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Laser Skin Resurfacing

Skin resurfacing involves treatment of the outer skin layers to help rejuvenate aged or sun-damaged skin to provide a more vibrant and youthful look. Whereas a facelift is indicated for deep facial creases, skin resurfacing is the treatment of choice for diffuse, fine facial wrinkles.

Laser Skin Resurfacing in San Diego

For laser resurfacing, our facial plastic surgeon, Dr. John Hilinski, prefers to use the Lumenis® Ultrapulse Encore carbon dioxide (CO2) laser. This system has two main configurations – termed Active FX and Deep FX – which are both excellent choices for resurfacing the skin. The laser functions by carefully and uniformly removing unwanted damaged skin layers, but in a fractionated manner. This means the laser works by resurfacing a fraction of the skin using carefully designed, computer-generated patterns – essentially leaving microscopic areas of healthy skin that allows quicker healing and recovery.

Benefits of Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing is an ideal treatment for those looking to improve their overall skin texture and tone. Patients love laser skin resurfacing because it can:

  • Improve skin texture and tone
  • Remove or reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Reduce the appearance of acne scars
  • Correct sun damage and age spots
  • Improve the overall complexion
  • Reduce the size of enlarged pores

Candidates For Laser Skin Resurfacing

The best candidates for laser skin resurfacing are individuals who are in general good health, have realistic expectations, and are looking to improve the texture and tone of their skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. If you have active acne, moderate to severe wrinkles, excessive loose or sagging skin, or a dark complexion, laser skin resurfacing may not be appropriate for you.1 If you have questions about whether laser skin resurfacing can help you reach your cosmetic goals, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Laser Skin Resurfacing Procedure

Most cases of skin resurfacing are done under local anesthesia (without going to sleep) in a minor surgery setting and take between half an hour and two hours.2 Results can be quite dramatic in terms of improved skin texture and overall facial appearance. During your laser skin resurfacing procedure, Dr. Hilinski will use a CO2 laser to send concentrated pulsating beams of light at the targeted skin. These beams of light work by heating the dermis (underlying skin) to stimulate the growth of new collagen fibers and simultaneously removing the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) one layer at a time. As each area that is treated with laser heals, new skin forms that is both firmer and smoother.3 Because of its highly targeted approach, laser skin resurfacing allows for dramatic results with fewer hypopigmentation problems. Minimal bleeding occurs at the treatment site because the laser also helps seal tiny capillaries (small blood vessels) during treatment.

Laser Skin Resurfacing Results

Your skin may be pink or red several months after laser skin resurfacing. You can expect your skin to be extra sensitive to UV rays for up to one year and should avoid sun exposure as much as possible and apply sunscreen every day. Most patients see an immediate difference in their skin following laser skin resurfacing, and these effects will continue to improve for up to one year.

As healing takes place, a new more rejuvenated skin begins to flourish. Regenerating skin is smoother, more uniform in color, and has better elastic properties. The collagen fibers within the skin actually begin to tighten as a result of the laser peel, resulting in somewhat of a “mini-lift” to the face. An added benefit to laser resurfacing is the removal of pre-cancerous skin lesions, such as actinic keratosis. In many cases, skin resurfacing can help delay the desire or need for facelift or browlift surgery by several years, if not longer.

While the effects of laser skin resurfacing can last for multiple years, your skin is still subject to the normal effects of aging, meaning that expression lines and wrinkles will reoccur with time. You can repeat laser resurfacing as necessary and many of our patients have maintenance appointments annually or every few years. As with any treatment or procedure, results can be optimized with healthy skin care habits and products. To maintain the healthy benefits of your laser skin resurfacing, an extended skincare program will be offered to you.

Laser Skin Resurfacing Recovery

Healing time for fractionated laser treatments can be as short as just a few days for a micro-peel and upwards of 10-14 days for a full, deep peel. During this time meticulous wound care is necessary in the form of topical moisturizers. Hypoallergenic make-up can be worn after the new skin has started to come in, which helps to conceal residual redness. Most people are comfortable returning to normal social activity by this time.

Laser Skin Resurfacing FAQs

What is a Laser Peel?
The laser peel also referred to as laser skin resurfacing, is a procedure that resurfaces the skin using sophisticated lasers, such as Dr. Hilinski’s Lumenis® Encore Active FX and Deep FX systems. The laser peel minimizes the appearance of fine wrinkling, sun spots, brown spots, freckling, rough skin texture and large pores, providing a more vibrant and youthful look to the skin. The laser peel may be performed on its own, though it is commonly performed with other surgical facial rejuvenation procedures, such as a facelift. There are a wide variety of laser devices available today, although the Lumenis® Encore is widely considered one of the most powerful and effective lasers still on the market today.
What is the Carbon Dioxide Laser?
Carbon dioxide laser resurfacing (CO2 laser) is one of the most powerful skin resurfacing lasers available. CO2 lasers are used to rejuvenate aged and damaged skin by smoothing and tightening the skin while also improving skin discoloration. In general, CO2 lasers provide a deep peel similar to the highest settings on other laser systems. The CO2 laser may be performed as a ‘full face’ or ‘segmental’ treatment. Segmental treatment refers to laser resurfacing of only certain areas or segments of the face, such as around the eyes or around the mouth. In many cases, patients elect to have a fractionated laser peel using Active FX settings that allow a quicker recovery time – while still providing for a nice improvement in skin texture and tone.
What is a Fractionated Laser?
Fractionated laser skin resurfacing is a great option for patients with fine wrinkles/rhytids, unwanted brown spots, and pitted acne scars who require less downtime from a laser procedure. The Lumenis® Encore Active FX and Deep FX system used by Dr. Hilinski is actually a CO2 laser with only a fraction of the laser rays allowed to penetrate through to the skin (thus the term fractional skin resurfacing). On a microscopic level, this results in certain zones of skin that are affected by the laser being in immediate proximity to other zones that are left unaffected. This fraction of skin that is left unaffected by the Active FX and Deep FX laser helps to promote more rapid regeneration of the skin. This concept works particularly well when treating patients with pitted acne scarring of the skin. As opposed to the more intense full CO2 lasers, fractionated laser resurfacing is done routinely in the office. The fractionated laser may be performed as a ‘full face’ or ‘segmental’ treatment. Segmental treatment refers to laser resurfacing of only certain areas or segments of the face, such as around the eyes or around the mouth.

1 American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Who is a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing? Available at: Accessed January 11, 2021.
2 American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What are the steps of a laser skin resurfacing procedure? Available at: Accessed January 11, 2021.
3 American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What is laser skin resurfacing? Available at:,forms%20is%20smoother%20and%20firmer. Accessed January 11, 2021.

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