CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing At CosmetiCare
What is it like to have a CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Treatment to rejuvenate the appearance of your skin? Find out by reading this CosmetiCare patient’s first-hand experience with her first CO2 laser facial treatment for skin refinement.
My Experience With CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing
A little bit about me:
I’ve had a few injectables done previously, as well as microdermabrasion treatments, however this was my first experience with a laser treatment. I had the treatment done the week before my 29th birthday and looked forward to this “reset” for my skin. In terms of my goals for treatment, I mostly hoped the CO2 Laser Resurfacing would reduce the appearance of my sun spots, minimize the appearance of my pores, and minimize the appearance of fine lines. Although I’ve always tried to be good about wearing sunscreen (especially because I have fair skin and do have a tendency to freckle on my face), I’ll admit that I do love the sun, and fun in the sun! Growing up in Arizona and now living in Southern California, weekends were always spent outdoors. Facials and medical grade products have helped, but I’d never undertaken anything more serious in terms of skin refinement options. Knowing that topical skin care only goes so far, I was excited to give this a try.
P.S. I’ve been told that the CO2 laser is also a great treatment for those with acne scars as well.
What To Expect With CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing
Being a newbie in relation to skin refining laser treatments like the CO2 laser, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Plus, no matter who you ask, there’s only one REAL way to know how a treatment feels and what the results will be – and that’s to go through the experience yourself.
So if you’re considering having CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing to help reduce the signs of aging, sun damage or acne scars, or you’re wanting to improve your skin texture, this blog is for you.
What You Should Know About The CO2 Laser
I hear everyone reacts differently to having a CO2 Laser treatment done, and the settings of the laser have a lot to do with how much you feel or swell (they can go very deep or very intensive with the number of micro-channels, so there’s a lot of treatment variability).
I had very little pain but an expected amount of post-treatment redness and peeling, which subsided after about a week.
FYI, I’m writing this blog just 2 weeks after having my first CO2 Laser Resurfacing treatment.
To help you gain an idea of what to expect from your own treatment, especially in relation to post-op redness, swelling, and peeling and whether CO2 Laser Resurfacing is “worth it” in terms of the downtime, I’ve detailed the first week of the post-treatment recovery, including some not-so-flattering photographs.
Let’s start with a quick snapshot or "About" CO2 Laser treatment
In a nutshell, the treatment uses CO2 laser energy to create ‘controlled micro-trauma’ to the skin layers to stimulate the skin’s innate repair and renewal processes. The stimulation helps with skin tightening, decreasing sun damage, and increased collagen production.
Multiple treatments are recommended for the best results. However, you’ll see results in just a few weeks after each treatment. In the end, you’ll have glowing, tighter, fresher looking skin – and typically younger too because it’s been re-stimulated in terms of collagen structures.
What’s the recovery or downtime after having CO2 Laser Treatment?
In terms of downtime – you’ll want to avoid special events for about 2 weeks. The first week you’ll experience the most after effects and definitely won't want to be out. After day 7, most of the signs that you’ve had a treatment will have resolved or can be easily hidden with mineral makeup. However, some people experience acne breakouts following the treatment, so I wouldn’t plan anything for 2 weeks to be safe. As I mentioned, I had the procedure done the week before my birthday, and for that reason, I planned a calm weekend getaway at a resort in Ojai with my husband for my birthday. I also made it clear that there was to be NO SURPRISE PARTY! I showed him the worst pictures of people after the CO2 Laser Treatment I could find on the internet just to be sure he would listen 🙂
CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Details: Patient Diary Of Laser Treatment With CO2 Laser Technology
Here’s my CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing day-to-day experience:
Prior to my treatment, I was instructed to visit my local pharmacy and pick up a few prescriptions. The prescriptions included a painkiller, a sedative, and an antibiotic. I have a relatively high pain tolerance and have experienced nausea with painkillers in the past, so I requested prescription strength Tylenol with Codeine instead. An hour before my treatment, the laser nurse applied numbing cream that covered my face and I took the medications for pain and the sedative. I also purchased an Alastin recovery kit that was recommended for post-care.
Here in my before photo you can see the freckles that I hoped the CO2 Laser would reduce the appearance of.
The actual procedure itself took less than 30 minutes. It was not painful and I only experienced mild discomfort around the edges of my face, which seemed to be more sensitive (on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say it was about a 3). If I had elected for a more intensive treatment there is a chance it might have hurt a bit more than it did – which again, was surprisingly minimal. However, I also did not take the pain killer that is typically prescribed. With the prescription strength Tylenol, the treatment wasn’t entirely pain free, but it felt hardly noticeable.
Note: The laser nurse (her name is Tannaz, and she is wonderful!) used settings based on my skin type and my desired results.
Photos of what I looked like immediately after treatment before Alastin Regenerating Skin Nectar and Soothe + Protect Recovery Balm was applied
The most discomfort I experienced happened once the laser procedure was complete. It felt like an intense sunburn. Tannaz applied Alastin Regenerating Skin Nectar and Soothe + Protect Recovery Balm and a cool fan on my face, which really helped.
Tip: If you have a small hand held battery operated fan for the car ride home, I recommend bringing that. If you don’t have a fan, crank up the air conditioning like I did and you’ll be fine. Also, you should know that you’ll need to have someone drive you home because of the medication.
