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Step-by-Step CO2 Laser Aftercare Guide for Radiant Skin

· Lasers · Comments Off on Step-by-Step CO2 Laser Aftercare Guide for Radiant Skin

By Cynthia Golomb, MD

If you’re ready to start your journey to skin rejuvenation, you may have heard of CO2 laser resurfacing.  This treatment can help get rid of fine lines and crow’s feet, minimize pores, and eliminate acne scars.  However, your path towards smoother, firmer skin does not end when you walk out of the clinic doors after treatment—in fact, it’s only just begun.  Proper aftercare for a heavy CO2 laser resurfacing treatment is imperative to minimize downtime, reduce discomfort, and optimize the long-term benefits of your laser session.  Read on for my key recommendations for successful post-treatment aftercare, including potential side effects and skincare advice.

Before and after of a woman who had a CO2 laser treatment.

This patient had a heavy SmartXide CO2 laser treatment around her mouth to address lipstick lines and wrinkles.

If you want aftercare recommendations for CoolPeel, a lighter CO2 laser resurfacing treatment with less downtime, visit our blog, which covers everything you need to know.

Common Side Effects & Reactions to Expect

Regardless of how proactive you are in your aftercare, reactions in your skin are expected following the procedure.  Immediately after your treatment, you will experience a sunburn-type sensation, swelling, and redness on the treated area.  These issues can last for 3 to 4 hours.  You may also experience irritation and itching.  Minor breakouts from using ointments, such as Aquaphor, Vaseline, or CeraVe, may occur during your aftercare process.  Treated areas may develop a bronze look and will peel 5 days after treatment on average.  Slight crusting on the treated area can also be expected; gently pat it with a cold compress to remove it.

If you are experiencing any side effects or skin reactions out of the ordinary, contact our office immediately.

First Week Aftercare

The first week of aftercare is the most important after a heavy CO2 laser resurfacing procedure.  This is also the time when you will experience the most significant side effects, so I recommend scheduling your treatment for a time when you do not have many social commitments.  Check out our day-by-day breakdown of the first week of aftercare.

Immediately After Treatment

Following your treatment, you may experience a sunburn-like sensation, which will be alleviated using cold compresses/soaks until you are ready to leave the office.  Before you depart, we will apply a thin layer of Aquaphor, CeraVe healing ointment, or Alastin Skin Nectar to your treatment area.  Afterward, you can also periodically spritz with Avene Thermal Spring Water, available for purchase at our office, to alleviate discomfort and to keep the skin hydrated.

First Night

On your first night post-treatment, continue to use cool compresses with water-soaked, tightly woven gauze to soothe your skin and reduce inflammation.  Pat the compresses gently on your skin and follow with Aquaphor, Alastin Skin Nectar, or one of the other ointments I recommended.  Periodically spritz your face with Avene Thermal Spring Water.  Before sleeping, place a clean towel over your pillow to protect it from ointment and sleep on your back with your head slightly elevated.

Day 1-3

Following your first night, you should continue the cold compress soaks with gauze 4 times daily, followed by Aquaphor, Alastin Skin Nectar, or one of the other ointments I recommended.  It is imperative that you do not let your treated skin dry out.  Some patients have found including vinegar in their gauze soaks to be beneficial; for this method, use 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of vinegar.

It is also vital that you do not scrub your skin during this time.  Dab or lightly pat with the wet gauze to remove any crust on your skin.  Spritz as needed with the Avene Thermal Spring Water to soothe and to keep your skin from drying.

Use artificial tears and Vaseline lip balm if needed throughout your recovery.

Day 4-5

For days 4 and 5 post-treatment, you may begin to cleanse your face with a mild facial wash such as CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.  Follow these washes with a thin layer of ointment.  You may also now shampoo your hair.  Continue spritzing as needed with Avene Thermal Spring Water.

Day 7

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the first week following a heavy CO2 laser resurfacing procedure!  Depending on your skin’s reaction to your aftercare, you may now (almost) resume life as usual.  Be sure to apply sunblock (SPF 30 or greater).  You may now also wear makeup if you desire, but continue to avoid direct sun exposure for a month post-treatment.  Sunblock, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat will help protect your vulnerable skin from sun damage.

Things to Avoid After a Heavy CO2 Treatment

  • Avoid anything strenuous (bending, straining or lifting heavy objects) for 1 week.  Plan to rest the first week after treatment.
  • Avoid exercise for 2 weeks after your treatment.
  • Do not apply ‘active’ ingredients to the skin for 2 weeks after your treatment – this includes Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA), Retinol/Tretinoin, Vitamin C and Alcohol-based toners.
  • Avoid environmental irritants during the healing process (dust, dirt, aerosols, cleaning agents).
  • Avoid dryness and excessive heat such as high heat on a blow dryer; medium heat is fine during the healing process.
  • Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms for one week after the procedure or longer if your skin is still red.

Unlock Stunning Skin with a Heavy CO2 Laser Resurfacing Treatment

Begin your skin rejuvenation journey today with Dr. Cynthia Golomb at Dermatology Boutique.  Dr. Golomb is triple board certified in Dermatology, Mohs Surgery, and Dermatopathology.  She has over 25 years of general and cosmetic dermatology experience.  Patients from Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, Bal Harbour, North Miami Beach, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale Beach, and Hollywood, FL, regularly travel to her office for laser treatments.  Dr. Golomb requires that you have a consultation with her before your first CO2 laser resurfacing treatment.  Schedule today by calling or texting 954-251-0367 or schedule your consultation appointment online.

Click here to download a PDF of our aftercare instructions for a Heavy CO2 Laser Resurfacing Procedure.


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