Laser Skin Tightening 101: Everything You Need to Know

Laser Skin Tightening 101: Everything You Need to Know

Laser Skin Tightening 101: Everything You Need to Know

The Procedure Overview Aftercare and Recovery The Final Takeaway

We all reach that age where we begin to question how we can improve and preserve our skin. That natural bank of collagen from our teen years wears off and it is time to turn to products or procedures to replace what we have lost. For most, an introduction to aesthetics could be turning to toxins or other injectables to keep the skin looking smooth and bouncy. But, when it comes to treatments that actually help improve skin elasticity and collagen formation, it’s a natural instinct to begin to explore the idea of lasers and skin tightening.

You may have heard of these treatments or tried them firsthand, but for those of us who still think of lasers as a main component of an action movie, we've turned to three experts to give us the breakdown of what exactly they can do for our skin. Ahead, find everything you need to know about laser skin tightening.

What Is Laser Skin Tightening? 

Laser skin tightening is a non-surgical and minimally invasive way to firm the skin on the face and body,” explains Dr. Shirazi. “Lasers use the power of light whereas other technologies use radiofrequency or ultrasound to elevate skin temperatures. This heating process stimulates the natural production of collagen and elastin, vital proteins responsible for firmness and elasticity, resulting in a rejuvenated and firmer skin tone. There’s an immediate effect of the heat which is contraction of collagen fibers, and a long-term effect of new collagen formation and maturation over time as the skin continues to tighten and improve in texture and tone.”

Benefits and Results

Laser skin tightening is designed to help new collagen form. However, the full list of benefits is below.

  • Promote new collagen production: Collagen, a term we’re all familiar with, provides structural support to our connective tissues, and due to its rigidity and resistance to stretching, it is the perfect matrix for the skin. Fine lines and wrinkles will fade more and more as the natural collagen boost from the laser treatment kicks in.
  • Smoothen, tighten, and contour the skin: It’s essential to have the right provider who understands the nuances of the various lasers available. Otherwise, it may result in over-tightening of the skin, contour deformities, and potential burns. 
  • Minimal downtime: “Laser skin tightening uses the power of light to rejuvenate the skin whereas other procedures may use specific chemicals as in chemical peels, ultrasound, or radiofrequency technologies,” explains Dr. Shirazi.
  • Quick results: Dr. Alizadeh notes that laser skin tightening offers the most immediate feedback in a predictable manner compared to the other procedures mentioned above.

That being said, there are layers to the laser skin tightening process and it's important to recognize the nuances before proceeding. "It’s extremely important to understand that not all laser skin tightening is the same. This is a general term that is used to describe all types of aesthetic skin management," says Dr. Alizadeh. "What’s important is to have the right setting and temperature at the right depth and the right amount of energy to get maximum results."

How to Prepare

The first step is a consultation prior to the actual procedure. During this appointment, Dr. Marmur says there should be a conversation about your specific skin goals and your provider should share what the treatment entails as well as how to mitigate risks.

If you (and your dermatologist) have decided that laser skin tightening is the appropriate treatment for you, it’s important to properly prep your skin for the best possible results. This typically starts with a skincare regimen provided by your doctor, which allows your skin to recover quickly. “Avoid tanning or heavy sun exposure and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily for four weeks prior to treatment,” adds Dr. Shirzai. “And avoid deep facial peel procedures for four weeks before treatment (for example, strong chemical peels, laser resurfacing, dermabrasion).”

The Price

As for cost, while this will vary state by state, practice by practice, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons notes the average cost for a laser skin treatment is typically $582.

The Procedure Overview

While exact procedure steps, recovery time, and levels of discomfort will vary slightly by technology, the experts share what to expect from a laser skin tightening procedure.

  • Prep Skin: The first step on the day of your procedure will be skin prep for the physical treatment. "Your face will be cleansed and prepped thoroughly," Dr. Shirazi explains. "You will also be asked to wear special eye shields or goggles to protect your eyes from the laser beams." Experts also note that you will have the option to use a topical numbing cream, injection anesthetic, or pain medication to add comfort during the treatment.
  • Use Laser: "After identifying the specific treatment areas your provider will proceed with the treatment," says Dr. Shirazi. "This laser light energy will produce controlled damage to the epidermis or the targeted layers of the skin. At the same time, it’s also going to heat the dermis or the inner layer of the skin, promoting collagen production and continuously improving skin tone and texture even years after treatment."
  • Apply Products: "If you had an ablative laser skin tightening procedure, a thick ointment would be applied to the treatment site, and it will need to be used during the recovery while the new skin is coming in," Dr. Shirazi adds. "There are often specific products your doctor will want you to use as your skin heals over the course of the week."
  • Recover: Finally, upon completing the treatment, you will typically be transferred to a separate recovery area where your laser treatment expert will check back on you to evaluate the treatment site, there may be wet soaks placed on the treatment site. You will be advised to recover at home and scheduled for a follow-up appointment, the experts note.

Aftercare and Recovery

Like many procedures and treatments, the aftercare and recovery steps are the most important to see prime results and keep your skin safe and sound. Dr. Shirazi guides us through the time following your treatment:

During the recovery period, you may be advised to:

  • Clean your face thoroughly with gentle soap and water
  • Take over-the-counter pain reliever or use cold compresses
  • Refrain from using any makeup or skincare products that can irritate the skin
  • Avoid sun exposure. Be sure to cover the treatment site and wear broad-spectrum sunscreen
  • Avoid swimming, working out, and using saunas

"It is normal to feel a bit of itching or stinging in the treatment area, while the skin is naturally recovering," Dr. Shirazi warns. "Once the skin has healed and your doctor gives you the go signal, you can resume your normal beauty routine. When the skin is fully healed, you’ll start noticing significant improvements in your skin’s overall quality. The final results of laser skin tightening may take up to three months and last for years with proper skincare."

The Final Takeaway

There's a lot to digest when it comes to laser skin tightening, but the shortened version is that you should check in with a dermatologist to see if this is the right treatment for you, should you be seeking tighter, younger-looking skin. And as to whether or not the experts recommend a laser treatment? All three say yes!

Article Sources Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Wu M, Cronin K, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. [Updated 2023 Sep 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.


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