Laser Skin Whitening – Advantages and Disadvantages

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Patient undergoing skin whitening with a laserLaser skin resurfacing, also known as a laser peel, uses short, concentrated beams of light to remove unwanted or damaged skin.

Laser technologies can be used to treat skin conditions like fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, melasma, uneven skin tones and dark spots. The treatment uses a laser beam to remove the upper layer of the skin (the epidermis), while heating the underlying dermis, to stimulate the growth of new skin cells.

While laser whitening can be used to effectively treat melasma and to lighten dark spots, the more aggressive treatments can sometimes lead to “postinflammatory hyperpigmentation” (dark pigmentation) in the areas treated. This is more common in people with darker skin tones.

Laser Skin Whitening Options

According to National Centre for Biotechnology Information,  laser skin resurfacing was introduced in the 1980s when carbon dioxide (CO 2) lasers were first used to deliver continuous light beams to the skin. This treatment was later modified due to the high rate of side effects, which including scarring, and a new generation of CO 2 lasers and erbium lasers were introduced that were able to deliver very “short pulsed” light energy to remove skin in a more controlled manner.

This procedure is called ablative laser resurfacing and, while it is generally the most effective, there can be significant complication risks and it has a prolonged recovery time of 2 – 3 weeks.

In more recent years we have seen the emergence of new non-ablative and fractional laser resurfacing technologies that attempt to minimise these risks and shorten the recovery time.

So what is the difference between ablative and non-ablative laser resurfacing?

Laser skin whiteningLaser skin resurfacing can include both ablative and non-ablative techniques.

Ablative resurfacing generally uses an older style carbon dioxide laser and medium depth chemical peel. Ablative lasers work to vapourise the affected tissue, removing the top layer of skin and part of the underlying sub layer. This is usually a single treatment option.

Non-ablative lasers coagulate the affected tissue, while keeping the outer layer of skin intact for faster healing and recovery. The down time is minimal but several treatments may be required. Non ablative or minimally-ablative skin resurfacing can include treatments like Fraxel RE:store and Fraxel RE.pair. You can read more about this procedure here:.

Fractional skin resurfacing uses a combination of both ablative and non-ablative laser techniques to produce a more effective result with less risk and a faster recovery time.  In fractional skin resurfacing laser energy micro-beams are focused on areas of affected tissue in the upper layer through to the dermis below.

These procedures are not as “strong” as ablative laser treatment but they can stimulate the body to create healthy new tissue in place of the affected tissue, resulting in more radiant, younger-looking skin.

Depending on how much skin needs to be lightened, the patient may or may not need a local anaesthetic for these procedures. While ablative resurfacing achieves the best results there is a risk of scarring with the more aggressive lasers so you should see an experienced laser surgeon to tell you what would be best.

 Advantages of Laser Skin Whitening

  • Fast results

While some whitening treatments take weeks to show results, laser skin resurfacing is fast and improvements can be seen straight away. After treatment your skin will appear brighter and softer immediately and will progressively improve as it heals over 3-6 months. This is particularly true with ablative techniques where you may only require 1-2 treatments to remove dark spots and improve your skin’s appearance. Non-ablative treatments can take a little longer and may require 1-5 treatments.

  • Most people report good results

While skin whitening products are not all equally effective, laser resurfacing technology has been proven to work on a number of skin problems including fine lines and wrinkles, erasing acne scars, repairing sun damage and minimising the appearance of dark spots.

  • Professional help

Patients undergoing laser resurfacing are under professional surveillance during and after the treatment. The effects are monitored and, if any complications arise, trained doctors will be able to assist with any problems.

Disadvantages of Laser Skin Whitening

  • Possible Side effects

While modern laser technology can assist in reducing the appearance of skin blemishes and dark spots there are possible side effects that you should be aware of. It is common for patients to see a prolonged redness and swelling of this skin after laser treatment and doctors will advise patients that the treatment may also cause skin blistering, scarring, scabbing, cold sore reactivation or other infections.

Because the laser disrupts the structure of the cells beneath the skin surface, it can potentially damage the cells that produce melanin. In some cases this can cause either increased melanin production that will darken the skin (hyperpigmentation) or, in rare cases, a lightening of the skin (hypopigmentation) in some places.

  • Treatment Costs

Laser resurfacing costs vary according to the area of skin to be treated and the type of laser used. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS 2012 Statistics), the average cost of laser skin resurfacing is $2,222 for ablative and $1,113 for non-ablative. Generally treatments can range between $500 to $3500. Be aware that using a plastic surgeon may be slightly more expensive than using a dermatologist so it comes down to your own personal preference.

  • Recovery Time 

After laser resurfacing the skin can react in different ways. Most people say the treatment feels like a mild sunburn with a tingling sensation. The skin may show redness and swelling after the procedure and some people can experience itching or stinging for a few days later. The redness tends to last longer in blondes and red heads.

If you are having laser treatment you should plan for any recovery time needed, after talking with your surgeon. This will vary according to the treatment received. Simple treatments may need a day or two but a full facial treatment may involve having a dressing applied which needs to be kept in place for 7-21 days.

With more aggressive treatments the skin can sometimes become raw, or blister and a yellow liquid will ooze out from the treated areas, forming a crust. It is important not to pick at this because this can lead to scarring. After about five days to a week your skin will become dry and peel and the new rejuvenated skin will show and lighten over the next couple of months. You skin may be extra sensitive to sunlight after laser treatment so it is important to minimise sun exposure and use 30+ sunscreen every day.


