Laser skin resurfacing can help stimulate new skin cell growth and collagen production. While you may see some immediate results following treatment, it could take up to a year to fully notice the effects.

Laser skin resurfacing is a cosmetic technique that involves removing outer layers of skin with pulsating beams of light. The skin underneath then has to regrow, stimulating new skin cell growth and collagen production.

Also known as a laser peel or laser vaporization, doctors often use it to reduce the appearance of scars, sunspots, fine lines, acne, or other signs of skin aging or damage. It can help remove bending spots like those seen in seborrheic keratosis.

Since the skin takes a while to heal and regrow, results appear over time. Here’s what to expect following the procedure.

Your skin can appear discolored and inflamed immediately after the procedure, almost like a mild sunburn. You’ll likely also experience some soreness.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the initial irritation typically lasts 5 to 7 days. After that time, the skin may become dry and start flaking or peeling off. When this happens, follow your dermatologist’s instructions for moisturizing and caring for your skin.

In more severe cases, this stage of healing might also involve blisters or oozing. Icing your face or using a cool compress can help soothe irritation while healing.

You may notice some increased plumpness and decreased signs of scars, wrinkles, discoloration, or other skin concerns immediately after the procedure.

These improvements can become much more pronounced as your skin heals and regrows. Depending on how deep the lasers penetrate your skin, you may notice ongoing results for up to a year following the procedure.

According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, healing from laser resurfacing typically takes 5 to 10 days. In general, the larger the treatment area and the deeper the lasers penetrate your skin, the longer it can take to recover.

Your skin may continue to heal for up to 1 year, during which time your skin can be more sensitive to UV light, so be sure to apply sunscreen or wear sun protection when spending time outside.

Many people enjoy improvements in their skin for up to several years following the treatment.

While laser resurfacing results are technically permanent, your skin can change over time due to aging, sun exposure, or lifestyle factors like smoking.

However, if you undergo laser resurfacing to diminish scars, the scars usually won’t worsen or come back after treatment.

You can extend the lifespan of your results by keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Prioritize sun protection: Experts recommend avoiding sun exposure to the treatment area for at least 4 to 6 weeks since your skin may be especially vulnerable to UV damage during this time. Your skin may remain extra sensitive to the sun for up to a year. Avoid intense, direct sunlight, wear SPF, and wear protective clothing to prolong your results.
  • Wear a protective emollient: Your dermatologist might recommend a barrier cream to help protect your delicate skin during healing. This might be something petroleum-based, like Vaseline, to serve as a barrier between your skin and the elements.
  • Maintain a balanced skin care routine: Washing your face regularly, moisturizing, and using serums with rejuvenating ingredients might aid healing and extend your results. Serums rich in antioxidants and peptides can help rebuild collagen, while retinoids might protect from future damage.
  • Schedule a follow-up treatment: Some people may need multiple treatments to get their desired results. Based on your dermatologist’s recommendation, you can schedule these a couple of months after your initial treatment. As fine lines and other signs of aging appear, you may want to consider another treatment in the future.

Laser skin resurfacing may be an effective way to reduce the appearance of scars, fine lines, discoloration, and other signs of skin aging or damage. Though you may notice some improvements immediately following the procedure, your skin can continue to improve for about a year.

As the skin regrows, it can be especially vulnerable to damage. Wearing plenty of SPF and minimizing sun exposure during this time might help your skin heal and extend the lifespan of your results.

Even though laser skin resurfacing results are technically permanent, your skin can still change over time. If this happens, follow-up treatments can help you maintain your desired appearance.