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Ablative vs. Non-Ablative Lasers

Many people now employ laser technology treatments to rejuvenate their skin.

Laser resurfacing is known to remodel the skin with improvements seen in the pigmentation, texture, and tone of the skin. Fractionated lasers can improve skin elasticity by causing the skin to tighten as the skin regenerates. Enhancements are seen in surface scars and the pores of the skin.

Recommended Treatments For Skin Rejuvenation

Laser Treatments

Fractionated laser treatments actually resurface the skin by causing injury to the epidermis and dermis. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium fractional laser-resurfacing treatments are commonly recommended treatments for skin rejuvenation. Dr. Torgerson recommends fractional laser treatments to his Toronto patients who are under the age of 50 and who would like to see improvements in acne scars, skin discoloration, hyperpigmentation, melasma, sun spots, stretch marks, and an array of other skin irregularities. Choosing ablative or non-ablative treatments will depend on the patient’s expectations. The frequency and duration of treatments are determined based on the characteristics of the scar such as its depth and age. Let’s take a look at the differences between ablative and non-ablative fractionated laser-resurfacing treatments and their ability to reinforce and restore collagen in the skin.


  • Cause injury to the skin by removing fractionated areas of the skin while keeping the epidermis intact
  • Delivery of fractionated photothermolysis at 1540 nm with erbium
  • Does not produce the same dramatic results observed with ablative skin treatments
  • No associated downtime
  • Can remove sun spots and photo damage
  • Improves redness associated with rosacea and broken capillaries
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Increases collagen production with repeated consecutive treatments
  • Improves the texture and tone of the skin and increases skin’s firmness

Risks Associated with Non-Ablative Lasers Include

  • Persistent redness that lasts several days
  • Potential bruising
  • Swelling post-treatment that lasts a few days


  • Removes the epidermis
  • Fractionated photothermolysis with YAG laser at 2,940 nm to 10,600 nm with CO2 laser
  • Can substantially improve the appearance of deep and surface wrinkles
  • Significant improvements in texture and tone and skin discolorations
  • Helps remove years of sun damage on the skin of the face and/or body
  • Helps remove and improve new or old stretch marks
  • Higher risk associated with ablative lasers

Risks can include (but not everyone experiences them):

  • Swelling and bleeding followed by scabbing and flaking
  • Irritation and redness that can last longer than 1 week
  • Longer healing time can lead to long-term skin discoloration
  • Downtime requires the use of dressing and consistent cleansing for about 2 weeks
  • Post-treatment skin is raw and exposed; meticulous use of sunscreen and extra care is required for optimal results
  • Not following post-operative instructions can result in inconsistent results, increased risk of infection, and prolonged irritation that can cause delayed healing

The use of ablative resurfacing platforms have a longer recovery period that can last several weeks, while non-ablative lasers prove to be effective after multiple treatments that gently enhance the skin by remodelling the superficial layers of the skin. Ablation initiated by carbon dioxide laser skin resurfacing treatments are caused by the thermal damage delivered to the dermis and epidermis. Non-ablative lasers have a lower risk in complications associated with the treatment. That allows for quicker healing of the patient’s skin with reduced downtime and complications. In addition to ablative and non-ablative, lasers can also come in fractionated and non-fractionated treatments. The main difference between these two treatments is the superficial surface area that is damaged when receiving these treatments. Non-fractionated laser treats only a fraction of the surface skin in equally distributed portions mechanically measured by the laser treatment device. Fractionated platforms deliver laser deep within the dermis by treating all of the treatment areas, which can result in longer recovery due to the extensive remodeling required during the healing phase.

Laser Treatments

Ablative laser can produce dramatic improvements in the treatment of several dermatologic conditions like brown spots, uneven skin tone, and redness from rosacea. It can also reduce the signs of ageing by targeting and improving fine lines and wrinkles. Ablative and non-ablative laser treatments are ideal for those who are not quite ready for cosmetic surgery but want to effectively treat the signs of aging seen on the face, neck, and hands. Some resurfacing modules are approved to treat areas on the body as well. Contact Dr. Torgerson’s Facial Cosmetic Clinic in Toronto today to explore these two treatments for your facial skin concerns!

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