While laser resurfacing technology is an effective skin treatment that can be used to brighten skin and remove blemishes, you will need to take into consideration the potential risks and the cost of each treatment. It is recommended you ask a trusted dermatologist for advice before making a decision about this treatment.

44 thoughts on “Laser Skin Whitening – Advantages and Disadvantages”

  1. Interested in receiving the skin whitening procedure I’m in Dallas,tx is there anyway I could get this procedure done in Texas, if so could you give me any reference looking to get this done soon.

    – Thanks

    • If you do a Google search for “laser skin whitening in Dallas, Texas” you will find several clinics that offer this service.

  2. DO NOT USE LASER for lyperpigmentation!! Its too strong and will make it worse!! These treatments are very expensive.

    Since we have sensitive skin anyway, what works is using products with glycolic acid as that is gentler and will take away the hyperpigmentation over time without BURNING it off (which wil leave scars). I use two creams for my hyperpigmentation and I have seen results in one month of daily use. (1) the Made from Earth Pure Aloe Vera – I use this on my body, and (2) the Lady Soma Renewal Serum – I use this on my face.

    Aloe is a safe, gentle and effective method of treating hyperpigmentation, while the Lady Soma Renewal Serum has gentle gycolic and hyaluronic acid that takes the pigment away without the laser burning.

    • I have been suffering from embarrassing hyperpigmentation and have not found anything that works. Was now considering laser treatment until I read your comment. Did those two products really work?

      • Hi Nidya. Are you asking about Meladerm or laser treatments? Many people have successfully treated their hyperpigmentation with Meladerm skin lightening cream but the results will take a bit longer. If you are considering laser I would talk to a dermatologist about the best treatment for you, as it will depend on your skin type and the extent of your hyperpigmentation. They can advise of the cost and any risks associated with the procedure.

  3. Interested in getting the lazer skin whitening body treatment in New York. Please let me know where I can go in NY. Thanks

    • I don’t live in NY so I’m not sure which clinic to recommend. Do a web search for different clinics and read the customer reviews to see which one is most recommended.

    • Ablative laser resurfacing directs an intense wavelength of light to the skin. The idea is to remove the outer layers of aged or sun damaged skin. The laser helps to stimulates the underlying skin to increase collagen production. It can be used to treat liver spots, wrinkles, acne scars or sun damaged skin. It takes 30 mins to 2 hours for the treatment and leaves your skin looking like it is sunburned. It usually takes 2-4 weeks for your skin to completely heal.

  4. While albinisms’ most prominent problem features are eye-related, is there any way one could undergo enough skin lightening procedures to achieve an extremely pale/fair/albino-esque appearance ?
    I am very pale naturally and go out of my way to avoid the sun, but would like to become either (quite literally) paper-white, or increase the transparency in parts of my body (e.g.: allowing for more vein visibility).
    Thank you.

    • Using a skin whitening cream reduces melanin production in the body and they are generally used to treat hyperpigmentation. If you are using this you should avoid excessive sun exposure and wear a high protection factor sunscreen. I’m not sure if skin whiteners will produce the exact results you are looking for.

  5. Read your article, very useful. Does fractional laser results in skin whitening, it’s looks better then ablative in recovering? As I read in few other articles on internet that it’s good for acne removal, so will it be beneficial to go for it for skin whitening. Thank you.

    • Hi. Ablative laser removes the upper layer of the skin to promote the renewal of the underlying skin so it can be more agressive. Fractional laser targets both the epidermis, upper layer, and also the dermal layer below the surface. The laser treatment is used to treat pigmentation problems like huperpigmentation. Not so much an an overall whitener.

  6. Hey I m from indian, I m interested in dis… will u please suggest me aby clinic in india…. cud u pls reply in my email…..

    • Im sorry. I dont have any contacts for clinics in India. I hope one of our readers might help out here. If you are interested in Meladerm cream, it is available online through Civant skincare. They ship to most countries. You can find shipping information on their website.

  7. I am a lady 70+ with dark spots on both cheeks and forehead. I am afraid of laser treatment. Is there a cream that would lighten up my face. I have been to dermatologists with no good results.

    • Hi. I am not familiar with results of skin whitening injections. My research indicates that this is not yet a proven method for skin whitening and it does not appear to be available in all clinics.

    • Hi Samrat. Non-ablative laser can be used to rejuvenate the skin. It helps to improve the appearance of brown spots, wrinkles or scars. The process stimulates the new growth of fresh skin cells which can lead to lighter skin tones. You should consult a dermatologist if you are interested in this procedure.

    • Laser treatment can be a permanent solution to skin whitening but dermatologists would advise that you will still need to look after you skin eg. Using a good quality sunblock and reducing excessive exposure to the suns UV rays.

    • Hi. I think you are looking for a skin whitening cream? I would recommend an all natural cream like Meladerm. It can be purchased online and they ship to most countries.

    • Sorry I’m not able to give advice on health insurance for skin lightening treatments like laser. Maybe call your insurance provider to discuss the treatment you are considering first.

    • Sorry I’m not able to give advice on health insurance for skin lightening treatments like laser. Maybe call your insurance provider to discuss the treatment you are considering first.

    • Hi Kanver. Have you tried any skin whitening creams? You could try an all natural whitening cream like Meladerm. It is suitable for all skin types including darker tones. However they do suggest if your skin is darker that it might take a bit longer to see results.

    • Hi. Meladerm is designed to lighten the skin. Once you achieve your desired result it can be permanent, however exposure to the sun can darken the skin so you need to wear a high spf sunscreen. Some people maintain the result by applying the cream again from time to time.


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