Laser CO2 Treatment for Acne

Laser resurfacing is done to improve blemishes on the skin’s surface like acne scars, wrinkles and aging due to sun-damage, pollution and so on. It is considered a major breakthrough treatment in skin rejuvenation. All laser treatments are simple, painless and relatively bloodless. Laser treatments offer greater degrees of penetration into the skin. The precise nature of this treatment makes it safer to use on delicate areas.

Laser CO2 treatment involves carbon dioxide lasers that deliver short bursts of exceedingly high-energy laser lights. Dead skin cells and undesired skin tissue are vaporized layer by layer using this technology, until fresh unblemished skin is revealed from underneath. This technology uses a great deal of precision allowing the dermatologist to treat affected skin area without undue scarring and affecting surrounding areas. 

When is Laser CO2 Treatment used?

Usually pimples clear without leaving permanent scars. However, some people who have skin that is susceptible to scarring can be stuck with scars for many years. Laser treatments such as laser CO2 treatment is intended to target these scars. It is mainly beneficial in treating depressed acne scars that resemble trenches or pockmarks. CO2 lasers by improving collagen growth and stimulating regeneration are said to improve the look of acne scars. 

CO2 Laser Procedure

Before treatment, your doctor or nurse will explain the procedure. Photographs of the treatment area will be taken. You will wear protective eye gear and a local anesthetic will be given. The laser will sweep over the affected area repeatedly until the top skin layers are removed. After treatment the skin will be red, hot and swollen. A clear fluid may leak. A Vaseline-type medication can be applied to reduce the after effects.

At home, you will use cool water to treat the area. Healing can take a week or 10 days. Redness will persist for at least 2-6 months. Once irritation ceases, you can commence your usual skin regime. Sunscreen of SPF 30 or more must be used to avoid blistering. Follow all doctors’ instructions carefully.

Benefits and Limitations of Laser CO2 treatment

Based on experts, Laser CO2 treatment provides better results than Er.YAG treatment.   It can remove top skin layers and cause lesser scarring.   a majority of patients require just one sitting to get the desired results. Some experience improvement a week after treatment. This scars continue to improve over the course of the next few months until it peaks after 6 months. The results are highly individualized.


The main issues concerning laser CO2 treatment is the expense, side effects and longer recovery period. Laser CO2 treatment is very expensive costing $3000-$6000 for each treatment. The therapy may need to be repeated after six months. Healing period is 10-21 days, although redness can last for more than 3 months. The skin will be covered with a dressing for at least 3 days.   Changes in the pigmentation of the skin, bacterial infections and reappearance of cold sores due to herpes simplex virus are possible.

This treatment is useful for facial scars but does not really help scars on the rest of the body.   It is painful when compared with other laser therapies. This is why anesthesia maybe required. Scabs or crusts are formed and must not be pricked for otherwise they may leave permanent scars.   Patients may suffer from skin darkening or lightening although this is very rare.

Patients must be careful not to get over exposed to the sun and tanned a few weeks before treatment. All self-tanning products must be stopped a week before treatment.

Side Effects of laser CO2 treatment

The major issue with laser CO2 treatment is the side effects that are caused such as:acne

  • Cystic acne
  • Prolonged redness
  • Crusting and oozing
  • Hyperpigmentation or skin darkening
  • Hypopigmentation or skin lightening
  • Eczema
  • Dilated blood vessels
  • Milia
  • Infections
  • Hypertrophic scarring

According to a study conducted on 104 women, all patients who underwent laser CO2 treatment developed erythema that lasted 3 ½ months on an average and a burning sensation. A minimal number suffered from pain, transient hypertrophic scarring and hyperpigmentation (2.8%). Pruritus occurred in 90% of patients, while 80% developed aceneform or milia pustules. Hypopigmentation appeared after erythema reduced in around 16.3% patients. Transient hypertrophic scarring was reversed by using pulsed dye laser and intralesional corticosteroid injections.

User Comments

Many patients have reported lessening of scars after just one or two sittings. They also suggest it is better to undergo this treatment with a dermatologist rather than a cosmetologist. It is beneficial for those with moderately severe acne. 

After treatment, the texture of the skin improves and patients have reported 60% and more improvement of acne scars. This treatment is more suited for those with lighter skin. Patients recommend you find a good doctor who is experienced and has the right certification for this makes all the difference to the result. 

Based on some user experience, the procedure may get a bit messy and takes several days to heal. Some may require a general anesthetic and there can be mild pain after the procedure. 

Based on the comments and reviews of several patients, there are a few limitations to the laser CO2 procedure. Some of these are enumerated below:

  • The scars may not disappear but remained the same and sometimes increase
  • The cost is also a limiting factor for patients who may need repeated sessions.
  • Pore size increases in some cases


Certain precautionary measures must be followed after laser CO2 treatment. The surface of the skin must be kept bandaged for a few days and an appropriate ointment will be prescribed that will help with healing. The sites that were treated must be kept away from direct sunlight. After the scars have healed, a sunscreen must be used regularly and use protective clothing when going out. Use makeup only after 2 weeks. 

Protect your eyes against laser beams for otherwise they can get damaged. Remove all makeup before the procedure.  Laser resurfacing is an elective procedure and may not be covered by insurance. Talk to your doctor about cost and benefits of the procedure before attempting it.

Laser CO2 treatment is more effective when used in combination with other treatments like dermabrasion. Your dermatologist will be able to guide you about the best course of treatment to follow.