Once I arrived home, I used a cool compress about every 30 to 90 minutes. I was instructed not to wash my face until morning, and re-apply the recovery balm anytime I felt dry or tight.
Tip: Wear a comfortable top to your procedure that you can easily slip off (XL shirt with button-up front or large opening to slip over your head easily) and a comfortable top to bed the first night so you don’t rub at your skin when changing.
12 Hours and 24 Hours After CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Treatment
About 10 to 12 hours after treatment, the redness and swelling started setting in on my face.
The worst of the swelling and redness actually showed up 24 hours after the treatment (Day 2) and continued for about 3 to 4 full days before starting to noticeably subside – I'm told this is a normal reaction.
The days after CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing
In a nutshell:
As directed, I washed my face 3 times a day (morning, noon, and night) with Alastin Gentle Cleanser – then applied Alastin Skin Nectar followed by Alastin Soothe + Protect Recovery Balm, to keep my skin moist while healing.
Even with all the moisturizer, my skin felt very dry and rough, somewhat like coarse sandpaper (this is normal and I was told to expect this).
Swelling went down each day and was followed by eventual peeling or flaking of the outer skin layer, revealing fresher looking skin.
The first day after the treatment my skin was very red and felt warm throughout the day. I was also very swollen and felt especially puffy around my eyes. I focused on keeping my face constantly moisturized.
Tip: Sleep with a cover over your pillowcase to protect from all the moisturizer.
I experienced redness and noticed more brown spots surfacing (hyperpigmentation) on Day 2. It was a full 48 hours (end of Day 2) before I started seeing slight signs of peeling and feeling itchy for the first time. That night I woke up in the middle of the night and felt even itchier. I took a Tylenol PM and applied more Soothe + Protect Recovery Balm to keep my face moist and was able to fall back asleep.
The photos in the natural daylight better show the rough texture and brown spots (unfortunately, I don't have many photos like this because I did everything possible to limit my time outdoors!)
The next morning (Day 3), I started to see increased peeling when I washed my face. Using just circular motions with the pads of my fingers, the top layers of my skin began to slowly peel away. I was told it’s so important to keep the entire face hydrated during this time. There were a few times that I noticed dry patches around my jawline this day, so I had to make a conscious effort to re-apply moisturizer there, and also drink tons of water. I was told that the laser ablates tissue based on water so it dehydrates your skin. Water intake helps you heal better.
On Day 4 is when I experienced the most peeling. I started seeing fresh skin! With this, also came a few breakouts. I was told to switch from using the balm to a lighter Alastin moisturizer. Although the balm was great to help with the rapid healing, it also has a tendency to cause breakouts, because its so occlusive.
On Friday (Day 5), I woke up with very tight skin. I noticed my sun spots were much lighter than before. It felt like the new skin I was seeing was glowing!
On Day 6, it seemed like I could actually see an improvement in the size of my pores. My skin felt smooth to the touch and swelling had really subsided by this point. Although minor breakouts continued, I definitely noticed improved texture overall. (Admittedly, this photo was taken in a different bathroom with different lighting).
Recovery After CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Treatment
Within about 7 days, most of your swelling will be gone, but you still may have some redness and residual swelling for another week or so. This varies from person to person and also relates partially to the strength of the treatment (there are numerous settings that are changed to treat particular skin conditions or skin types).
It was crucial to avoid all sun exposure following the treatment. Any time I would go outdoors (mostly just walking to and from my car), I would wear a hat and sunglasses. I also always had high SPF sunblock on.
On Day 7, I was able to wear makeup again, but only mineral makeup. I made a trip to Sephora and picked up Bare Minerals foundation powder. It felt great to wear makeup again, and I noticed the makeup glided on much more smoothly and looked a lot better than prior to the treatment. For someone that used to wear primer, concealer, foundation and powder, it was a refreshing change.
CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Results
The result after 2 weeks: Smoother, firmer skin with less visible sunspots. I can definitely see an improvement in the overall texture and my pores do look visibly reduced. My skin feels great to the touch, and appears less dry than before treatment.
I’m still experiencing small breakouts but they are slowly going away on their own.
I’m still only wearing the mineral foundation powder on my skin. I’m confident wearing that alone!
Is CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing Worth It?
Would I do CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing again?
At this point, I can easily say, YES!
The treatment didn’t hurt hardly at all (it looks worse than it feels). I was expecting it to be painful, but it wasn’t (at least not on the settings Tannaz used for my particular treatment and not with adequate topical numbing cream).
I’m looking forward to seeing continued improvement. I can only imagine how much better my skin would look with an additional treatment, but even after just this, I see noticeable results in the way my skin looks and feels.
Feeling confident in your provider of course makes all the difference. I had such a positive experience because I felt prepared and knew what I was walking into, thanks to my conversations with Tannaz. She answered all of my questions before treatment and checked in on me after treatment. I felt like I was in good hands and it was obvious that she was incredibly knowledgeable about laser treatments in general.
In my opinion, the results were well worth it. It’s not inexpensive, but if it delays other procedures that I might need down the road, then it’s a great investment in my skin.
Final Thoughts on CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing
The swelling and redness can be quite disconcerting at first, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to expect it.
If you follow the post-treatment instructions carefully, including avoiding the sun, not wearing makeup, and avoiding strenuous exercise for a few days while you heal (plus eating right and drinking plenty of water), you’ll end up with smoother, clearer and tighter skin that should heal well.