What Is a CO2 Laser and Does It Work?

Posted on January 13, 2022

A CO2 laser features many anti-ageing benefits.

From tightening your skin to evening out your complexion, a CO2 laser offers many benefits.

But how does a CO2 laser exactly help you? Does it really work? Is the procedure painful?

In this article, I will talk about what a CO2 laser is, what it does, and how it works. I will also answer the most frequently asked questions about CO2 lasers.

What Does a CO2 Laser Do?

A CO2 laser is an excellent treatment for patients who are suffering from severe sun damage, deep wrinkles, uneven skin tone, uneven texture, and acne scars.

CO2 laser resurfacing also offers a wide range of benefits like skin tightening, smoothening, and evening out your complexion. It can also give you a radiant glow all in just one session.

To this day, CO2 lasers are among the best laser skin resurfacing treatments on the market which offers dramatic improvement.

A CO2 laser treatment can be performed along with other skin-improving procedures such as PRP rejuvenation therapy, LED therapy, and FACEtite.

A CO2 laser boasts a wide range of benefits including smoothing your skin out.

A CO2 laser treatment must be performed by a dermatologist or cosmetic doctor.

What Is CO2 Laser Resurfacing?

CO2 laser skin resurfacing is a procedure performed by either a dermatologist or a cosmetic doctor. The procedure involves the use of lasers to improve skin texture and appearance.

This type of procedure uses carbon dioxide and a surface-removing laser to treat scars, warts, deep wrinkles, and other superficial skin conditions.

Fractionated CO2 laser skin resurfacing is an anti-ageing treatment used in treating various skin conditions. Carbon dioxide lasers remove the thin layers of skin only with minimal heat damage to the surrounding areas.

Normally, carbon dioxide lasers treat the following:

  • Wrinkles
  • Photodamage
  • Scars
  • Warts
  • Birthmarks
  • Enlarged oil glands on the nose

Ablative vs Non-Ablative Lasers

Depending on your needs, your surgeon will recommend either ablative or non-ablative lasers treatment.

Ablative laser treatments include carbon dioxide or Erbium.

CO2 laser resurfacing treatments are used in getting rid of scars, warts, and deep wrinkles.

Meanwhile, doctors use Erbium lasers to treat fine lines and wrinkles. They can also be used along with other superficial skin concerns. Both types of ablative lasers only remove the outside layers of the skin.

On the other hand, non-ablative lasers don’t remove any skin layers. These treatments involve pulsed light, pulsed-dye lasers, and fractional lasers. Non-ablative lasers can treat rosacea, spider veins, and acne-related skin concerns.

A CO2 laser is a type of ablative laser, which removes external skin layers.

A CO2 laser is a type of ablative laser, which removes external skin layers.

Ablative lasers can produce dramatic results after one session.

Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Ablative lasers are more invasive. Hence, they are a great option in treating mild to moderate wrinkles, facial scarring, and skin discoloration, and other skin concerns.

Ablative types of lasers include carbon dioxide and Erbium. CO2 laser resurfacing treatments are used in getting rid of scars, warts, and deep wrinkles. Meanwhile, Erbium is used for finer lines and wrinkles, along with other superficial skin concerns.

Dramatic changes can be observed after just one treatment. However, most patients require two weeks or more of recovery time after this treatment. During recovery, discomfort accompanied by swelling, oozing, and crusting of the skin may be experienced.

Ablative laser resurfacing is an excellent option for patients who:

  • Manifest signs of significant facial aging
  • Have deep or pitted facial scars
  • Want to see rapid results

Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Non-ablative lasers are best used at improving skin tone and texture. In some instances, they may also be used in improving the appearance of fine lines, mild wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. The procedure includes pulsed light, pulsed-dye lasers, and fractional lasers.

Non-ablative lasers are also used in treating rosacea, spider veins, or acne-related skin concerns. A series of separate treatments are normally needed to achieve significant results. The recovery period is minimal compared to other ablative treatments. Other than redness or swelling, the skin will not be visibly affected and you can resume normal activities with no limitation.

Non-ablative skin resurfacing is an excellent option for patients:

  • Aged between 25 and 65 years old
  • Manifest minimal to moderate skin sagging
  • Willing to undergo a series of treatments to achieve dramatic results
  • Want minimal downtime to no downtime.
Experts say that non-ablative lasers work best when improving one’s skin tone and texture.

