Can cosmetic laser treatments “thin the skin?”

9/23/17 Dr. Irwin, I have been practicing a good care skin regime for years, and still have some rippling issues on my right cheek, and some of those vertical lines above my lip, and around my mouth. I have considered the CO2 lasers, such as the erbium, but heard that these lasers, especially thin the skin, which only makes the lines and wrinkles worse in the long run. What do you think about this treatment, and would you suggest another approach to smoothing these skin problems, so, to strengthen the elasticity, for healthier skin? Thank you, I appreciate Carol.

First, good work on your consistency with your skincare! Skin we feel good in makes a difference in how we feel about ourselves. Self-care is a good thing. Second, can we just put this myth to bed once and for all? “Laser treatments thinning the skin”: I’ve heard this rumor several times in the past month, so all I can think is that there must have been a media piece recently that said that.

Lasers do not thin the skin! They do the opposite.

Lasers, especially the fractionated CO2 or fractionated erbiums that are in widespread use now, increase the thickness of the dermis, where all the collagen, elastic fibers, and blood vessels are. They also increase slightly the thickness and health of the outer layer, the epidermis. How?

  1. By stimulating the growth of new cells
  2. These very tiny laser beams cause old, sluggish skin cells to slough off.
  3. Then the cells make more, new, healthier skin cells.

The total depth of the skin actually gets a little thicker. Younger skin is thicker than older skin.  Skin that is treated by these lasers is also less prone to skin cancer and precancerous spots. In fact, I can’t think of a single laser that thins the skin. This includes hair removal lasers, IPLs (laser cousin), V-beams, Nd: YAGs, erbiums, CO2s, diodes, etc. If someone can think of one, please call it to my attention.

If someone has a complication of a laser, that is a different situation.

Bottom Line:

  • You can have thicker, healthier skin from lasers, which stimulate cell and collagen growth;
  • Lasers improve the health of the skin, including decreasing risks of skin cancers and precancerous spots;
  • To avoid complications and problems, lasers must be used correctly, by well-trained medical personnel;
  • Lasers can be used to treat brown spots, red areas, wrinkles, scars, excess hair, sun damage, loose skin, acne scars and texture problems, and have other uses as well.

For my guide to laser treatments, see here.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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