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Laser Therapy & Dermabrasion for Aging Skin

NYU Langone dermatologists and plastic surgeons offer laser surgery and dermabrasion to eliminate wrinkles, reduce the appearance of lines, and make skin appear brighter, firmer, and fuller.

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Laser therapy and dermabrasion can be administered in a doctor’s office and often take less than an hour to perform. Our experts recommend the most appropriate therapy based on your cosmetic and lifestyle needs.

Laser Therapy

For many people, laser therapy, which is also called photorejuvenation, is an effective method of diminishing wrinkles and making skin look younger. Results may last as long as 10 years.

Dermatologists at NYU Langone use fractional CO2 lasers and erbium lasers on the face, hands, chest, and neck.  

Fractional CO2 Laser Therapy

Fractional CO2 laser therapy uses high-energy beams of light to stimulate cell turnover, which helps exfoliate damaged or discolored skin cells while stimulating collagen production. CO2 laser treatment can minimize the appearance of deep wrinkles, lines, and uneven pigmentation.

The term “fractional laser” means that the beam of light only targets a fraction of the skin at a time. Rather than resurface the entire area being treated, specialists focus microscopic beams of light in multiple areas. This approach reduces recovery time and minimizes damage to the skin from the heat of the laser.

Our doctors administer fractional CO2 laser therapy in the office using a small handheld device. After a local anesthetic is applied to the areas being treated, the device is passed over the skin. Bursts of energy penetrate the upper layers of the skin.

The doctor may treat one area, such as the lines around your eyes or mouth, or the entire face. A session may take 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the area that is being treated. Because this type of laser treatment is fractionated, multiple sessions are needed. Your dermatologist determines the appropriate number of sessions and the schedule.

After the procedure, doctors apply a bandage over the areas that were treated, and you can go home. Swelling, redness, and itching are normal after the procedure and typically diminish in five to seven days, when the top layer of skin begins to peel.

Our doctors recommend keeping the skin moisturized and clean during the healing process. They also advise wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. After one month, the skin is healed. After three months, redness fades completely, and skin looks younger.

Side effects can include permanent light or dark spots, burns, and infection. Your doctor works with you to minimize the risk of side effects and determine whether the therapy is right for you.

Erbium Laser Therapy

Erbium laser therapy is administered in the same way as CO2 laser therapy, but the erbium laser is gentler and doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin. It’s recommended for smaller wrinkles and lines.

Because the erbium laser is less powerful, you may need more than one treatment to achieve the desired results. However, recovery time and the risk of side effects are reduced. In many instances, the skin heals in one week.


Dermabrasion is a technique to remove damaged layers of skin by using abrasion, or scraping. The result is smoother, brighter skin that has fewer wrinkles, lines, and age spots.

To perform dermabrasion, a skin specialist first injects a local anesthetic into the area of skin being treated to ensure that you don’t feel any discomfort during the procedure. He or she then uses a small mechanical tool to gently remove damaged surface layers of skin. The procedure may take 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the area being treated.

After dermabrasion, the skin may bleed slightly, and specialists apply bandages. The skin remains tender and red for several days.

You schedule a follow-up appointment within seven days of the procedure, so your doctor can monitor the healing skin. It may take 10 to 14 days for the skin to completely heal. During this time, you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Even after your skin heals, it may have a pink appearance for several weeks. Most people notice smoother, younger looking skin after two months. Results often last for one year or more. Side effects include scarring, changes in skin color, and infection.

Our Research and Education in Aging Skin

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.