Skin Resurfacing


Think of your skin as an onion. There is that outer, papery layer that you always want to remove right away. As you continue to peel the onion, layer by layer, and things get continually smoother and shinier.

Of course, peeling away our skin isn’t quite so easy, but today’s technologies offer a variety of options to help improve the look and feel of our outer layer. These treatments work to clear away the skin’s surface layer and heal damage underneath it. With time and patience, your current surface layer is replaced by new, more youthful-looking skin.1

acne scars

Skin resurfacing is ideal to treat the following conditions:

  • Wrinkles and fine lines
  • Age spots caused by sun damage
  • Uneven skin tone and texture
  • Mild to moderate scarring from surgical procedures, acne, or burns
  • Skin tags
  • Sebaceous hyperplasia (enlarged sebaceous glands that produce too much oil)
  • Milia (small, non-inflamed cysts)
  • Warts

According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, there are current hundreds of skin resurfacing products available in the United States.1 Many of these you can try at home, while others are available only through a dermatologist or licensed aesthetician.

Let’s take a closer look at the more popular skin resurfacing options available today!

At-Home Skin Resurfacing Treatments

At-home skin resurfacing options have their advantages, including cost and convenience. You can find a variety of products in your local drug store, beauty salon, or online. While these are often a good introductory option for those looking for cheaper, more easily accessible products, it can be challenging to differentiate one alternative from another.

One important note of caution: Always be sure to read the instructions provided with over-the-counter skin resurfacing products. Even when used correctly, you may experience some redness, dryness, and skin peeling after use of these products.

Chemical Peels


Chemical peels are an easy, at-home skin resurfacing treatment that involve products containing glycolic acid. Glycolic acid peels are popular options to help exfoliate the skin and promote collagen production in the deeper layers beneath the skin surface. This may help smooth fine lines and wrinkles on the surface of the skin itself. Glycolic acid peels with between 8 and 15 percent glycolic acid are likely to be the most effective.2

Other types of chemical peels include the following:3

  • Enzyme peels — Good for individuals with sensitive skin
  • Lactic acid — Gentle on the skin; good for the treatment of hyperpigmentation
  • Mandelic acid — Most effective when combined with salicylic acid; good for treating fine lines and wrinkles, and improving overall skin texture
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) — Intensive peel that is good for treating sun damaged skin, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles
  • Jessner’s peel — Intensive peel that combines lactic acid, salicylic acid, and resorcinol; good for treating hyperpigmentation and acne-prone skin

In general, at-home chemical peels have lower concentrations of acids than ones that are typically applied in a professional setting, so while you may see good results, the impact won’t be as significant as a professional-applied peel.

Light Therapy


Light therapy devices are another popular at-home option for some patients with skin issues. These devices vary in design and function, but typically involve the delivery of intense red or blue LED lights to help resurface specific regions of the skin. Red light therapy is most popular as a skin resurfacing solution because it stimulates the production of collagen — a protein that helps make your skin stronger and more elastic.4 Red light therapy can also be effective in treating fine lines and wrinkles, as well as to help remove warts. It is highly recommended to use a device that is FDA approved or has a CE mark.

In-Office Skin Resurfacing Treatments

For patients who want a more durable skin resurfacing solution, a variety of in-office treatments are available. These treatments are performed at medical spas or doctor’s offices under the supervision of a licensed dermatologist, aesthetician, nurse, or other skin care professional. Visiting one of these centers also gives you access to trained skin care professionals who can tailor therapy to your specific goals.

Here is a brief overview of the most popular skin resurfacing options offered in today’s practices.

Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion


Many professional settings offer more intensive chemical peels compared to those available for at-home use. Even some patients who may not want a deep chemical peel may simply feel more comfortable being supervised by a trained skin care professional. Anesthesia is sometimes needed in cases where patients opt for a deeper chemical peel.1

Following a chemical peel, some patients will incorporate follow-up microdermabrasion to further exfoliate the skin and enhance the results of the chemical peel. Microdermabrasion is suitable for all patient types, especially those with sensitive skin.1

Laser Skin Resurfacing Treatment


Laser resurfacing is a common procedure offered in professional skin care settings. These use intense lasers to improve the appearance and health of the skin. There are two primary types of laser therapy available -- ablative and non-ablative – that may be appropriate for you based on your personal skin care goals.

