What is laser resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing uses beams or pulses of light energy to treat skin irregularities. Your doctor can direct precisely focused light to target specific layers and problems such as discoloration, roughness, lines, scars and blemishes.

Our Med Spa experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, offer many types of laser procedures. Our experts from multiple departments are highly skilled in laser resurfacing. You can choose to schedule with our Med Spa experts in Dermatology; Facial Plastic Surgery (Ear, Nose and Throat); Oculofacial Plastic Surgery (eyelid care); or Plastic Surgery.

The types of laser skin resurfacing offered at Ohio State include Halo, BBL, IPL, ProFactional and more. Not all types are offered by all experts or departments.

Contact your doctor’s office to confirm your laser type preference prior to your appointment. If you don’t have a preference, we’ll make a recommendation based on your goals or advise you to consider other aesthetic procedures.

Schedule your appointment in MyChart or call a provider listed below.

Why use laser resurfacing?

Changes in the outer layers of skin can add up over time. For example, as you age, you may see the effects of sun damage, skin conditions, wrinkles, lines or spots. Eventually, your face, arms or legs may lose their smoothness. Whatever the cause of dull or damaged skin, laser treatments could help.

There are many types of laser procedures and technologies. They work by applying light beam energy to renew and resurface your skin. The light beam removes the outer layer of damaged skin (epidermis). At the same time, the beam heats the skin beneath (dermis). The laser energy prompts your body to produce more collagen, the fibrous connective tissue that rejuvenates your skin. As your skin heals, you’ll develop a new layer of firmer, smoother skin.

What concerns can laser resurfacing address?

Ohio State Med Spa aesthetic experts use laser procedures to treat these and other skin conditions:

  • Acne and other scarring
  • Age spots and age-related damage
  • Birthmarks
  • Dull or discolored complexion
  • Enlarged facial pores
  • Facial lines and wrinkles
  • Skin blemishes
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Warts

Darker skin absorbs more light, which can cause hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin tone). Depending on your skin type and condition, your doctor may recommend milder laser options or alternatives to laser therapy.

Who should not get laser resurfacing?

Laser therapy may not be right for you if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, taking certain medications or have:

  • A tendency to scar easily or abnormally
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Cold sores or past cold sores
  • Deep lines and wrinkles
  • Excess or sagging skin
  • Severe or active acne
  • Very dark skin

Types of laser treatments

Our Med Spa experts stay ahead of the curve, offering the latest clinically tested procedures and technologies to help your skin look its best. We’ll customize our treatment to meet your goals. If you have a preferred laser treatment, please note not all laser therapies are offered by all departments or experts. Call your doctor’s office to ask about specific laser type treatments.

BroadBand Light therapy

BroadBand Light therapy (BBL) delivers stronger, broad-spectrum light. Doctors can target this light on different areas such as age spots, sun damage, spider veins and rosacea. BBL may be used to treat the face, neck and chest. Doctors also use it to improve blemished skin on the hands and arms.

Deep resurfacing

This laser therapy can reduce persistent lines and deep-set wrinkles. It rejuvenates your skin, treating furrows, nose-to-mouth lines and lip lines. Deep resurfacing can also revitalize your skin’s tone and texture, reducing sun damage and scarring.

Halo Laser

The Halo, or Halo hybrid fractional, laser targets both surface level skin and deeper tissue. This laser is primarily used on areas of concern on the face and neck. Halo can treat various skin issues including signs of aging and sun damage.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy

IPL treatment uses pulses of light to target blood vessels just below the skin and also in deeper layers of tissue. IPL covers a wide area of skin and a deeper range, allowing many issues to be treated at once. IPL can treat issues including sun damage, age spots, redness and acne.

Laser hair removal

If you’re tired of waxing, shaving and plucking unwanted hair, laser hair removal can give you a long-term break. It damages your hair follicles, so hair begins to shed. This process requires a series of treatments and touch-ups over time. Doctors treat unwanted hair on your face, chest, arms, back, bikini line and legs.


