Potential Risks and Complications of Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is an innovative process used in cosmetic dermatology. Doctors can use laser resurfacing to treat different kinds of skin conditions, from birthmarks and other colorations to sun damage and different types of skin health issues. In laser resurfacing, the dermatology doctor uses a laser to conduct light energy to the skin, where it generally turns to heat energy. Laser resurfacing targets small areas of the skin, sometimes called micro-channels, and heats or destroys these skin cells to help generate healthier skin and promote the growth of collagen. Water and cellular items called chromophores receive the heat energy and aid in this process.

Different kinds of laser resurfacing technologies are available. Some that focus on the outer layers of skin are called ablative lasers. Other kinds of laser treatments may target skin areas a bit differently. Although CO2 is a common active agent in laser resurfacing, laser designs vary. There are a series of significant risks involved in laser resurfacing treatments. Here are some of the most common risks and side effects of laser resurfacing.

Swelling and Bruising

Swelling and discoloration are some of the expected side effects of laser resurfacing. If these get out of control, they can indicate greater complications in your laser resurfacing treatment.


Laser resurfacing typically treats different kinds of skin discoloration, but in some patients, the treatment can cause some areas of the skin to be lighter than others. These side effects can be permanent, and should be discussed as part of a pretreatment consultation with your doctor.


Some patients are more at risk for scarring as a result of laser resurfacing. Those with a known tendency toward hypertrophic or keloidal scarring may be worse candidates for a laser resurfacing procedure.

Sun Damage

Directly after a laser resurfacing treatment, doctors recommend avoiding direct sunlight for a period of time. This is in order to protect the skin that can get damaged by the sun. Excessive exposure to sun is one possible way that a laser resurfacing session can lead to significant complications.

Bacterial Infection

When a patient has an existing bacterial infection or similar condition, laser resurfacing can interact negatively with this condition. Talk to your doctor about the risks of infection with laser resurfacing treatments.

Anesthesia Related Complications

In the course of a laser resurfacing session, doctors will often administer a local anesthesia such as a nerve block in order to help the patient deal with the feelings involved in the laser heating. Local anesthesia has a lot less risk than general anesthesia that is used in more extensive surgeries, but some complications can still develop if the patient is somehow allergic or more vulnerable to the effects of a specific anesthesia.

All kinds of cosmetic dermatology practices have known side effects and complications. Talk to your doctor before starting out with a laser resurfacing process, and ask about all of the risks and benefits of laser resurfacing according to your own medical conditions and medications that you are currently taking, as well as known allergies. It’s also good to provide your medical physician with a family health history and other documentation in order to help find the best cosmetic dermatology treatments for you.

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