Ablative Laser Therapy

Ablative laser therapy is a more intensive treatment that uses carbon dioxide (CO2) or erbium to remove the epidermis (outer layer of skin) while simultaneously heating the deeper layers beneath the skin surface. This stimulates the creation of new collagen that helps tighten the skin as the epidermis heals. Ablative laser therapy is particularly effective in helping to remove scars, wrinkles, and warts.5

Candela offers the CO2RE® ablative laser therapy system that helps peel away the outer, damaged layer of skin while stimulating new collagen production in the dermis (deeper skin layers). Following treatment with the CO2RE system, your body’s natural healing processes take over and help build new, smoother layers of skin.

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Non-Ablative Laser Therapy

Non-ablative laser therapy does not remove any skin layers. Instead, it heats the deeper layers of the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production, leaving your skin looking and feeling tighter and smoother. Non-ablative lasers produce more gradual effects and are most effective in helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They can also be used to treat areas of hyperpigmentation. Many skin care professionals will suggest the addition of specific topical creams, gels, or serums that contain antioxidants to further enhance collagen production following non-ablative laser therapy.5

Candela offers several non-ablative lasers, including the Frax Pro® and Nordlys systems. In one clinical study, the Frax Pro 1550 nm wavelength model led to improvement in skin texture in all five patients evaluated.6 In a more recent study, 100% of patients treated with the Frax 1940 nm laser said they were satisfied with the results of treatment.7

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Skin resurfacing before and after

See how a few laser treatments can improve your complexity.

None
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Dinesh Maini, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: CO2RE
None
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: E. Victor Ross, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: CO2RE
Frax-Pro-skin-resurfacing-Paloma-Cornejo-MD
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Paloma Cornejo, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Frax-Pro-skin-resurfacing-E-Victor-Ross-MD-P
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: E Victor Ross, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Frax-Pro-1940-skin-resurfacing-Konica-Patel-Schallen-MD
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Konika Patel Schallen, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Frax-Pro-1940-skin-resurfacing-Konica-Patel-Schallen-MD
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Konika Patel Schallen, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Frax-Pro-1940-skin-resurfacing-Konica-Patel-Schallen-MD
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Konika Patel Schallen, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Frax-Pro-1940-skin-resurfacing-Konica-Patel-Schallen-MD-P5
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Konika Patel Schallen, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Frax-Pro-1940-skin-resurfacing-Konica-Patel-Schallen-MD-P6-1m-after-3txs
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Konika Patel Schallen, MD
Condition: skin resurfacing
Treated with: Frax Pro
Exceed acne scars treatment
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: MT Derm
Condition: acne scars
Treated with: Exceed
None
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Alain Braun, MD
Condition: acne scars
Treated with: CO2RE
None
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Alain Braun, MD
Condition: atrophic scars
Treated with: CO2RE
Vbeam Prima scar teatment
Before
After
Photos courtesy of: Gilly Munavalli, MD
Condition: atrophic scars
Treated with: Vbeam Prima
FAQs

Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing are all non-invasive, non-surgical techniques that stimulate the skin’s natural healing processes. While offering different approaches, these methods all work to heal the skin within days to weeks.

Healing time typically depends on the skin resurfacing treatment selected and the intensity of that treatment. More intensive procedures such as professional chemical peels and ablative lasers typically have longer healing times since the outer layer of skin is being regenerated. Other options such as microdermabrasion and non-ablative layers, which impact the deeper layers beneath the skin surface, have very little healing time in most cases.

You will likely see the quickest results with professional chemical peels and ablative lasers because they are more intensive and aggressive in nature. Less intensive resurfacing approaches such as non-ablative lasers typically require multiple treatment sessions before substantial improvements are noted.

The best skin resurfacing treatment for you will depend on many variables. These can include skin conditions/issues, skin type, sensitivity, and overall goals of treatment. Based on these variables, your skin care professional will be able to help you determine which treatment approach is right for you.

References
1. American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Skin Resurfacing Guide. Accessed from: https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/non-surgical/skin-resurfacing-guide/
2. Sharad, J. Glycolic acid peel therapy — a current review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2013;6:281-288. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3875240/
3. Healthline. Doing Chemical Peels at Home: Everything You Need to Know. March 7, 2019. Accessed from: https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/chemical-peels-at-home
4. Cleveland Clinic. Red Light Therapy. December 1, 2021. Accessed from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22114-red-light-therapy
5. Mayo Clinic. Laser Resurfacing. January 24, 2020. Accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/laser-resurfacing/about/pac-20385114
6. Tidwell WJ, Green C, Jensen D, Ross EV. Clinical evaluation and in-vivo analysis of the performance of a fractional infrared 1550 nm laser system for skin rejuvenation. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2018;20(6):1-4.
7. Clinical study of Frax 1940 in photodamaged skin, Data on File, Candela 2020.
At-home treatments Candela skin resurfacing treatments Before and After Photos

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