CO2 lasers have been used since the 1980s. Initially they were used for cancer and some other types of surgery, but then were found useful for facial resurfacing, which is a procedure where the outer layer of skin (the outer epidermis) and some of the inner layers of skin below it (the papillary dermis) were removed.
Removing those skin layers causes the body to treat the area like an injury. The area then heals the area with skin that is thicker and looks younger than the original. There are two problems with this:
First, it hurts, and it causes significant discomfort. Second, there’s a risk that the treated area could become lighter or darker than the rest of the patient’s skin. Other complications from the procedure are also a possibility. These include erythema (reddening of the skin), edema (swelling due to excess fluid), and pruritus (severe itching).
There have been significant improvements in the technology since then, and the methods used to make the skin look younger have changed. Instead of completely removing the outer layer of skin, the laser beam is fractionated (broken up into a grid pattern instead of being solid).
A fractionated laser removes very small plugs of skin. The remaining skin grows into the area where the plugs were. This is less risky than using a solid beam, and shortens the recovery time.
During the last several years, the technology has improved further, and practitioners have added PRP (platelet-rich plasma) to their arsenal. After the laser produces the perforations in the skin being treated there are two methods of introducing PRP.
In the first, PRP is applied topically and an ultrasound probe is then used to guide the PRP into those perforations. In the second, PRP is injected into the treated area.
Using a combination of CO2 laser and PRP has been shown to reduce the patient’s recovery time (Lee 2012). In addition, “combined laser therapy with PRP is associated with greater patients’ satisfaction with the treatment and with significantly greater satisfaction with the appearance of pigmentation after the treatment” versus laser alone (Petrov, 2016).
Other studies show that “PRP combined with ultra-pulsed fractional CO2 laser had a synergistic effect on facial rejuvenation, shortening duration of side effects, and promoting better therapeutic effect” (Hui, 2016). Earlier studies had similar outcomes.
If you’re considering treatment to combat acne scars or reduce wrinkles, CO2 laser/PRP combination therapy is well worth looking into.