Erbium Laser Resurfacing: All You Need to Know

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on May 31, 2023

Erbium lasers are one of the most popular types of laser skin resurfacing treatments. Here’s all you need to know about the specifics of erbium laser resurfacing.

erbium laser

Image source: Instagram @poshbeauty.medspa

Erbium laser skin resurfacing is a non-surgical cosmetic procedure used to improve the appearance, texture, and overall condition of the skin by utilizing a high-energy laser.

The treatment can be done as a full facial or targeting specific areas to address signs of aging, sun damage, and various other skin imperfections such as wrinkles, fine lines, and scars.

Here’s everything you need to know about erbium laser resurfacing, including its effects, costs, healing, and aftercare.

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What Is an Erbium Laser?

An erbium laser is any type of laser that uses erbium as an addition to the source of its light energy. Erbium is a rare metal with fluorescent properties that amplify the effects of whatever medium the energy goes through (e.g. crystals).

There are different variations of erbium lasers, including the Erbium YAG Laser, Erbium Glass Laser, and Dual Pulsed Erbium Laser. Each type offers specific advantages depending on the patient’s needs and desired outcomes.

Let’s quickly go through each one:

Erbium YAG Laser

The Erbium YAG Laser (often called simply Er:YAG) uses a synthetic garnet crystal called yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) as the laser medium. It emits infrared light at a wavelength of 2,940 nanometers.

This particular wavelength allows very precise targeting of the skin’s outermost layers, removing damaged skin cells and triggering collagen production.

The Erbium YAG Laser is often preferred for treating superficial flaws: shallow wrinkles, pigmentation irregularities, mild to moderate acne scars, and signs of photoaging.

Image source: Instagram @poshbeauty_micah

Erbium Glass Laser

The Erbium Glass Laser employs glass doped with erbium ions as its laser medium. This laser emits light at a wavelength of approximately 1,540 nanometers, which is considered safer for the eyes than other wavelengths.

The Er:Glass Laser is generally used for more extensive skin resurfacing procedures, targeting deeper layers of the skin. It can effectively address moderate to severe wrinkles, deeper scars, and sun-damaged skin.

Compared to Er:YAG, the erbium glass laser treatment requires longer downtime for the skin to heal and regenerate.

Dual Pulsed Erbium Laser

The Dual Pulsed Erbium Laser combines the benefits of both the Er:YAG and Er:Glass lasers.

It utilizes a dual-pulse emission system to deliver a combination of shorter and longer bursts of energy, and that’s what gives it its name.

This laser is notable for being versatile. It can be adjusted to target different skin layers, allowing for customized treatments.

It offers a good balance between effective skin rejuvenation and reduced downtime, making it suitable for individuals with varying degrees of skin concerns.

How Does Erbium Laser Resurfacing Work?

Any type of erbium laser emits a concentrated beam of light that is absorbed by the water in the skin. The light carries a certain amount of thermal energy, which means it heats the water, causing the targeted cells to vaporize.

Basically, it inflicts micro-injuries on the treated layer of the skin, which triggers your body’s natural healing response. This process helps to stimulate collagen production, resulting in smoother, rejuvenated skin with reduced irregularities.

As far as specific methods of application go, erbium lasers can be used ablatively, non-ablatively, and fractionally. Here’s an overview of each treatment method:

Ablative Erbium Laser

This method works by removing the cells via concentrated heat damage (vaporizing) and triggering the production of new collagen and elastin to make the skin tighter, smoother, and more youthful.

Ablative lasers in general primarily focus on the outermost skin layer, known as the epidermis. But depending on the severity of the condition and the treated area’s size, ablative laser resurfacing can penetrate through the upper dermis.

The most common Er: laser type for this treatment method is the ablative erbium YAG laser, since it’s more intense than the Er:Glass or Dual Pulsed types.

