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Image of a woman representing CO2 laser resurfacing

CO2 laser resurfacing - what it is, how it works and before and after

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Safaa Askar from Al Zhoor Medical Center

Whether it’s acne scarring, wrinkles or sun damage, many people deal with some form of skin complaint. But if you find yourself wanting smooth, blemish-free skin, a treatment like fractional CO2 laser resurfacing might be the solution.

This non-invasive treatment is designed to reduce the appearance of common conditions and uses laser technology to rejuvenate and revitalise the skin.

So, what does fractional CO2 skin resurfacing involve? And is it right for you?

Fast facts

  • Best results

    One session

  • Duration of results

    Up to a year

  • Back to work


  • Full recovery time

    One to four weeks

  • Price range

    750 AED

  • Treatment duration

    30 minutes to two hours per session

  • Comfort

    Local anaesthetic

  • Treatment type


What is fractional CO2 laser resurfacing?

Both non-invasive and non-surgical, fractional CO2 laser resurfacing uses a combination of carbon dioxide and ablative or non-ablative lasers to smooth the skin. Not only that, but it works to remove warts, scars, age spots and wrinkles, rejuvenating the skin for a fresh-faced appearance.

This treatment is particularly popular among those who have scarring due to acne or sun damage, as this type of scarring can be difficult to treat with over-the-counter creams.

How does fractional CO2 laser resurfacing work?

The science behind it

There are two different types of fractional CO2 laser resurfacing treatments, both of which work in slightly different ways:

  • Ablative lasers – rejuvenate the skin by removing the outer layer (known as the epidermis) and heating the underlying layer (the dermis). This causes beneficial trauma to the skin, stimulating collagen fibres. In turn, this promotes new, healthier skin cells and smooth skin free of blemishes.
  • Non-ablative lasers – similarly, non-ablative lasers promote collagen growth, but this type of laser does not cause any trauma to the skin. Instead, the laser heats the skin tissue to stimulate collagen production.

While non-ablative lasers require less recovery time, they aren’t as effective as ablative lasers. Your doctor will be able to recommend one or the other based on your needs.

Before the treatment

During a consultation your needs will be discussed before agreeing to fractional CO2 laser resurfacing.

If you smoke, it’s recommended you stop for two weeks both before and after the treatment. You should also avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications, as well as any medications that affect blood clotting.

During the treatment

This treatment typically takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the area. The clinician will start by numbing the skin, ensuring the procedure is entirely painless.

Both ablative and non-ablative treatments involve a beam of light that is aimed at the targeted area. One session should be enough to see results but it you have acne you may need more. Non-ablative treatment often requires multiple follow-up sessions to see results.

While this treatment can fade acne scarring, it doesn’t treat active outbreaks of acne itself. For this, you’re better off choosing another form of acne treatment.


Recovery from fractional CO2 skin resurfacing typically takes around one to four weeks, depending on how large the treatment area is. You’ll likely experience tenderness, as well as swelling, redness and itching. Here are some aftercare measures to consider:

  • Avoid taking hot baths or showers.
  • Avoid any products that contain acids, including hyaluronic and salicylic acid.
  • Only use lightweight, fragrance-free products.
  • Reduce swelling and bruising with a cold compress.
  • Avoid going to the gym.
  • Clean the area two to five times daily with a saline-based solution. Ask your doctor what they recommend.

What are the side-effects of fractional CO2 laser resurfacing? Plus, everything else you need to know

There is a risk of some side-effects with fractional CO2 laser resurfacing, but most are minimal and heal within a couple of weeks:

  • Swelling.
  • Itchy, sore skin.
  • Redness.
  • Rash.
  • Hyperpigmentation.
  • Bumps or textural irregularities.

If you notice any sign of infection, such as pus or fluid, get in touch with your doctor.

How much does fractional CO2 laser resurfacing cost?

The average cost of CO2 skin resurfacing is Dhs750. However, this can vary depending on the size of the treatment area and the clinic you choose.

How can I find fractional CO2 laser resurfacing near me?

To find clinics offering this procedure, use our clinic locator.

Alternative treatments

  • Microneedling – using small needles, microneedling rejuvenates the skin by causing trauma to the skin. Like fractional CO2 skin resurfacing, particularly when combined with radiofrequency, this trauma boosts collagen production and encourages healthier skin cells to form.
  • Lights and laser therapy – this type of treatment is very similar to fractional CO2 skin laser resurfacing, using lasers to stimulate collagen production. However, it tends to involve red or blue LED light lasers.
  • Botox – the safe injection of small amount of toxin (botulinum toxin) into the small muscles of the face, to reduce movement and the appearance of wrinkles, for smoother skin.
  • Microdermabrasion – this treatment involves spraying fine crystals and a vacuum over the skin to buff and remove dead cells. It essentially exfoliates the top layer of skin, letting newer skin shine through.
  • Fillers – used to plump out wrinkles and smooth out skin, mainly around the mouth and jawline where sagging can occur.
  • Mesotherapy – vitamins, hormones, enzymes, and plant extracts are injected into the skin. It’s believed that the treatment tightens the skin, removes excess fat, and gives it an overall rejuvenated appearance.
  • Chemical peels – this treatment involves a solution being spread over the skin that removes dead skin cells. There are three types of chemical peel – superficial or light, medium and deep.
  • Phototherapy – UV light is used in this treatment in varying wavelengths to tackle skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis.
  • HIFU – skin tightening treatment, which can be used all over the body but is used to target fine lines and wrinkles. It activates collagen in the skin which can tighten and lift the treated area.


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