Laser Resurfacing Side Effects & Risks

side effectLaser resurfacing instantly sounds like a risky treatment doesn’t it? Its complex nature sometimes means that people aren’t fully aware of the side effects and dangers associated with the process. The fact that there are loads of different types of laser resurfacing & rejuvenation treatment further complicates matters.

Potential Side Effects

As we have discussed here laser resurfacing can come in two forms – ablative and non ablative. Each treatment type has a range of different side effects associated with it. On top of that the intensity of the treatment, your skin characteristics and the skill of the practitioner can also impact the extent of the side effects. So knowing the exact issues you could face isn’t always going to be straightforward.

Most of the serious problems only occur when receiving the treatment from an inexperienced practitioner. So it’s not always a good idea to simply find the cheapest clinic. You pay for quality.


Typically the side effects are worse from ablative treatments:

Ablative Side Effects

  • Can lead to viral, fungal or bacterial infections.
  • It can cause you to develop milia (tiny white bumps / cysts on the skin). These can be eliminated with basic treatments.
  • May cause changes in color called hyperpigmentation (the treated skin becomes darker than the normal) or hypopigmentation (the treated skin becomes lighter than the normal). The side effects typically occur weeks after the procedure but usually gradually fade. Creams can be used to speed this process up. The newer more advanced lasers have a much lower chance of causing these problems.
  • There is always the slight possibility that a badly performed treatment can lead to permanent scarring. However from a professional who knows what they’re doing, the risk of this should be minimal.
  • Redness, swelling and itchiness of the treated skin is the most common side effect. This can be last for several weeks.

Non- Ablative Side Effects

  • Can cause an outburst of the herpes virus or other infections.
  • As with the ablative lasers, skin color changes are possible, although are much less likely.
  • Can cause permanent scarring. This results from intense blistering. This shouldn’t be a problem from a quality clinic.
  • Redness and swelling that may last for hours or days. However the down time will be less than an ablative laser.
  • Minor skin peeling.

Stay Safe

Before having a laser treatment, make sure that you have fully reviewed your medical history.

Be prepared to answer all the questions about your past and current medical conditions. Have your skin inspected, especially the area that you want to be treated. Remember, different types of skin tone might affect the results. Talk to your doctor about your expectations and the potential risks involved.

Results will differ from person to person, so your doctor is the only person who can give you a good idea what to expect.

Just because the treatment is non invasive, doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved.

Laser resurfacing and tightening is not intended for everyone. You might not be allowed by your doctor to undergo skin laser procedure if you:

  • Have a weak immune system, autoimmune disease, weak connective tissue or diabetes.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Have a family history of skin caner.


If everything goes well extensive aftercare shouldn’t be needed. It’s important to keep the face moist and well hydrated with creams, vasseline, or other products your doctor may provide. You may be given a dressing after the procedure for ablative treatments.

It’s also important to wear a high SPF sun lotion after ablative treatments. This is because your outer protective layers of skin are no longer there. While it’s not as important to wear sun lotion after non ablative treatments (because your outer layer of skin is still there) you should at least avoid heavy sun exposure.