Non-Ablative Erbium Laser

When used in non-ablative treatments, an erbium laser doesn’t affect the epidermis at all. Instead, it passes through the layers of skin to target cells deeper down.

This approach promotes collagen remodeling of existing tissues, rather than tissue replacement. Instead of generating all-new collagen and elastin, your body fixes the existing collagen bonds between cells and strengthens them.

This makes the skin tighter and gives it a lighter tone, so it’s usually used to treat minor flaws closer to the skin’s surface.

Image source: Instagram @poshbeauty.medspa

Fractional Erbium Laser

Fractional laser resurfacing is a unique category encompassing both ablative and non-ablative treatments. What sets it apart is the form of the laser beam.

Unlike other treatments where the laser energy is projected as a single beam, fractional skin resurfacing divides the energy into numerous tiny separate mini-beams. As a result, when the laser is applied to the skin, there are untreated areas between the treated spots.

This approach minimizes downtime and promotes faster recovery compared to standard ablative or non-ablative techniques.

You can also read more about the procedure in general in our Ultimate Guide to Laser Skin Resurfacing.

Erbium Laser Benefits

Now that you know what erbium lasers are and how they work, let’s take a closer look at how a resurfacing treatment contributes to your skincare regimen.

Firstly, it’s a very precise, versatile, and controlled form of treatment. It can be customized based on your specific concerns, skin type, and other factors.

An erbium laser can address various imperfections with exceptional accuracy. It lets you tackle a wider range of skin problems all at once, instead of combining different treatments over a long period of time.

Secondly, erbium laser resurfacing directly prompts your body to produce collagen, a crucial protein that gives the skin its strength and elasticity. By enhancing collagen levels, the treatment helps to rejuvenate the skin.

Erbium laser procedures require minimal discomfort and downtime compared to other laser resurfacing techniques. This means that you can return to your daily activities relatively quickly after the treatment.

Lastly, erbium lasers are safe for use on a range of skin types, including darker skin tones, making them highly versatile and inclusive.

Who Is a Candidate for Erbium Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Candidates for erbium laser treatment are typically people who wish to improve the appearance of:

  • Wrinkles
  • Fine lines
  • Sun damage
  • Age spots
  • Acne scars
  • Or uneven skin texture.

Depending on the severity of the problem, multiple treatment sessions may be required for optimal results.

It’s important to have realistic expectations about the outcome of the procedure. You should discuss your goals with your provider in detail during consultations.

They will assess the problem, consider your skin type, and check your medical history to determine if erbium laser skin resurfacing is the best treatment for your concerns.

Who Shouldn’t Do Erbium Laser Skin Resurfacing?

While erbium laser skin resurfacing is generally safe and effective, there are certain individuals who should avoid this procedure.

An erbium laser treatment might not be a good idea if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have an active skin infection
  • Have an ongoing herpes virus infection or a history of cold sore outbreaks
  • Have open wounds in the treatment area
  • Have an immune disorder
  • Have got uncontrolled diabetes
  • Are prone to keloid scarring
  • Have a history of hypertrophic scars
  • Have a history of skin cancer in your family

Not all of these factors automatically exclude you from a resurfacing treatment, but if any of the above applies to you, you’re at much greater risk for adverse effects.

Your provider will evaluate your specific circumstances and medical history to determine if erbium laser treatment is a safe option for you. If the risk is too great, they may recommend other types of collagen induction therapy, such as microneedling.

Erbium Laser for Dark Skin

The erbium laser’s wavelength and energy settings can be adjusted to ensure safe and effective treatment for darker skin types.

This is crucial because darker skin tones have higher levels of melanin, which can make them more prone to complications from certain laser procedures.

It’s essential to consult with a skilled professional to determine the most appropriate individual treatment plan. Ideally, you should look for a provider who is experienced in treating dark skin.

Erbium Laser for Scars

Erbium lasers deliver concentrated energy that helps to break down the scar tissue and stimulate new collagen production. The scar gradually becomes smoother and less noticeable, blending in with the surrounding healthy skin.

