Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser Facial Treatment: What You Need to Know

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Getting a facial isn’t just self-care; it’s quality skincare. And now, one of the most reliable dermatological facial treatments uses carbon dioxide (CO2) gas and a laser to rejuvenate your skin. But what are the advantages of a CO2 laser facial treatment, and what does the procedure involve? Let’s explore what you need to know about CO2 laser facial treatments.

What Is CO2 Laser Facial Treatment?

A CO2 laser facial treatment is a cosmetic procedure that uses CO2 gas and a laser to help remove scars, blemishes, and wrinkles and improve the skin’s overall appearance. People sometimes refer to this laser treatment procedure as CO2 facial laser resurfacing.

The CO2 laser treatments use an ablation-type laser to generate heat and destroy damaged skin cells. This type of laser works by removing the outermost layer of skin (the epidermis) and heating the layer of skin below it (the dermis). This process stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers while causing the existing ones to tighten, promoting the growth of new, firmer skin.

Types of Skin Conditions a CO2 Laser Can Treat

CO2 laser treatment may be a good option if you have skin damage due to aging, sun exposure, or acne. These skin conditions include:

  • Dark spots 
  • Scars
  • Moles, birthmarks, or other lesions 
  • Sun-damage
  • Uneven tone or texture
  • Aging
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Large pores

In addition to common skin problems, CO2 laser treatments can also treat the following conditions:

  • Seborrheic Keratosis: Non-cancerous warts that appear with the skin’s aging process
  • Verruca Vulgaris: Common wart caused by a human papillomavirus
  • Angiofibroma: Benign tumors that form from blood vessels or connective tissue
  • Lentigo Simplex: Brown patches due to skin pigmentation
  • Rhinophyma: A condition that causes the nose to become enlarged, red, and bumpy
  • Sebaceous Hyperplasia: Enlargement of skin oil glands
  • Masses on the skin: Melasma, skin cancer, tumors, cysts, and other mass growths on the skin

Is CO2 Facial Treatment Safe?

A CO2 facial is a safe procedure, and you can reduce the risk of side effects by following your doctor’s recommendations. But like any cosmetic procedure, laser skin resurfacing has risks, such as:

  • Burning sensation or pain
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Redness
  • Skin tone changes (hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation)
  • Milia (small white bumps)
  • Exacerbated acne or rosacea

Talk to your doctor about complications immediately to prevent permanent scarring or dyspigmentation. 

What Is the CO2 Laser Procedure?

  1. A few weeks before the procedure, your dermatologist might ask you to apply a retinoid cream to the area of ​​skin that will be lasered. This cream prepares the skin and reduces the risk of side effects.
  2. If you have a history of oral herpes, your doctor will most likely prescribe an antiviral medication to prevent an outbreak. The medication is typically taken leading up to, during, and after the procedure.
  3. The CO2 laser procedure is performed on an outpatient basis by a dermatologist. Before the procedure, the doctor will apply a local anesthetic to your skin or through an IV.
  4. Next, staff will clean your skin of residual oil, dirt, and bacteria. The doctor will begin treatment using a laser adjusted for energy and penetrating power specific to your skin. They will move the laser slowly over the problem areas of the skin to complete the treatment. A partial-face treatment typically takes 30 to 45 minutes, whereas an entire-face treatment takes 1.5 to 2 hours. 
  5. After the laser procedure is complete, your doctor will cover the area with a non-stick bandage. The bandage will stay on for the next 24 hours. Then, you will need to clean the treated area(s) two to five times a day with a dilute saline or vinegar solution before applying a moisturizing skin protectant, such as Vaseline, or any other specialized topical treatments provided by your doctor.
  6. During the recovery time, do not use cosmetics and other products or activities that could potentially irritate the skin. Sun exposure should also be kept to a minimum, and sunscreen should be liberally applied when necessary. Typically, your face will recover within 10 to 21 days after treatment with appropriate care.

CO2 Laser Treatment vs. Microneedling

Microneedling is a mechanical procedure that involves inserting thin needles into the skin to create small incisions that encourage skin regeneration. CO2 lasers use light as their source of energy. 

Cost of the Procedures

The average cost of laser skin resurfacing is about $2500 for ablative and about $1500 for non-ablative. Ablative CO2 treatments remove the top layer of skin to treat the problem area. In contrast, non-ablative CO2 treatments heat up the underlying dermal tissue to promote collagen production without damaging the topmost skin layer.

Although there are at-home treatment options for microneedling, which can significantly cut the cost of your treatment, the average cost for treatment from a dermatologist is between $200 and $800.

Location of Procedures

Dermatologists precisely adjust and target CO2 lasers to treat specific skin problems without causing damage to nearby healthy tissue. Microneedling, on the other hand, is not specific to a particular condition. However, because it causes collagen and skin regeneration, it can help with various issues.

Side Effects of Procedures

Microneedling is a fast and less risky technique to better care for your skin. However, the effects are frequently minor, and achieving the desired results may require several microneedling sessions. If you have a specific condition that you’d like to resolve more quickly, CO2 laser treatment may be the best option. However, because lasers emit heat, they often cause temporary discoloration, burning, swelling, and redness.

The Procedures Work Together

Both treatments work well together. For example, you can use a CO2 laser to treat specific problems or areas and then use microneedling for all-over skin rejuvenation. However, you should talk to a dermatologist to find out what is right for you and your skin.

Do CO2 Facial Treatments Have Permanent Results?

The effects of CO2 laser treatments can be permanent for some skin conditions; however, the anti-aging effects of CO2 laser resurfacing are temporary. Nonetheless, your skin will improve in brightness and tone as it recovers, and as your collagen grows and new layers of skin are regenerated, the positive effects will continue to appear.

Each person is unique, and the duration of benefits is determined by your natural aging process and how you treat your skin after the treatment. Because no therapy can reverse the aging process, you’ll continue to lose freshly generated collagen over time. 

After just one session, most clients get the results they want. If you have significant wrinkles or skin damage, your doctor may suggest an additional treatment session to reach your desired results. Many clients return for a re-lasering 1 to 2 years after their initial treatment because the effects are so impressive. You can ask your doctor about a personalized treatment plan for your skin. 

Other Laser Treatments

CO2 facial treatment is optional and provided by a dermatologist. The following are other treatments using a laser but for different purposes:

  • A greenlight laser is used to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). A greenlight laser for BPH can positively affect patients battling an enlarged prostate.
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is known for treating vascular lesions, unwanted hair, and pigmented lesions.
  • Multiwave locked system (MLS) laser therapy works to help sprains and strains recover following surgery.