Ask a doctor

Laser Resurfacing Recovery - when Can I Go Back to Work?

what should i expect after a laser skin resurfacing?  how long is healing? are there tips for recovering from the laser treatment faster?

Doctor Answers 13

Recovery Time for Laser Resurfacing

The time frame to return to work is determined by the laser type and how aggressively the laser is being used. Nothing seems to greatly expedite recovery substantially, but good skin care before and after laser treatment is important to avoid complications. Moisture is necessary for newly lasered skin. Make sure a thick ointment (i.e. Aquaphor) is applied for several days. Usually, patients treated with the Erbium laser can return to work in 1 week and those treated with CO2 laser require 3 weeks to recover. Less aggressive lasers may only require a day or 2 to recover, but such laser treatment typically needs to be performed numerous times.
I hope you find this helpful. Good luck!

Have a question? Ask a doctor

Laser Resurfacing Back to Work-Erbium 1 week-CO2 2 Weeks

Thank you for your question.

You will not want to go back to work after Ablative Laser Resurfacing until your skin has healed and the redness can be covered with makeup.

It depends on how aggressive and deep the Laser Resurfacing treatment has been done.

Generally speaking you will heal faster after Erbium Laser Resurfacing than with CO2 Laser Resurfacing.

New Combined Erbium laser Resurfacing patients usually heal within 5-7 days. CO2 takes longer.

Plan a week out of work for Erbium and two weeks after CO2

Laser Resurfacing Recovery - when Can I Go Back to Work?

After laser treatment the older skin will become dry and peel off, during this time there are steps that can be taken to speed up the recovery:
  • The type of laser and surgical technique, needs to be tailored to the individual the extent of the skin ageing, ethnicity and skin pigmentation. Generally fractionated CO2 lasers offer an effective skin rejuvenation while minimizing the potential side effects and offer a fast recovery. Modern day lasers offer faster recovery by treating only a proportion of the skin (termed fractionated), older lasers treated all of the skin surface (termed ablative lasers) were associated with higher risks and longer recovery.
  • After laser treatment the skin tends to dry out, apply Vaseline or similar lubricating ointment regularly while the skin is crusting and peeling. Keeping the skin moist and regularly cleaned will help a speedy recovery.
  • Wash your face regularly with a cetaphil skin soap (simple skin soap with few preservatives) to clean the skin from skin debris and body secretions. Cleansing gently with gauze sponges to clean the skin every 3-4 hours is recommended.
Depending on the type of laser resurfacing the downtime can vary, most patients are able to return to work with in 7-10 days. 

When can I go back to work after laser resurfacing?

Thank you for the important question. Returning to work after laser resurfacing depends on the degree/intensity of the treatment performed. For Fractional CO2 resurfacing, most people can be out in public in about 1 week. Working from home is a great option during this time, if need be. Attention to pre- and post-treatment care, including application of hydrating creams and gentle cleaning will maximize both results and recovery. Best of luck!

Evan Ransom, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 52 reviews

Laser Resurfacing Recovery

With profractional or equivalent laser, you can return to work in 3 - 4 days. With an erbium laser resurfacing or equivalent treatment, you will need one to 2 weeks. Follow the instructions of your practitioner to optimize the results and ease recovery.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

Laser resurfacing recovery time

Basically, there are 2 groups of lasers for facial skin resurfacing : The traditional: CO2 or Erbium or Fractionated CO2 or Erbium).

The best results are obtained with the traditional laser resurfacing, but the downtime is 7-9 days. During the first 4-5 days of recovery, the skin  is quite  raw.  Rarely, infections, hyper or hypopigmentation can occur. But  most patients are quite happy with the results.

With the Fractionated CO2 Laser, the downtime can be v ariable, depending upon the intensity of the treatment.

Usually, 2-4 days. Some patients use makeup heavily in order to conceal the numerous tiny scabs and the redness. For them there is practically no downtime.

2 or3 fractionated laser treatments are necessary to equal the results of one traditional laser treatment

Eugene Mandrea, MD
Chicago Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Laser Skin Resurfacing Downtime

We suggest 7-10 days of downtime for Laser Skin Resurfacing with Active, Deep or Total Fx, keeping the skin with an even coat of Aquaphor. During this time you will experience the swelling and peeling which most people will want to stay home for. After that time, you can begin a lighter moisturizer and always mindful of sun exposure.

Fernando G. Serra, MD
Clermont Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Laser resurfacing recovery depends on agressiveness of treatment

Laser resurfacing can be done with many different types of lasers and at varying levels of aggressiveness. Different lasers are efficacious for different problems and have varying degrees of downtime depening on the aggressiveness. Therefore, if you choose to have a less aggressive treatment (non-ablative), there will be less downtime than if you choose to have a more aggressive treatment (ablative).

However, usually more aggressive treatments with greater downtime produce more noticeable results. That being said, you can choose your treatment based on your goals and the downtime you can afford. There are several things we have our patients do to improve and speed up their healing which include strict instructions and guidelines for how to manage the treated skin during the recovery period. We also see them in follow up several times in the first few weeks after the treatment to make sure the recovery process is going well. Hope this helps.

Frequent face wash, emollient application and strict sun protection critical to faster recovery from laser resurfacing

Not all laser resurfacing are created equal in terms of efficacy and time to achieve recovery. While traditional ablative CO2 laser had been the gold standard, it can take up to 2 months for the healing process to complete. Fractional CO2 laser has the best combination of efficacy and relatively short time to recovery, about 6-7 days. Fraxel laser can be helpful for pigmentation, but may require numerous treatments for improvement of facial texture to be appreciated. Frequent face wash and emollient application as well as strict sun protection are keys to faster recovery from laser resurfacing.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

You have many options for downtime

The wonderful thing about today's resurfacing is that you can tell us how much downtime you can afford for your resurfacing. You can ask me to be aggressive, and I have to be aggressive if you have deep wrinkles or deep acne scars, but if you are looking only for a "freshener" to remove fine lines and pigmentation and improve pore appearance, we have that too.

Our fractional CO2 laser can be dialed down to low energies, involve almost no pain, and with a special breathable makeup that we sell, we can use it to get you right back to work/normal life the minute you stand up. You have a little flaking for about a week but no real "peeling".

Sarah B. Sawyer, MD
Birmingham Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.