The number of treatment sessions required will depend on the size, depth, and type of the scar. Your specialist will evaluate your unique situation and develop a personalized treatment plan to achieve the best possible results.

It’s important to note that, while erbium laser scar removal can significantly improve the appearance of scars, complete removal may not always be possible.

However, the treatment can still help reduce the visibility of scars and improve the overall texture and tone of your skin.

Erbium Laser for Acne Scars

Erbium lasers are quite effective in improving the appearance of acne scars. Just like with non-acne scar removal, the laser’s energy helps to break down the scar tissue, encouraging the growth of new, healthier skin cells in its place.

Again, the number of sessions required will depend on the severity and type of acne scars. Generally speaking, the older an acne scar is, the more difficult it’ll be to remove.

Also, some scar forms (like icepick scars) are more resistant to treatment than others.

Full Face Erbium Laser Resurfacing

Full face erbium laser resurfacing is a comprehensive treatment that addresses various skin concerns across the entire face. The skin becomes tighter and more even in tone and texture.

By targeting fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, sun damage, and uneven skin texture, full face resurfacing can effectively rejuvenate the face overall.

That said, you can also opt to do erbium laser resurfacing on just a specific area of the face, such as around the eyes or lips.

Erbium Laser Under Eyes

Erbium lasers are suitable for treating delicate skin under the eyes. This area is prone to fine lines, wrinkles, and skin laxity, which can contribute to a tired or aged appearance.

An erbium laser can help minimize those blemishes, reduce puffiness, and improve overall skin texture. The treatment is safe and requires minimal discomfort and downtime.

However, due to the sensitivity of the area, your provider might decide to space out the treatment over a few low-intensity appointments rather than addressing everything in one go. That way you get an optimal balance between comfort and effectiveness.

Image source: Instagram @omni_skin_pa

Erbium Laser for Lip Lines

Lip lines, also known as smoker’s lines or lipstick lines, form around the mouth and upper lips and contribute to an aged appearance.

Using erbium laser for upper lip wrinkles is a very precise resurfacing treatment. By stimulating the skin’s natural healing response, the laser can smooth out lip lines and restore a youthful look.

Erbium Laser Mole Removal

This procedure utilizes the precise energy of erbium lasers to target and break down the pigmented cells that make up the mole. The laser energy is carefully calibrated to selectively heat and remove the mole while minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy skin.

Erbium laser mole removal offers several advantages, including minimal scarring, shorter healing time, and reduced risk of infection compared to traditional surgical excision.

However, it’s important to note that not all moles are suitable for laser removal. A thorough examination by a qualified specialist is necessary to determine the appropriateness of this treatment.

Erbium Laser for Stretch Marks

Stretch marks commonly occur due to rapid growth, pregnancy, or weight fluctuations. They’re completely natural, but they can be a big aesthetic concern for some people and impact their self-confidence.

Erbium laser treatment helps to break down the damaged tissue and encourages the growth of new, more elastic skin cells, gradually diminishing the stretched-out appearance. Multiple sessions may be required depending on the severity and age of the stretch marks.

Image source: Instagram @aestheticlaserdoctor

How Long Does Erbium Laser Resurfacing Healing Take?

Generally speaking, it takes about a month. The recovery process varies from person to person but typically follows a similar timeline.

Complete healing may take several weeks to a few months, depending on the depth and intensity of the laser treatment.

It’s essential to have realistic expectations and stay patient throughout the healing period. Your specialist will monitor your progress and provide guidance to ensure a smooth and successful recovery.

Healing From Erbium Laser Day by Day

Each individual’s specific healing timeline will differ, but here’s an overview of how the stages of recovery generally go:

Day 1-3

Immediately after the treatment, you can expect redness, swelling, and warmth in the treated area. Your skin may also feel sensitive and slightly tight.

