Types of Cosmetic Lasers

A chart of the different types of skin lasers and what they treat |

There are so many varieties of cosmetic lasers that it can get really confusing trying to make sense of them all. To compact this information about laser treatments for your skin, the following are charts of the different types of lasers, divided into ablative, non-ablative, and non-laser (light-based) treatments.

Note: "Fractional lasers" do not have their own chart because many different laser energy sources can be fractionated. So you can have an fractional ablative laser and a fractional non-ablative laser, etc.

Types of Cosmetic Lasers for Your Skin


Type of Laser What it Treats Side Effects Brands
Carbon Dioxide Laser (CO2)
  • Deep set wrinkles
  • Acne scars and other scarring
  • Warts
  • Birthmarks
  • Skin tags
  • Saggy skin (encourages collagen production for skin tightening)
  • Skin cancer
  • Corns on feet
  • Moles
  • Sun damage
  • Not good for stretch marks
Traditional CO2 lasers took months to heal with a high risk of scarring and red skin.

Fractional CO2 lasers are less invasive and generally require 2-3 weeks of recovery

If you are Asian, you have a higher risk of hyper-pigmentation or hypo-pigmentation. Do not get this treatment if you have active acne on your skin.
Erbium Laser
  • Fine lines
  • Small to moderate wrinkles
  • Skin pigmentation problems
  • Acne scars
  • Sun damage
  • Moles
Erbium lasers have less downtime than CO2 lasers because they burn less of the surrounding skin tissue.

Swelling, bruising and redness will usually subside in 1-2 weeks. Darker skin tones can use this laser.
  • Harmony Pixel Laser (fractional erbium)


Type of Laser What it Treats Side Effects Brands
Pulsed-Dye Laser (PDL)
  • Vascular lesions
  • Spider veins
  • Port wine stains (birthmarks)
  • Rosacea
  • Broken capillaries
  • Fine lines around eyes
  • Stretch marks
Post-operative bruising (purpura) and temporary pigmentation changes are commonly experienced.
Nd:Yag Laser
  • Hair removal
  • Spider veins
  • Skin pigmentation issues
  • Tattoo removal
  • Skin rejuvenation
Low success rate for the treatment of skin issues.

There is a chance of recurrence when used for the treatment of vascular lesions.
Alexandrite Laser
  • Hair removal
  • Tattoo removal
  • Leg veins
Alexandrite lasers tend to better at removing finer, thinner hairs.

They are also good at removing black, green, or yellow colored tattoos. Good for those with white/pale skin.


Type What it Treats Side Effects Brands
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
  • Rosacea and facial redness
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Pigmented lesions and skin discolorations
  • Skin tightening
  • Moderately good at removing hair
  • Some tattoo removal
Redness and swelling post-op, but tends to fade in a few days.

Can experience some bruising, scabbing, and changes in pigmentation.

Not good for those with darker skin tones.
  • Lumenis

  • EpiLight

  • Quantum

  • PhotoDerm

  • Aculight
  • Skin tightening
  • Facial contouring
  • Non-surgical face lift
  • Stimulating collagen
  • Saggy skin
Does not reach fat layer so no risk of fat loss.

Very minimal downtime.
  • Skin tightening
  • Facial rejuvenation
Contracts underlying fats, therefore some people experience permanent fat loss in their face. Can make face look more gaunt.
Ultrasound Imaging
  • Skin tightening
  • Increase collagen production
  • Improve skin elasticity
  • Firming skin
Minimal downtime. No risk of fat loss.

This is by far a comprehensive list of all the different lasers out there. As I have more time, I will continue to update this page with more lasers and more device names.

Keep in mind that like chemical peels, it usually takes more than one laser skin treatment to get your desired results. Also, just because you opt for laser (which is generally more intense a treatment than chemical peels and microdermabrasion), it doesn't guarantee that your skin concern will be 100% fixed. Some cosmetic lasers only have a success rate around 60% and that is considered good.

Laser skin procedures are also expensive and come with numerous side effects, so they are far from miracle treatments. If they work for you, that's really great. However, in my experience, most people hold too high of an expectation for what cosmetic lasers can do for their skin.

Last updated: March 5, 2011

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Side Effects of Cosmetic Lasers

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