Expert Doctor

Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing

Bobby Buka, MD

New York, NY

Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing

Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing uses the heat from laser energy to rejuvenate and improve the texture of the skin without injuring the surface of the skin. This is due to the fact that non-ablative lasers are fractionated which means they deliver heat through thousands of tiny columns while leaving the surrounding skin unharmed. This method allows for a quicker and simpler recovery time. This type of treatment is also known as non-ablative laser rejuvenation and can improve fine lines, wrinkles and blemishes while increasing collagen production and tightening the skin for a smoother appearance.

Am I a Good Candidate for Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing?

GOOD CANDIDATES for non-ablative laser skin resurfacing include:

  • Male or female patients with early signs of aging
  • Patients who have minor scars
  • A patient with sun damaged skin, skin irregularities or brown spots
  • Any patient looking for better skin quality with less downtime than an invasive technique
  • Patients with non-oily, elastic skin
  • Patients bothered by enlarged pores or stretch marks

The following patients are NOT GOOD CANDIDATES for non-ablative laser skin resurfacing:

  • Patients with moderate to severe wrinkles and creases
  • A patient with significant scars along the face caused by a history of acne outbreaks
  • A patient with a history of cold sores or herpes simplex virus
  • Patients who are prone to scarring after minor injuries
  • Patients with darker skin tones

How is Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing Performed?

Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing can be performed in the doctor’s office. The procedure typically takes about 25 minutes and can be performed with a topical anesthetic to minimize any prickling or burning sensations. A cooling mechanism may also be used, during the treatment, to cool the skin’s surface and ease any discomfort. During the procedure, the fractional laser is moved along the treatment area using a series of vertical and horizontal passes that overlap. Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing utilizes lower energy levels than ablative lasers to treat the layers under the skin’s surface without damaging the external layer. The heat eliminates old epidermal pigmented cells and penetrates deep into the dermis to stimulate collagen production which will tighten the skin and decrease wrinkles.

Alternative Treatments

Ablative Laser

Patients who have moderate to significant wrinkles, significant acne scarring or severe skin irregularities may be better suited for ablative laser resurfacing. An ablative laser is a more aggressive treatment which creates a controlled wound by removing thin layers of skin from the outermost layer to the dermis. This destroys the tissue and allows it to regrow from scratch and create a smoother texture. However, ablative lasers cause more trauma which means there are greater risks and a longer recovery period.

Chemical peels use specific chemicals to burn skin tissue and dermabrasion uses a rotary tool to sand off layers of skin. Each procedure has a longer downtime than non-ablative lasers.

What is the Cost of Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing?

The cost of non-ablative laser treatments depends on the size of the treatment area, the geographic location of the procedure and the doctor’s skill level. The average cost can range from $1200 to $3500. Since this procedure is non-surgical and non-ablative, most patients need a series of treatments to gain the desired outcome.

Recovery and Downtime

Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing has little to no DOWNTIME. Patients can return to normal activities and work immediately after a treatment. Patients may have some redness, tenderness and slight swelling but ice packs can be used for these conditions. Most side effects subside quickly and the redness can be covered with makeup. Patients should keep the treatment area well moisturized and avoid sleeping on it so that further swelling does not occur. Patients should also avoid sun exposure during the RECOVERY phase and apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 before going outside since the treated skin is very vulnerable to sunburn.


The results after non-ablative laser skin resurfacing are not immediate. The skin will fade from a reddish tone to a pink tone in a matter of a few hours. The skin may feel immediately tighter but this is due to post-inflammatory swelling and not collagen production. New collagen does not occur until about 6 weeks after treatment. The skin will begin to smooth out and continue to progress over the course of several treatments. Patients usually need 4 to 6 treatments, occurring every other week, to gain the desired final results.

The results will continue to improve over a few months. Final results can be expected about 6 months after the last treatment. The results from non-ablative skin resurfacing is long lasting provided the patient maintains a healthy skincare routine and uses sunblock whenever going outside.

Limitations of Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing

The limitations of non-ablative laser resurfacing include:

  • The degree of skin rejuvenation that can be achieved
  • More than one session is needed to gain the desired results
  • Patients who have taken Accutane in the last 6 to 12 months are limited from having the treatment
  • A patient with active cold sores or herpes simplex virus may be limited from this treatment until the symptoms are under control

Risks of Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing

The risks involved with non-ablative laser skin resurfacing include:

  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Infection
  • Cold sore reactivation or acne breakout
  • Skin burn or blisters
  • Hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation
  • Scarring

Benefits of Non-Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing

Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing provides many benefits including the stimulation of new collagen to plump the skin, mild skin tightening, wrinkle removal and better texture for more youthful looking skin. In addition, non-ablative laser treatments are suitable for most patients regardless of their skin tone. While this type of treatment requires multiple sessions, there is virtually no downtime or recovery needed. Prospective patients should consult with a board-certified doctor to see if non-ablative laser skin resurfacing is right for them.


Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team- MA

Based on an exclusive interview with Bobby Buka, MD in New York, NY