Experts say that non-ablative lasers work best when improving one’s skin tone and texture.

A CO2 laser works as long as a reputable, board-certified doctor performs it.

Does CO2 Laser Really Work?

The result of the CO2 laser resurfacing varies according to the severity of your condition.

Sun-damaged skin shows the greatest improvement after the treatment. Wrinkles have a 60 to 80% chance of improvement.
The majority of the patients are satisfied with the aesthetic outcome, with minimal downtime and low incidence of complications.

The intensity of your treatment will determine how soon you’ll see the results, and how long your recovery will be.
Results won’t be present not until your skin is completely healed and any lingering redness is resolved. It can take several weeks for fractional treatments to heal.

Moreover, results on the surface of the skin will soon be apparent as soon as the skin completely heals. However, it may take a few months for the firming effects of increased collagen to show up, as the body will naturally produce new cells and structural proteins.

Is CO2 Laser Painful?

CO2 laser treatments vary in depth and variety of settings where they are used. Some treatments are only superficial, while others run deep. The deeper the peel, the longer the recovery period will be.

Despite the long recovery period, patients often see dramatic results.

Prior to the treatment, the skin will be numbed so that minimal to no pain will be felt during the procedure. Doctors mostly use numbing cream for this.

The majority of the patients find the pain minimal. Most of them describe the sensation they feel as similar to prickling. Moreover, the procedures that involve anesthesia guarantee a painless procedure.

During the treatment, patients and even doctors compare the sensation to a rubber band snapping against the skin.

Other non-ablative laser treatments have little to no pain and only require a topical numbing cream to counter discomfort.

A CO2 laser procedure might cause some discomfort.

A CO2 laser boasts benefits such as a shorter recovery time.

Benefits of Fractional CO2 Laser

1. Less discomfort

Most laser treatments will usually cause discomfort in the form of heat or burning sensations. However, CO2 laser treatment has minimal discomfort during and after the procedure.

2. Shorter recovery time

Most of the patients have observed a striking difference when it comes to the recovery time after the procedure.

Some patients may take a longer time to recover since lifestyle, habits, and use of sunscreen plays a big factor. To speed up recovery, you must avoid bad habits and follow a healthy lifestyle. Doing so can also help you achieve a more dramatic result.

3. Induces Collagen Production

Fractional CO2 laser treatments induce collagen production. The procedure involves the creation of tiny columns in the skin. This stimulates the body’s healing process. Collagen plays a huge role in the said process.

Gradually, with a series of treatments, the body’s collagen level will be high. This will result in smoother, firmer, and younger-looking skin.

4. It is Non-Invasive

Due to the small size of the laser pulses used, the skin is not totally vaporized.

The healthy cells will help heal the small areas where the laser was applied. This gives the skin a rejuvenated appearance that includes a more even skin tone and smoother skin texture.

Reasons to Get CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing in a London Clinic

London clinics use a range of modern lasers to treat your skin, an effective and non-invasive approach. The need for traditional surgery is eliminated, whilst bringing you equal and better success rates.

Top skin clinics in London also have the most advanced CO2 laser technology. In addition, they are operated by qualified cosmetic doctors who ensure that you receive the best results.

Most of the clinics in London, including The Harley Street Filler Specialist London, have been performing treatments for 10 years or more, and have treated thousands of patients with serious skin concerns.

At my clinic, you will be fully supervised after the treatment to ensure that no adverse reactions will occur. The staff and I will also closely monitor you to ensure that you see optimal results.

Getting CO2 laser treatments at reputable London clinics ensures your safety.


Clinics in London also house the best cosmetic doctors in the world, including me, Dr. Julian De Silva. I went through rigorous training and have extensive experience in the field. If you want to know how a CO2 laser can treat your skin issues, book a consultation with me now.

Dr. Julian De Silva, Medical Director

About the Author

Dr Julian De Silva is a leading facial plastic surgeon that specialises only in surgical and non-surgical facial procedures. Dr. De Silva has considerable experience in cosmetic and reconstructive facial surgery from fellowships in London, Los Angeles, and New York. He is one of a handful of elite surgeons to be recognised with British, European and American qualifications, memberships and board certification.

About Dr De Silva | Dr Julian De Silva's Google Scholar

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