Laser Resurfacing for Acne Scars
Learn more about treatment options for acne scars
Ablative laser resurfacing is a procedure that uses a wand-like laser instrument to remove the upper layers of skin from acne scarring. It is sometimes referred to as "laser peeling" since it removes old skin cells in order to reveal newer, more youthful cells.
Ablative laser resurfacing also heats the skin layers underneath to promote collagen production, which stimulates skin in the treatment area to heal in a smoother, more even appearance.
As with any treatment, there are risks associate with it, though they are minimized in the hands of a qualified dermatologic surgeon. These include:
| Before(left) and after(right) non-ablative fractionated laser treatments for acne scars on the right cheek.
Photo courtesy of Tracy M. Katz, MD - Houston, Texas
The average cost for laser resurfacing is between $1,100 and $2,300. Since laser resurfacing is considered a cosmetic procedure, treatment usually isn't covered by most medical insurance companies. There are certain situations where insurance covers the procedure, such as removal of precancerous growths and scar modification. Other factors affecting cost include size and location of the procedure.
Preparing for the procedure
Before the procedure, an ASDS dermatologist will usually review the patient's medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. Patients also should:
- Discuss any susceptibility to cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth since the procedure can trigger breakouts in at-risk individuals.
- Avoid medications or supplements that can affect blood clotting – such as aspirin, ibuprofen or vitamin E – for 10 days before surgery.
- Avoid smoking for two weeks before and after the procedure.
What to expect after the procedure
Following treatment, the ASDS dermatologist will bandage the treatment area. Patients will be required to:
- Clean the treatment area after the first 24 hours and then four to five times a day thereafter.
- Apply an ointment, such as petroleum jelly, after cleaning to prevent scabs from forming.
Laser resurfacing patients also can expect the treated area to:
- Swell for 24 to 48 hours after treatment.
- Itch or sting for 12 to 72 hours after treatment.
- Slough and peel off old skin five to seven days after treatment.
Healing typically takes 10 to 21 days, depending on the size and location of the procedure. After the treatment area is fully healed, patients should:
- Use only oil-free makeup for at least two to three months.
- Avoid sun exposure and apply an appropriate sunscreen to the area, which will have a ligther appearance following resurfacing.
- Keep new skin well-moisturized.
Finding a doctor
Visit "Find a dermatologic surgeon
" and choose "Laser Resurfacing" from the dropdown menu. In 2013, ASDS dermatologists performed nearly 152,000 laser resurfacing procedures, up from 82,000 in 2012. Because ASDS dermatologists are trained in a variety of the best and latest techniques, they are the most qualified to evaluate and select the best treatment choice based on the individual patient's condition.