Doctors use this technology to remove the outer layer of sun- or age-damaged skin. A MicroLaserPeel can give you a smooth, healthy complexion. It effectively addresses specific concerns such as discoloration, skin texture problems and other common signs of aging.

ProFractional laser

This therapy breaks light down into thousands of tiny pinpoint, or fractional, beams. Doctors may use it to smooth fine lines, wrinkles and scars. In addition, a ProFractional laser can treat a highly specific portion of your skin and promote collagen growth in surrounding untreated tissue for increased firmness.

How to prepare for laser treatments

During your consultation, our aesthetics experts will review the areas you’d like to treat and discuss the results you’d like to achieve. At least six weeks before your treatment, your provider starts you on advanced skin preparation treatments. These treatments are tailored to your procedure, skin type and condition. They help you achieve the best possible results while also helping you reduce the risk of complications.

What to expect during a laser treatment

You may have your laser procedure scheduled at an Ohio State outpatient clinic in Columbus, Ohio, or another convenient location. Before treatment, you can talk with your doctor about oral or topical anesthetic options or medication to keep you as comfortable as possible.

The steps for laser treatments vary. Your provider will let you know what to expect during and after your procedure. Generally, laser skin resurfacing steps include:

  • Your provider customizes laser settings to your skin type and the areas targeted for treatment.
  • Your skin is cleansed and prepared for treatment.
  • Your doctor may provide a sedative to help you relax.
  • You will be provided with protective eyewear.
  • Your doctor may give you a local or general anesthetic for deeper procedures or laser treatments combined with other cosmetic procedures.
  • Your doctor directs a beam of light to each treatment area. You may notice flashes of light and feel warmth.
  • As treatment continues, you may feel mild discomfort for a few seconds — a sensation similar to the snap of a rubber band. The level of discomfort can depend on the area and depth of treatment, the type of laser and other variables.
  • Laser treatments can take half an hour or up to two hours, depending on the procedure, skin condition and areas treated.

Recovery from laser skin resurfacing

After your laser procedure is complete, treated areas may feel warm and appear red. Some people report mild itching or stinging. Your doctor can recommend over-the-counter medication or prescribe topical or oral medication to ease any discomfort. You may also get a cooling compress or ice pack.

Your skin may be raw and even blistered, scabbing over or peeling. Deeper or combined treatments have longer recovery times. However, some procedures, such as BroadBand Light therapy (BBL) and fractional laser treatments, have little or no downtime.

For up to a week after laser treatment, your skin will continue to peel. The new skin is pink at first, and over time, the pinkness fades as healing continues. This fading can take two months or longer, especially for individuals with fair hair and lighter complexions.

You’ll need to avoid products such as glycolic acid and Retin-A for as long as six weeks after your treatment, as directed by your doctor.

Generally, you’ll see results as soon as redness and swelling subside. Then, as new collagen forms, increasingly smooth skin will emerge.

Skincare after laser treatment

It’s important not to touch or scrape the treated area to allow healing and avoid scarring or infection. To care for your skin after a laser skin treatment, follow your doctor’s instructions, including these general steps:

  • Clean your laser-treated skin often, using only doctor-recommended, high-quality skin care products.
  • Change any medical dressings and reapply topical therapies as instructed. These protect your skin from infection and encourage healing.
  • Avoid sun exposure while your skin is recovering. After your skin heals, use a doctor-recommended sunscreen.

Results of laser skin treatments can last for years, especially if you make healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle choices. As always, taking good care of your overall health will keep you looking and feeling your best.

Our Med Spa team can recommend medical-grade sunscreen, healing and soothing moisturizers and other healthy skin care therapies.

What are the risks?

Laser procedure risks vary depending on your skin type and condition, the areas treated, the type of laser treatment used and other factors. We will discuss potential risks with you as you consider the most effective procedure. After an individual evaluation, your doctor may recommend other alternatives more suited to your condition and skincare goals.

Potential risks of laser procedures include:

  • Blisters and crusting
  • Discoloration — especially in darker skin tones
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Skin texture changes
  • Swelling, redness and skin irritation

In sensitive areas, such as the skin under your eyes, there’s a rare possibility of complications.

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