Follow the post-treatment instructions provided by your specialist, which may include applying ointments or creams and keeping the treated area clean. Avoid direct sun exposure during this time.

Day 4-7

The redness and swelling gradually start to subside. Your skin may still appear pink or slightly discolored, but it will continue to improve each day.

It’s crucial to continue following your specialist’s aftercare instructions in this stage, including moisturizing the treated area and protecting it from UV radiation with a good sunscreen.

Day 8-14

By this stage, most of the redness and swelling should have resolved. Your skin may still have a pinkish hue, but it will continue to fade over time.

You may notice some dryness or flaking. That’s the old, damaged skin being shed to reveal fresh, rejuvenated skin underneath. Continue to keep your skin moisturized and protected from the sun.

Weeks 2-4

The healing process progresses into its final stages, and the pinkish discoloration gradually diminishes.

Your skin will continue to regenerate, and any remaining dryness or flaking should improve. Maintain a consistent skincare routine, including gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection.

Weeks 4 and Beyond

By now, your skin should have significantly healed, and the full results of the erbium laser treatment will start to become obvious.

The treated area will continue to blend in with the surrounding skin, and any lingering pinkness or discoloration will fade away completely.

However, don’t let yourself slip up on your care routine. It’s important to keep up with nourishment and sun protection to get the most out of the treatment results long-term.

Remember, the healing process may vary from person to person, and these timelines are general guidelines.

It’s crucial to follow the specific aftercare instructions provided by your specialist, because they’ll be tailored to your skin and your particular circumstances.

If you have any concerns or questions throughout the healing process, you should feel free to reach out to your provider for post-treatment consultations.

Erbium Laser Resurfacing After Care

Proper aftercare following erbium laser skin resurfacing is essential to ensure optimal healing and results. After the procedure, your specialist will provide you with specific instructions tailored to your individual needs.

Generally, it’s important to keep the treated area clean and avoid touching or picking at any scabs or crusts that may form. Applying nourishing ointments or creams as directed will help keep the skin moisturized and promote healing.

Protecting the treated area from the sun is crucial, as it can hinder the healing process and increase the risk of complications. It’s recommended to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Consider a wide-brimmed hat when going outside, too.

During the initial healing period, avoid activities that may cause excessive sweating such as:

  • Intense workouts
  • Hot baths and showers
  • Saunas
  • Sunbathing
  • Tanning beds, etc.

Be sure to follow any additional instructions provided by your specialist and reach out to them if you have any concerns or questions about your aftercare regime.

You can read more about laser resurfacing aftercare here.

Image source: Freepik

How Much Does Skin Resurfacing With an Erbium Laser Cost?

The cost of erbium laser skin resurfacing can range from $500 to $3,500 per session on average. It’s important to note that this is a general estimate, and the actual price may be higher or lower based on the circumstances of your treatment.

The specific costs you’ll be looking at will vary depending on several factors, including:

  • The location of the clinic
  • The size of the treatment area
  • The severity of the problem
  • The expertise and experience of the specialist
  • The number of sessions required
    and any accompanying treatments or services.

Consult with a qualified specialist who can assess your individual needs and provide you with a personalized cost estimate. Don’t forget to also factor in the price of aftercare products that you might need to purchase.

Laser skin resurfacing typically isn’t covered by insurance, because it’s considered a cosmetic procedure rather than a medical one.

However, clinics usually have payment plans and financing options for their clients. It’s always a good idea to reach out to multiple providers in your area and compare pricing information.

Erbium Laser Resurfacing – Main Takeaways

Erbium lasers are commonly used in skin resurfacing treatments to address signs of aging, sun damage, scars, and various skin imperfections. The treatment offers precise targeting, versatility, and controlled outcomes, with minimal discomfort and downtime.

There are different variations of erbium lasers, including Er:YAG, Er:Glass, and Dual Pulsed, each with specific advantages. But they all work by stimulating collagen production and improving the skin’s overall texture.



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