DISCLAIMER: Some of the images in the post can be considered graphic. I do not recommend reading on if you’re squeamish or have small children nearby. They will probably have nightmares.

What is C02 laser therapy? The CO2 laser is a carbon dioxide laser used to resurface skin and treat wrinkles, uneven skin coloration, acne scarring and other skin concerns. The results are similar to those of chemical peels and dermabrasion, except that the laser removes skin layers by vaporization rather than with chemicals or a sanding device and the results tend to be much more dramatic. Laser therapy can only be preformed by a registered nurse in California, but in some states, a licensed esthetician can do them. From what I’ve read, the service costs $2,600 on average, but would have been around $2,000 where I got mine done.

before. taken 7/27/12

All throughout my teen years, I had awful acne. I was a picker, I over medicated, and I tried to mask my problem. All things you definitely shouldn’t do. My scars were awful. I still suffered from acne and scarring as I got older and into my twenties. In 2010, I went to beauty school where I learned a lot about the do’s and don’ts of skin care, which helped with my acne a lot, and I learned what can be done about scarring and the different methods of treating it. After beauty school, in 2012, one of my friends from school went on to work at a plastic surgeon’s office where one of the sweet nurses there offered to do the treatment for me for free. I won’t say where or who did this for me, as I’m not sure what the consequences might be for them, but I am eternally grateful to them for helping me.

The day I went to get my treatment done, I had my boyfriend drive me out to downtown LA. I walked in the room and the nurse put a numbing cream on my face. It didn’t hurt or tingle, but I could slowly feel my face go numb. I sat for about twenty minutes before she came back in. The procedure itself was pretty painless. It felt very similar to getting tattooed, but not as bad. Thank you, numbing cream! The nurse worked in a grid pattern, going more over the areas that I had the worst scarring and I held a tube that blew what I think was just cool air on my face. I do remember it hurting a little more around my eyes and mouth, probably where the numbing cream ended.

sitting in the exam room with numbing cream on my face

The first day, my face HURT. It was hot and I had to keep ice packs on it. Just the warmth of the sunlight through the window was pretty painful. I had grid marks from the laser all over and my face started to swell almost immediately and I just went home and laid down. Laying down was uncomfortable because I had an ointment on that I didn’t want to get all over my pillows, but the worst part was that I couldn’t lay down all the way. I had to keep my face above my heart or else it would throb and swell more.

day 1. 8/17/12

The aftercare was fairly simple. Just treat it like a burn or new tattoo. Keep it clean, but don’t scrub it. Keep it moist with either the ointment the nurse gives you or Aquaphor. Ice it if it hurts or swells. Don’t lay all the way down, sleeping sitting up is best. Avoid sunlight and always wear sunscreen. I did go to work while I was healing, but I work in the beauty industry so I was able to talk about it to clients and discuss my experience. If you work in any other job, I would definitely suggest not going to work for the first week.

day 3. 8/19/12

As the days went on, my skin started to peel and more of the grid pattern started to disappear. I wasn’t gooey or oozing anymore and the pain was greatly reduced. At this point, it just felt like a bad sunburn on my face. Throughout this whole experience, the pain was definitely manageable and the aftercare wasn’t bad, but as I started to heal, I became more and more insecure with what I looked like and what people thought of me if I left the house. I distinctly remember on the third or fourth day, being so insecure and leaving the house for some ointment. When I went to the store and they didn’t have what I needed, I started crying because I felt so uncomfortable. On this day, I regretted what I had done to myself and I didn’t think it would ever get better.

day 4. 8/20/12

The fourth and fifth days were disgusting. Skin was coming off my face in sheets. It didn’t hurt, but I was very careful not to peel it and leave my skin raw. On day four, I discovered egyptian magic. This stuff is amazing and I will probably do a post about it later because it’s one of my favorite products, but it’s made out of ingredients mainly from bees and makes your skin heal faster. Once I started using it, my skin was mostly healed and completely done peeling within two days. A client at my salon recommended it and told me that it heals burns overnight. It’s really thick, so it was hard to put on, but I’m sooooo glad I got it. It was totally necessary.

day 6. 8/22/12

On the sixth day, I could start wearing makeup again. I only applied with my bare hands, in case my brushes and sponges had some bacteria in them despite cleaning them. I used a brush or maybe a pencil to fill in my eyebrows and just tinted moisturizer on my face. I felt more normal, though still very red. I was also still a little swollen and the grid marks remained slightly.

day 7. 8/23/12

After about day five, every day was significantly better than the last. The swelling reduced, the redness reduced, there was no more peeling, and I started to feel normal again. My burn started to turn into a tan, which didn’t last long as I’m so fair, and I was really, really happy with my results. I got soooo many compliments and everyone was so wowed at the results. My boss couldn’t stop telling me how incredible the results were and it made me feel really good, like it was all worth it.

all healed, all tanned up.

My face was tan for a little while, but didn’t last too long. I used lots of sunscreen for a long time after the treatment, but my skin routine stayed the same. I use a gentle cleanser with no acne treatments or anything in it, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. Besides a spot here and there, my acne never came back. My scars continued to improve for the next six to eight months because the trauma stimulates collagen production. My skin isn’t perfect even now, but it’s 1000% better than before. I will still need another treatment or maybe two, but I was a good candidate for this procedure because I’m extremely fair, meaning there’s little to no risk of hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. If you are darker skinned and are at risk, you will probably use a bleaching cream leading up to the procedure to reduce your risk of getting darker patches. I was also a good candidate because I was in my early to mid twenties, so I was passed the phase in my life where acne is a regular thing, but my skin was still young enough to bounce back quickly.

Here’s me now. August 2014

Ultimately, I do want another treatment although this has helped my skin tremendously and I would recommend this treatment to anyone with major acne scars or skin problems. I didn’t pay for this service, but I will pay for the next one and I think it’s worth every penny.

Have you had any laser or major treatments done? What was your experience like? And if you haven’t had anything like this done before, would you considerate it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.