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What is the Difference Between Ablative and Non-Ablative Lasers for Skin Treatment?

Regardless of the nature of your skin damage, we have the newest non-invasive and cosmetic spa services in Pittsburgh, PA. If you’re considering laser treatment, there are many different options available, and it can be difficult to decide between them. The first step in choosing is to start learning the basic differences between ablative and non-ablative lasers.

Ablative Lasers

Of the two types of lasers used in skin treatment today, ablative lasers are more aggressive, but they also produce the best clinical results. They work by vaporizing the outermost layers of the skin, giving your body the opportunity to regrow new skin. Ablative lasers are used primarily to treat:

  • Acne scarring
  • Pigmentation irregularities
  • Lesions
  • Extreme sun damage
  • Deep-set wrinkles
  • Loose skin.

There are two primary ablative lasers: Fractional CO2 lasers and Fractional Erbium lasers. Using a fractional method, both of these lasers work in columns rather than treating the full surface of your skin, which allows for the areas around the treated skin to show results in half the time. This process increases collagen production and heals the skin, eliminating flaws and giving you a youthful glow that can last up to five years.

  1. Fractional CO2 lasers:
  • Strongest
  • Has the ability to go the deepest
  • Most profound tightening of the tissue
  • Highest chance for depigmentation
  • Longest recovery time (8-10 days avg.)
  1. Fractional Erbium lasers:
  • Not as strong as CO2, but stronger than all non-ablative
  • Best for superficial blemishes
  • Good for improving skin texture
  • Not recommended for stretch marks
  • Moderate recovery time (5-7 days avg.)

Non-Ablative Lasers


Unlike ablative lasers, non-ablative lasers heat the targeted tissue without decimating them, effectively signaling your body to produce more collagen, which gently resurfaces the skin. Non-ablative resurfacing focuses on the layers beneath the surface so that the skin heals from the inside out. Due to non-ablative lasers being mild in nature, multiple treatment sessions are typically necessary to achieve a more drastic difference. On the other hand, there is much less room for unexpected subsequent side effects, and they require far less rest time between treatments.

If you are looking at laser treatment for cosmetic purposes specifically, non-ablative lasers are most likely the right fit for you. These lasers are most widely used for tattoo removal, pigment correction, and slighter forms of aging and sun damage. Non-ablative lasers are our choice for the best hair removal in Pittsburgh, PA. While there are many options, we recommend considering one of the following four kinds of non-ablative lasers.

  1. Fraxel Re:Store:
  • Corrects pigmentation
  • Heals sun damage
  • Treats acne scars
  • Fills in fine lines
  • 2-3 treatments needed
  • Modest recovery time (4-5 days avg.)
  1. Pulsed-Dye Laser (PDL):
  • Focus on veins
  • Corrects rosacea
  • Works on stretch marks
  • Perfect for getting rid of broken capillaries
  • Virtually no recovery time (1 day avg.)
  • NOT FOR dark skin
  1. Intense Pulsed Light Laser (IPL):
  • Best treatment for hyperpigmentation
  • Eliminates age spots
  • Used for melasma
  • Only for lighter skinned patients
  • Should not be used for those with keloid scars
  • CANNOT be used if you have Lupus
  1. Nd:YAG Laser:
  • Mostly used for tattoo removal
  • Excellent for hair removal
  • Treats all kinds of vascular lesions
  • Corrects pigmented lesions
  • Can treat hemangiomas (vascular tumors)
  • Used to improve wrinkles in photo-aged skin
  • In and out procedure (limited healing time)

Every body is different, and everyone’s skin is unique. We want you to be able to choose the best possible option for your specific needs! Now that you know more about the difference between ablative and non-ablative lasers, you can feel confident during your next consultation at our skin center in Pittsburgh, PA. Contact us today!