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Ablative vs Non-Ablative Laser Treatment: What’s the Difference?

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Fractional thermolysis, which made its debut in 2004, has been taking the cosmetic skincare field by storm during the last several years. Laser treatments target the gamut from wrinkle and fine line reduction — the original FDA indications for the devices — to elimination of all kinds of scars such as burn, surgery and/or acne scars, stretch marks and even melasma.

Ablative vs. Non-Ablative: What’s the Difference?

Fractional skin resurfacing with the new-generation ablative devices is the hottest development, although the non-ablative ones are a mainstay. The non-ablative devices are great for mild to moderate wrinkling and photoaging, and fairly close to eliminating most acne scarring over a series of 4-6 treatments that are only a bit uncomfortable followed by roughly 3 days of redness. It’s that reduced downtime, compared with more invasive treatments that require a week to 10 days from work & social obligations, that makes the non-ablative lasers so appealing in our patients’ busy lives.

The biggest difference between ablative and non-ablative lasers

Ablative laser treatments are more severe and can cause epidermal burning. Recovery time is longer and can extend up to 4-6 weeks. However, ice pick and boxcar acne scars respond well to ablative treatments, as do deeper wrinkles. For patients with older skin or those with a great deal of sun damage, the ablative laser may be best, even with the more significant downtime. We utilize excellent topical anesthetic creams and our ablative lasers have built-in cooling capacity to make the procedure more comfortable.

How does a non-ablative laser compare?

A non-ablative laser is less invasive and conducts heat deeper into the dermis, essentially bypassing the top layer of skin to treat the skin tissue beneath. This deep-placed heat causes the collagen to rebuild, making the non-ablative laser a good choice for under-eye lines and wrinkles, other more superficial facial wrinkles, as well as shallow scars.

Essentially, the less aggressive the laser, the more treatments are required to get the best final result. If you need to quickly get back to work and/or social activities, having more treatments with a non-ablative laser would be best.

Here at Reflections Center for Skin & Body in New Jersey, we have the Gold Standard in ablative and non-ablative treatments—the Fraxel Repair and Fraxel Re:Store Dual. In this way, we can offer the Best of the Best, whether you need an ablative or non-ablative treatment.