Laser Skin Resurfacing in San Francisco, CA

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About Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin is a nonsurgical cosmetic procedure that uses pulsating beams of light to reach deep into the skin without affecting the surrounding tissue. The treatment is performed to reduce facial lines and wrinkles and to diminish skin irregularities, such as acne scars, pigmentation, and other flaws. Laser skin resurfacing is an effective treatment for patients desiring softer, clearer, youthful-looking skin but who do not want to deal with more invasive procedures or surgery.

Board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans is the owner and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin. She uses the advanced and gentle Fraxel or ResurFX technologies, or a combination of both, to provide laser skin resurfacing treatments for her patients. These lasers are safe and effective and can be adjusted according to each patient's complexion type and concerns. While laser skin resurfacing is often referred to as a laser peel, not all the technology used by Dr. Evans actually removes any layers of skin. Contact us at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco to make your appointment if you would like to learn more about what laser skin resurfacing could do for you.

Types of Laser Treatments

There are three types of laser skin resurfacing treatments available, and Dr. Evans will determine which is right for you based on your complexion, skin type, and goals. Some lasers are used for a lighter resurfacing while others are more aggressive:

  • Ablative Laser Treatments
    Ablative lasers remove thin layers of skin, like a deep chemical peel or dermabrasion, with a precision that allows your practitioner to minimize skin damage. Ablative lasers are best for skin tightening and removing wrinkles and acne scars.
  • Non-Ablative Laser Treatments
    Non-ablative lasers do not remove any skin — the light simply creates micro-damage to the skin to promote natural healing. Non-ablative treatments are best for removing fine lines and wrinkles on patients who are able to wait a few months for strong results.
  • Fractional Laser Treatments
    Fractional lasers can be either ablative or non-ablative and are able to penetrate multiple different layers of the skin. The skin's natural healing process creates tighter skin. Fractional lasers may also be used for fine lines, deep wrinkles, acne scarring, sun damage, and uneven pigmentation.

Ideal Candidates

Laser skin resurfacing is a safe and effective treatment for most people with lighter skin tones. However, if you have darker skin or active acne, the procedure could have negative outcomes. Fortunately, there are other options available so talk to Dr. Evans about the best treatments for your concerns. 

Most of our patients who undergo laser skin resurfacing can achieve: 

  • Smoother skin
  • More even skin tone
  • Reduced brown spots and pigmentation
  • Softer fine lines and wrinkles
  • Less visible surgical and acne scars
  • Reduced sun damage

Procedure Technique

If you are having a deeper or more intense laser peel, you may be asked to use a topical retinoid for a few weeks before your laser treatment. This helps prepare the skin for maximum results. Our patients receive their laser skin resurfacing treatments in the comfort of our San Francisco or Corte Madera, CA Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology offices. We topically numb each patient for 60 – 90 minutes prior to performing the laser treatment. Dr. Evans will then move the handpiece across your treatment area to destroy the damaged skin cells — without affecting the surrounding skin — and promote the development of healthy cells and collagen. You will feel the heat from the laser followed by cold air from its built-in cooling system. The length of your treatment will depend on the area being treated; therefore, it can take anywhere from 10 – 40 minutes.

What to Expect

Immediately after your treatment, your skin will appear red, and there will be some irritation and swelling. For lighter treatments, this should subside within a couple of days, and the healing and peeling process will last 5 – 7 days. If you are undergoing a more intense laser resurfacing treatment, your downtime will last longer. The treated areas may or may not need to be covered by dressings, and the swelling, irritation, and burning sensation will be stronger. Medication can be prescribed to help reduce these side effects if necessary. The healing time associated with a deeper peel can last 2 – 3 weeks, but you should be able to resume most of your daily activities almost immediately. You should be able to see your optimal results in 2 – 3 months, but your skin will continue to improve for about a year.

All patients should limit their sun exposure after their laser treatment and apply sunscreen regularly. Regardless of the intensity of your laser treatment, your skin will naturally flake, crust, and peel away. It is important to protect your face from sun exposure and to not interfere with the healing process to avoid scarring. Once the peeling process has been completed, your skin will feel softer and look clearer, younger, and rejuvenated.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does laser skin resurfacing cost?
Laser skin resurfacing costs vary based on the type of treatment you and Dr. Evans decide to do. In your consultation, Dr. Evans will listen to your concerns and goals before explaining the different types of resurfacing treatments. Then she can help you choose your treatment and discuss costs. Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin often runs treatment specials and discounted packages so be sure to ask during your consultation.

What's the best type of resurfacing for me?
Dr. Evans will help you decide which laser resurfacing treatment is best for your needs and goals during your consultation. The best treatment for you will depend on the health and condition of your skin, your complexion concerns, and how deep you want your treatment to go. The length of time you are willing to give your recovery may also be a deciding factor when choosing your treatment type. When in doubt, it's best to start with a lighter treatment to see how you like your results and adjust as needed for your next treatment.

How can I help my skin recover after a resurfacing treatment?
Dr. Evans or a member of her professional team will talk to you about how you can help your skin heal after a laser resurfacing treatment. The most important rule is to never pick or peel your skin. This could cause lasting damage, including scars. You should skip all hair removal methods in the treatment area, which means no shaving, waxing, or depilatory creams. We will recommend an ointment to help soothe and heal your skin.

Does laser skin resurfacing have any side effects?
Though prolonged side effects are rare, the common side effects of laser skin resurfacing can last from several days to a few weeks, depending on the aggressiveness of your treatment. Common side effects include itching, swelling, blistering, acne flare-up, infection, prolonged redness, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Dr. Evans will discuss these during your consultation.

How often should I get laser resurfacing treatments?
Depending on the resurfacing type you and Dr. Evans select for your treatment, you may need to wait weeks or even months between appointments. Deeper treatments will provide longer-lasting results but will require a longer recovery period. After a few weeks, your skin will feel totally healed, but it might still be too sensitive for another session. You should talk to Dr. Evans about how often you are willing to come back for treatments so she can take this into account when recommending a type of resurfacing during your consultation.


A laser skin resurfacing treatment offers outstanding results if you want a younger-looking complexion with fewer and less visible blemishes. It is a safe and effective way to get dramatic results without the downtime of a surgical procedure. If you are considering a laser peel and would like to learn more about them, we invite you to call our office in San Francisco, CA today to schedule your consultation with Dr. Evans.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.