Your face will be swollen and red. There will be seeping from the skin because the skin has temporarily lost its barrier function. The protein fluid that seeps from the skin is yellowish and will form crusts. Washing regularly helps remove these crusts. However, it is unnecessary to completely remove the crusts. They will come off when they are ready. Vaseline® ointment is used to keep the skin from drying out. Usually the skin is healed and no longer oozing within five to seven days after the laser treatment. The recovery is faster after erbium laser resurfacing than CO2 laser resurfacing. However, recovery times vary after CO2 laser treatments, depending on the energy parameters and number of passes used by the operator. One pass at a low energy setting can provide a recovery similar to an erbium laser treatment.
Once the skin is healed, you can use sunblock and apply makeup to help hide the redness. Also, once the skin is healed, you can use a moisturizer and stop applying Vaseline®.
Normal Findings after Laser Resurfacing: Side Effects
Side effects expected after treatment are:
- Redness can take up to several months to resolve fully after CO2 laser resurfacing or several weeks after the more superficial erbium laser resurfacing. The patient may appear to have a sunburn and then a healthy glow that can be toned down with makeup. One reason that I often treat the whole face with laser resurfacing is because the skin will have the same degree of redness. Spot treatments tend to result in circular areas that are more noticeable because they border untreated skin. Also, there is no reason to leave out areas of the face that can benefit. After all, there is no area of the face that is not vulnerable to the changes of photo-aging.
- Swelling: A moderate amount of swelling is not altogether objectionable. Swelling helps smooth out lines and looks youthful. Photographs taken shortly after laser resurfacing can show results that are exaggerated by the effects of swelling.
- Oozing of the facial skin is due to the temporary loss of the normal skin barrier function. The oozing stops when the skin is healed, usually by one week after surgery. Some areas take longer to heal than others, such as the orbital rims and around the mouth, where more passes may be made to treat deeper lines. Patients often report feeling much better when the skin is healed.
- A burning sensation is caused by the sensory nerve trauma which produces burning or stinging sensations. It is important to keep the skin from drying out. Hydrocortisone cream (1 percent) can also relieve itching or stinging. An oral antihistamine such as Benadryl® is also helpful and can provide some needed sedation, particularly at night.