not be used for at least 10 days as these over-the-counter drugs can affect clotting.
  • If you suffer from cold sores around your mouth, laser skin resurfacing can aggravate this condition and trigger further breakouts and you may be prescribed an antibiotic or antiviral medication to prevent it before your visit.
  • If you’re a smoker, it’s imperative that you stop for at least two weeks prior and at least two weeks following your procedure as the chemicals in cigarettes will severely hamper your recovery.
  • Patients are advised to minimize their exposure to the sun as this may cause irregular coloration to your skin.

What Does the Procedure Involve?

There are two kinds of lasers: ablative (wounding) lasers which are more invasive and non-ablative (non-wounding) lasers.

Ablative laser resurfacing:

Ablative laser skin resurfacing produces more significant results. It is used to treat moderate visible signs of aging including:

  • Wrinkles
  • Liver spots and age spots
  • Pigment irregularities (uneven skin tone)
  • Lesions
  • Acne or chickenpox scars
  • Sun-damaged skin

The procedure cannot remove excess or sagging skin or deep wrinkles and the results won’t be permanent because as you age, you will continue to develop wrinkles as your skin loses elasticity.

Non-ablative resurfacing:

This targets early signs of aging such as:

  • Fine lines
  • Uneven pigmentation
  • Changes in skin texture

Non-ablative resurfacing involves fractional lasers which use lower energy than the ablative treatment and treat the dermis (lower layers of skin) without damaging the surface (epidermis).

Lasers are passed over the treatment area which has been numbed with local anesthetic: the eyes, lips, forehead or in some cases, the full face, in a series of horizontal and vertical passes which creates microscopic treatment zones and delivers heat into the skin. This eliminates old cells, the heat stimulates collagen and healthy, tighter skin grows, reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

The skin will be numbed with a local anesthetic, held taut and the patient issued with goggles to protect the eyes. You will feel a prickly sensation and your doctor may apply a cooling treatment for pain relief.

Because non-ablative lasers are not as intense as the ablative treatment, multiple sessions will be necessary to achieve the best results. On the plus side, it can be performed in the doctor’s office in under an hour and although the results are less pronounced, the recovery period is shorter and potential complications are reduced.

What Is the Recovery Time From Laser Skin Resurfacing?

This is a good time to note that there is a longer post-operative recovery period for ablative treatment and most patients take around two to four weeks for redness and swelling to recede, depending on the depth of skin removal.

Following the procedure, it should be noted that:

  • For the first 72 hours, you will experience itching
  • After around five days, the skin will start to dry and peel (it’s vital that you don’t pick off this skin as it will leave scars).
  • Ice packs, healing ointment and keeping the head raised with an extra pillow while sleeping will help with healing and speed up the growth of new skin.
  • Once the skin heals, you can wear light, oil-free makeup to disguise the redness which will generally fade within three months.
  • Strong sun protection (at least SPF 30) should be worn; this is brand new skin, which is lighter in color, will burn easily in the sun. It’s also important to keep your new skin well moisturized.

How Much Can I Save Abroad - And Where?

Patients are typically able to save at least 50% when undergoing treatment abroad, but the exact cost will be dependent on the extent of your treatment. In most cases, savings will be in the hundreds, rather than thousands, and so it probably is not worthwhile flying just for treatment. 

However, if you are based near the US-Mexico border, or planning a vacation or business trip abroad anyway, there are certainly savings to be had. 

Check out some of the latest prices on offer, as well as photos, reviews and surgeon profiles at these top global clinics for laser skin resurfacing:

Getting Started with Medical Departures

Browse our global providers for laser skin resurfacing here. Once ready to book, follow the steps on our site to lock in the best prices online.

For more information, feel free to contact our Customer Care Team via phone, email or online chat. 


Laser Resurfacing. Mayo Clinic. 24 January 2020.

Laser Skin Resurfacing. WebMD. 25 June 2019.

Smokers who quit one month before surgery reap benefits: UN health agency. UN News. 20 January 2020.