Laser stretch mark removal consists of removing striae (stretch marks) via laser resurfacing. It works by removing the outer layer of skin to help restructure the overlying skin.
During the procedure, beams of light are used in concentrated amounts to encourage new growth. While it can’t get rid of stretch marks completely, laser removal may help make striae smoother, thereby reducing their appearance.
Two types of lasers are used for skin resurfacing treatment: ablative and non-ablative lasers. Ablative lasers (CO2, Erbium YAG) treat stretch marks by destroying the upper layer of skin. The newly generated skin tissues will be smoother in texture and appearance.
Non-ablative lasers (Alexandrite, Fraxel) don’t destroy the upper layer of skin. Instead, they target the underlying areas of the skin’s surface to promote collagen growth from the inside out.
According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), skin resurfacing treatments of this kind have a vast cost range of $500 to $8,900.
Each ablative laser treatment costs an average of $2,681. Non-ablative laser treatments cost $1,410 each on average, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).
There are often other hidden costs outside of these estimated provider fees. Your total cost can depend on:
- lab costs
- office fees
- post-treatment pain medications (if needed)
The good news is that in terms of time, each procedure is relatively quick. Ablative lasers can take about an hour and a half, while non-ablative treatments can be done in as little as 30 minutes at a time.
What’s the time cost for laser stretch mark removal? | Recovery time
Laser therapy is classified as a noninvasive treatment, which means that no surgical incisions are used. This makes the recovery time much quicker compared with traditional surgery. Still, you should plan to take time off on the day of your treatment at the very least.
Depending on the type of laser used, the total procedure time can last between 30 and 90 minutes. This doesn’t include time spent on filling out paperwork, as well as prep time before the procedure.
You might notice that your skin is slightly pink or red after each treatment. This is normal and should subside within a few weeks. Ablative lasers are the most effective in treating striae, but they also have the most side effects because of their aggressive nature. Such effects include raw skin and mild discomfort. Your skin will also scab over before revealing new tissues around the stretch marks.
Depending on the area being treated and the type of laser used, some people elect to take several days off work following the procedure.
It can also take several months to see the full results, especially with non-ablative lasers, says the ABCS.
Stretch mark removal through laser therapy and other treatments is considered a cosmetic (aesthetic) procedure. Laser therapy may be covered in cases that are deemed medically necessary, such as pain management. However, medical insurance doesn’t cover laser therapy for stretch mark removal.
Laser stretch mark removal can end up becoming quite costly, considering the fact that insurance doesn’t cover it. Still, there are some ways you can potentially reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
First, talk to your provider about payment plans and discounts. Many offices offer no-interest financing for these types of procedures. Some medical spas even offer discounts for multiple sessions. Such offers vary by providers, so you may need to shop around.
There’s also the possibility of manufacturer rebates. This can help offset a small fraction of the overall cost of treatment. Ask your provider if they know of any current rebate offers.
Generally speaking, the ABCS says that skin resurfacing treatments can “last for years.” The catch, however, is that this can depend on how well you take care of your skin.
Sometimes stretch marks only need one ablative laser treatment. Non-ablative treatments aren’t as aggressive, though. The ASAPS estimates you’ll need between one and six non-ablative laser treatments, on average.
Each treatment typically costs the same as the initial session. The exception might be if your particular provider offers any discounts for multiple sessions. You’ll need to wait three or four weeks between each session.
Once your skin has completely healed and you’re done with all your sessions, results may last for years, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Laser skin resurfacing is just one of the available options for stretch mark treatment. Surgery is the most invasive, but may also provide the longest-lasting results. Consider the differences and similarities of laser treatments compared with microdermabrasion, surgery, and microneedling below.
|Laser treatments||Microdermabrasion||Surgical removal||Microneedling|
|Procedure type||noninvasive||noninvasive||involves surgery||noninvasive|
|Total expected cost||depends on the type of laser used: On average, each ablative laser treatment costs $2,681, while non-ablative lasers cost $1,410 per treatment||$139 per treatment, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery||depends on area being treated, for example, a tummy tuck can cost about $5,339 plus hospital and anesthesia fees||between $100 and $700 each session|
|Number of treatments needed||ablative lasers are used one or more times depending on desired outcome, non-ablative lasers may be scheduled up to six times at three to four weeks apart||several, usually once per month||one||on average, four to six treatments are needed|
|Expected results||noticeable changes after several weeks, as new skin regenerates||immediate changes may be seen, but they don’t last long||changes are designed to be permanent||immediate results, but these aren’t dramatic|
|Covered by insurance?||no||no||no||no|
|Recovery time||10 to 14 days, depending on the size of treatment area||no significant recovery time||two to four weeks on average||no significant recovery time|
Whether ablative or non-ablative laser treatment is best for you and your skin type, there are ways of absorbing the cost through planning ahead and communicating with your provider.
One way you can get the most out of your laser skin resurfacing is to understand what results you can expect and to follow steps to maximize those results.
It’s important to follow your provider’s instructions for laser treatment aftercare. This will help prevent complications such as infections, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Let your skin completely heal before engaging in any vigorous activities.
Also, no matter how long it’s been since your last session, you need to apply sunscreen to the area every day. This will not only reduce the chances of age spots, wrinkles, and cancer growths, but it will also help prevent any remaining signs of stretch marks from darkening and becoming more visible.