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CO2 vs. Erbium Lasers in Aesthetic Medicine

co2 laser vs erbium laser

CO2 vs. Erbium Lasers: Which is Right for You? 


You might have been in an aesthetic clinic discussing a skin concern, and skin resurfacing got mentioned. If the clinic had a laser machine, then no doubt this would have been offered as one of your options. The thing is, there are many lasers, technologies, settings, techniques, and brands. Cue confusion.

With regard to laser skin resurfacing, the most prominent technologies are CO2 and Erbium lasers, each with unique attributes and applications. We have both a CO2 laser and also an Erbium laser here at The Doctors Laser Clinic. We thought writing an article to discuss the differences might be a good idea to help patients who have the choice.

Understanding CO2 and Erbium Lasers

CO2 lasers are known for their efficacy in treating deeper skin layers and utilise a longer wavelength that penetrates further into the skin. This characteristic makes them particularly effective for more intensive skin resurfacing needs. In contrast to the CO2, Erbium lasers operate at a shorter wavelength, offering a more surface-level treatment. This makes them ideal for addressing more superficial skin concerns with minimal invasion and quicker recovery times.

Ablative Laser Resurfacing

Both CO2 and Erbium lasers fall under the category of ablative lasers, which work by vaporising the top layers of damaged skin to reveal healthier, younger-looking skin underneath. CO2 lasers are more aggressive, removing deeper layers of skin, while Erbium lasers are gentler, targeting only the superficial layers. This fundamental difference influences the choice of laser based on the patient’s specific skin concerns and desired outcomes.

Applications and Effectiveness

CO2 lasers are often the often-offered choice for treating deep wrinkles, severe sun damage, and prominent acne scars, given their ability to reach deeper skin layers. Erbium lasers, on the other hand, are preferred for finer lines, mild to moderate sun damage, and superficial skin imperfections. Both lasers stimulate collagen production, but the penetration depth varies, influencing the effectiveness based on the skin issue being addressed.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The CO2 laser’s deeper penetration allows for more dramatic results in skin texture and tone improvement. Still, it comes with a longer recovery period and a higher risk of side effects like hyperpigmentation, especially in darker skin tones. Erbium lasers offer a safer alternative for sensitive skin types and those seeking treatment with minimal downtime. However, they may require multiple sessions to achieve the desired results, especially for more profound skin issues.

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Side Effects and Recovery

Post-treatment recovery for CO2 laser resurfacing typically involves a longer downtime, with possible side effects including redness, swelling, and a risk of scarring or pigmentation changes. Erbium laser treatments usually have a shorter recovery time, with milder side effects such as temporary redness or mild swelling. The choice between the two often depends on your ability to accommodate the recovery time and their tolerance for potential side effects. Whichever clinic offers you one or both of these treatments, you should discuss downtime with them and be sure everything is fully explained in order for you to plan.

Suitability and Skin Types

Choosing between CO2 and Erbium lasers depends largely on your skin type, condition, and aesthetic goals. CO2 lasers are generally more suitable for those with lighter skin tones and more significant skin concerns. In contrast, Erbium lasers are often recommended for patients with darker skin tones or those who prefer a treatment with less downtime and fewer risks. A professional consultation at the clinic will help with determining the most appropriate laser treatment for individual skin types and concerns.

Laser Skin Resurfacing For You

In conclusion, both CO2 and Erbium lasers offer effective solutions for skin rejuvenation, each with its own benefits and considerations. Understanding these differences is the key to making an informed decision about the best treatment for your skin. If you have any questions, even if you are not a patient of ours, please feel free to get in touch. We are always happy to advise. 


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