Laser skin resurfacing can seem like something from the future. A surgeon uses a laser light beam to improve the look of your skin, in some cases blasting away wrinkles, dark spots and other skin imperfections. While a laser treatment can make your skin look more youthful, the results aren’t necessarily permanent and don’t necessarily show up right away. For best results, take good care of your skin following a laser skin resurfacing treatment.

Ablative vs. Non-Ablative

How you should care for your skin after a laser treatment depends in large part on the type of treatment you receive. Generally, laser treatments can be either ablative, meaning they cause damage to the top layer of skin cells, or non-ablative, meaning that the top layer of skin is left intact. Ablative treatments also vary in how much damage they cause. For example, the Pearl Laser by Cutera is an ablative treatment but only mildly. It causes damage to the very top layer of the epidermis, leaving the skin intact for the most part.

The intact upper layer of skin provides a protective barrier while it heals. In the cases of more intense ablative laser treatments, patients are generally advised to apply a layer of ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to the treated skin. The jelly helps seal out anything that can lead to infection or irritation and provides a protective barrier as the tender skin heals.

Cleansing the Skin

Even after a mildly ablative treatment, you can expect flaking or scabbing to occur as the skin heals. It’s a good idea to be very gentle with the skin for a few days or weeks after the treatment. While you want to be very gentle, you also want to make sure the skin is kept clean. After first, your surgeon might recommend regularly cleaning the treated skin with saline, several times a day.

As the treated skin continues to heal, you can switch to an actual cleanser. Be sure to choose a gentle facial cleanser. Your doctor can recommend a specific brand, if needed. Make sure the cleanser doesn’t have harsh ingredients, such as salicylic acid or an alpha hydroxy acid.

Resuming Regular Skincare

Eventually, you’ll want to start up your old skincare routine. If you didn’t have a set skincare routine before laser skin resurfacing, now might be the ideal time to start an anti-aging regimen. Usually, doctors recommend starting up your old routine or beginning a new one several weeks after the treatment. Along with using a lotion or moisturizer, you might find that it’s a good idea to start using a product that contains retinol. While you can find products with retinoids in them at drugstores or makeup counters, depending on your specific needs, a prescription-strength product might be a better option for you. Your surgeon can offer specific advice on the best skincare products to use based on your skin type and other concerns.

Sun Protection

If you didn’t use sunscreen on a regular basis before your laser treatment, now is the time to start. In those first few days after resurfacing, your doctor will most likely recommend you avoid the sun completely, as it can cause permanent changes to your skin. Once you can go back out in the sun, wearing a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays is essential. Typically, surgeons recommend wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

What About Makeup

You can usually go back to wearing makeup pretty quickly after a laser treatment. Oil-free makeup is often recommended. If you’re concerned about reducing the redness caused by the treatment, you might find that a green concealer provides the coverage you are looking for.  It might be a good idea to start over with completely new cosmetics after your treatment, so that you don’t risk introducing bacteria to your new, tender skin.


Like many anti-aging treatments, the results from laser skin resurfacing won’t last forever. Eventually, lines and wrinkles will return. You can keep your skin looking fresh and youthful for as long as possible by having additional treatments performed or by undergoing a different skin resurfacing treatment, such as a chemical peel, as recommended by your doctor. Talk to your surgeon about the different types of chemical peels available and whether or not he or she thinks one is an appropriate option for you.

In the Virginia Beach area, Dr. Kyle Choe performs laser skin resurfacing with the Pearl by Cutera laser. He also offers chemical peels as another resurfacing option. To learn more about either laser skin treatments or chemical peels, contact Dr. Choe for a consultation today. Call 757.389.5850 to schedule an appointment.