Recovery Time with the Fractional CO2 Ablative Laser for Acne Scars, Wrinkles, Resurfacing?

Dear docs , what is the real downtime and total recovery time after a fractional CO2 (10600 mn)procedure for : Mild acne scars Wrinkles of upper and lower eyelid Skin rejuvenation (improving texture, etc..) I REALLY APRECIATE YOUR WORK ON THIS SITE. THANKS A LOT

Doctor Answers 13

Downtime with fractional CO2 facial skin resurfacing

Over the last 10 years there has been many advances in skin resurfacing technology. However, it has become clear that the degree of improvement is directly proportional to the aggressiveness of the treatment. My experience is with CO2 laser resurfacing over the past 15 years. Our current devices treat only a fraction of the skin surface with each treatment instead of removing all of the outer skin layer. Fractional CO2 treatments result in less injury to the tissue and therefore faster healing and less risk of scar or pigment damage. In exchange for this easier treatment, we do not see as much correction with one treatment. With experience, each patient can have a treatment program that suits their needs. If you have acne scarring or deeper skin damage then deeper and more than one treatment is best. The "social downtime" can be a few days to one week depending on the settings. The skin will look red for 1-3 weeks but there is no bleeding, bruising and minimal swelling. Repeating treatments every 8-12 weeks until the desired correction is achieved works well for my patients. 1-4 treatments may be necessary but 2 or 3 is average for those with moderate skin aging and damage.

From your description of the problem I would design a treatment plan that would result in 2-3 days of applying a thick moisturizing ointment. After that normal skin care, make-up or sunscreen would be used. You may only need one treatment on the eyelid skin and up to 3 for the acne scarring.


Dr. Mosher

Vancouver Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

Downtime for CO2 resurfacing

Like many things in life, your return or results are directly proportional to your investment, or in this case downtime. More aggressive treatments will give you better results, but they will also come with more downtime.

That being said, you need to define what downtime means to you. The feeling of warmth, weeping, and peeling are usually done within a week with even the more aggressive settings, and it can decrease proportionally from there with less aggressive treatments.

Redness can persist well beyond the original week of downtime, and although persistent erythema has been considered a "complication" of ablative lasers like the CO2, it can easily be covered with make up or even just a lightly tinted sunscreen, which you should be wearing afterwards anyway.

Of note, the new fractionated technologies allow more aggressive settings with a decreased downtime than you would otherwise have to endure to achieve similar results.

Fractionation simply means that the laser treats small micro thermal zones covering varying densities depending on how your physician sets it instead of ablating the entire top surface of your skin. With just these micro thermal zones being ablated, the normal islands of skin in between allow a more rapid healing.

To discuss your needs and likely downtime, seek out a dermatologic surgeon, oculoplastic surgeon, facial plastic surgeon or plastic surgeon who is board certified and fellowship trained in one of these "core four" cosmetic specialties.

Cameron Chesnut, MD, FAAD, FACMS, FASDS
Spokane Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Depends on power and coverage...

Totally agree with all the experts on this panel, your recovery will depend on the power settings, as well as the coverage. Example full power, with 7-8 passes may take 7 days-10 days to recover with redness lasting weeks, whilst low power with one or two passes will only take 3 days to recover. Its a balance between results, and downtime. Also your skin type. Darker skin types will benefit from less passes, as this decreases any postinflammatory skin darkening. 

Hope that helps, 


Dr Davin S. Lim
Dermatologist- Laser and Cosmetic

Davin Lim, MBBS, FACD
Brisbane Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Recovery from Fractional Laser Resurfacing

The recovery from a fractional laser resurfacing often depends on the depth of the laser treatment and the density (or extend) that the skin was treated. In general, the more extensive the treatment, the longer the recovery time. That being said, the type of laser aftercare that is provided a patient also can contribute to the recovery time. Besides cleaning the skin of crusts and making sure to stay out of sunlight, there are two products that I have found to be excellent to help accelerate healing:

1. Oxymist (Aminoplex). This recovery kit remains one of the best classic post laser treatment products,
2. Omni Serum (Omnibioinnovations) This growth factor serum is a great new product to help accelerate laser recovery.

Overall, we see patients initial recovery taking about 5-7 days, with the results being seen within the first 4-6 weeks. 

Farhan Taghizadeh, MD
Albuquerque Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Fractional co2

the downtime is 3-4 days for min,4-7 days for mod

and 7-14 days for severe,

redness 4-7 days for min,7-10days for mod,1-2 months for severe

Thangavel Ayyappan, MD
India Plastic Surgeon

Recovery time after C02 fractional laser resurfacing

Recovery time after C02 laser resurfacing is dependent on the depth and power of resurfacing.  With superficial resurfacing, patients can have little downtime.  With moderate resurfacing, 4-7 days can be expected.  Deeper resurfacing can have a week or more of recovery.  Your laser surgeon can discuss the pros and cons of depth of penetration and downtime with you.

Anil R. Shah, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 114 reviews

Recovery time with Fractional CO2 laser

Fractional CO2 laser drill tiny dots through the skin, leaving intact skin between these dots. In contrast to fully ablative CO2 lasers that we used to do in the past, only a certain percentage of the skin is treated. Thus, the fractional CO2 has less downtime with minimal crusting, oozing, bleeding etc. There is typically minimal bleeding with fractional co2, but there can be some pinpoint bleeding. The recovery time really depends on how aggressive the setting are. However for the most part, you will have about 4 days of true downtime. The first two days you will be red and swollen.  At day # 3 and 4, the redness and swelling will start to reduce by 50% and by day # 5, you will just be red, kind of like sunburn red. Most of my patients go back to work at day #5. The redness can persist potentially anywhere between 1 to 3 weeks, all depending on the aggressive of the setting. You can cover this with makeup and my patients do not mind it. I typically recommend 1 to 2 treatments, unless for severe acne scar which sometimes may require 3, depending on the skin color and the severity of the scars. This is the most satisfying laser procedure I do in the office. Dr. Behnam, Santa Monica.

Ben Behnam, MD
Santa Monica Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Recovery Time

Recovery time is completely dependent upon depth and aggressiveness of the resurfacing. If my patient only needs a fractional CO2, then initial wound recovery is complete in 4-5 days. Redness will takes weeks to resolve and final results will take 6-8 weeks. However, if we are trying to completely ablate deep wrinkles, then an aggressive complete resurfacing will take 10 days to heal, 3-4 months for redness to fade and 3 months for maximum collagen in-growth.

Marc Schneider, MD
Fort Myers Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

CO2 laser downtime: a week on the average

As mentioned by others, the total downtime depends on the intensity of the treatment. Physically, most patients feel fine from the first post treatment day and the treated area will dry up from Day three or four inwards. For most, it is back to normal after a week.

Wound care seems to make a difference. I now routine suggest that patients use the ZO Post Procedure Recovery Kit which had been formulated for treatments like chemical peels and ablative laser resurfacing. And my impressing is that it shortens recovery by a day on the average.

Chien C. Kat, FRCS
Birmingham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Downtime after CO2

I would suggest you budget about a week for the skin to completely heal after the treatment.  It can be sooner if the treatments are less aggressive, and about a week with an aggressive treatment.  The redness will persist longer, but usually after a week, you can start to camouflage the treatment with makeup.

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.