Which Laser Treatment is Best for My Scar? Ablative or Non-Ablative?

Posted November 30, 2021
Scar treatment with laser

No two scars are ever alike. They can vary depending on a person’s ability to heal, the condition of the skin, and the cause of the scar. Laser treatment for a scar related to an injury can be a different laser to treat acne scars. Each treatment involves highly advanced light therapy, but different laser beams treat specific types of scars. 

The two main types of laser treatments to help with scars on the skin: 

  • Ablative
  • Non-ablative 

The difference between the two lasers is where the beams of light penetrate and target. One aims to treat the middle layers of the skin, while the other treats both the top and middle layers. 

So, which laser treatment is the right one to use for your type of scar? We share the details of the different laser skin resurfacing procedures, and which is better to treat severe marks and visible wounds. But first, why treat a scar with laser treatment?

Why Choose a Laser Treatment to Fix My Scar?

Laser treatment for scars is a non-invasive and non-surgical option to reduce the appearance of an old wound or mark- it doesn’t eliminate it but fade its visibility dramatically. But there are benefits to treating a scar other than just changing the appearance.

Laser treatments can help:

  • Reduce the itchiness or skin irritation from the scar
  • Lower the level of pain caused by the scar
  • Improve the range of motion around the scar

Laser treatment benefits: 

  • Stimulates the production of new skin cells and collagen
  • Minimal to zero recovery time
  • Manageable side effects post-treatment

The same type of lasers that can help with scars can also help with wrinkles, fine lines, and skin pigmentation- this type of treatment is also referred to as laser skin resurfacing. And depending on the severity of the skin condition, the doctor will use either an ablative or non-ablative laser. Let’s take a deeper look into the two types of laser treatments.

Which Laser Treatment is Right for My Scar?

Two main types of lasers are used to treat different skin deformations and variations of scars. 

Ablative Laser Treatment 

An ablative laser uses the energy from the laser to remove the surface of damaged skin. The laser energy targets the water in the skin cells causing it to vaporize or ablate, creating a controlled wound. Once the laser energy ablates the skin’s surface, the heat from the laser stimulates collagen production at the dermis while rejuvenating the growth of new skin tissue.  

Type of scars treated with ablative lasers:

  • Moderate to severe scars from an injury
  • Burn scar
  • Scar from surgery
  • Moderate to severe scars from acne

Non-Ablative Laser Treatment

The non-ablative laser procedure uses heat from laser energy to revitalize and improve the texture and appearance of the skin without penetrating the top layer. The beams of a non-ablative laser are fractionated, meaning the heat delivery is through thousands of tiny columns aiming for the dermis layer (middle) and leaving the surface of the skin unharmed. The heat eliminates pigmented skin cells and penetrates deep into the layers of the skin to stimulate collagen production to generate new skin growth.

A non-ablative laser may not be the best option to treat visible scars that have a surface texture. It’s recommended to consult with a board-certified doctor or dermatologist to examine your scar or skin imperfections. 

Type of scars treated with non-ablative lasers:

  • Minor non-textured scar
  • Mild acne scars
  • Skin pigmentation or discoloration below the skin’s surface

Want to learn more about the different ablative and non-ablative laser treatments? Learn about the various procedures with the Cosmetic Town navigation tool. 

What to Expect During a Laser Treatment for a Scar

Laser treatment for scars is an outpatient procedure typically done in a doctor’s office. The length of time for the treatment will depend on the severity of the skin imperfection and the size of the treated area. It could take more than one session to achieve the desired results. 

Here are the basic steps to expect with a laser treatment. 

  • Before the procedure, the doctor will examine and mark the areas for treatment with a pen.
  • A local anesthetic or numbing cream is applied to the treated area.If the scar is on the face, protective goggles are worn to protect the eyes from light beams.
  • Wet towels or gauze is placed around the scar area to absorb laser pulses that could potentially penetrate the surrounding skin. 
  • The doctor aims the laser over the scar tissue and occasionally applies a cooling saline or water solution.
  • After the treatment, the doctor will apply an ointment and clean dressing to cover the area.

The treated skin may look and feel like a sunburn, with some mild swelling and minor stinging for several hours after the procedure. The doctor will provide you with post-procedure care, such as applying a moisturizing lotion on the treated areas and refraining from applying makeup until the redness has gone away.

You will start noticing the difference in your skin within 3-10 days after the laser treatment, resulting in a smoother skin surface with a faded appearance of scars and blemishes. 

What’s Next? 

If you are finally considering removing the scar on your face or body, make sure to first consult with a board-certified cosmetic doctor or dermatologist to have the scar examined. They will guide you on which laser treatment will be the best method to reduce the appearance of the scar, so you can confidently move on from the marks from the past.

- VM


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