Erbium vs CO2 Laser

Erbium A variety of laser technologies are currently used to resurface the skin, which can improve its pigmentation, texture, and tone. Fractional carbon dioxide (CO2) and fractional erbium lasers are two of the most common lasers used in ablative skin treatments. While similar in principle, these lasers have significant differences in treatment depth and other differences.

The Use of Laser Treatment

Ablative skin resurfacing uses lasers to deliver energy to damaged cells in the upper layers of skin. Water in these cells absorbs this energy in the form of heat, which destroys the surrounding cells. The body then replaces this tissue with healthier cells, thus improving skin quality. Ablative lasers require longer recovery than non-ablative lasers, but they also produce greater improvements in the skin.


CO2 lasers have been used for decades to resurface the skin, primarily to improve conditions like hyperpigmentation, aging from the sun, scarring, and wrinkles. However, they also have significant adverse effects, such as prolonged redness. In addition, CO2 lasers can cause inconsistent pigmentation, resulting in too much or too little pigment in the treatment area. In particular, these lasers have a high rate of hyperpigmentation for patients with darker skin. These disadvantages led to the development of erbium lasers.

CO2 Laser

CO2 lasers generate light with a wavelength of 10,600 nanometers (nm), which water absorbs efficiently. This property allows these lasers to deeply penetrate the skin, despite the relatively long wavelength that would otherwise prevent deep penetration. However, the greater absorption efficiency also creates greater damage, resulting in a longer healing process and greater pigmentation changes.

Erbium Laser

Erbium lasers generate light with a wavelength of 2,940 nm, which water absorbs 10 to 20 times more efficiently than the light produced by CO2 lasers. The higher absorption means that less heat passes through the water, causing less damage to surrounding tissue. Treatment with erbium lasers, therefore, has faster recovery times and a significantly lower chance of pigmentation changes. In addition, collagen also absorbs the energy from erbium lasers with high efficiency.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

Schedule a consultation with one of the laser technicians at the practice of Dr. Jeffrey Dawes to find out if laser skin resurfacing treatments are right for you. You can book your appointment by calling our Calgary, AB, office at 403-571-3141.

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“My role, in part, is to assist patients through the process of determining which surgical or non-surgical options would help them meet their aesthetic goals and realistic expectations” - Jeffrey C. Dawes MD, FRCSC


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What Happens in a Consultation?

  1. You will meet Dr. Dawes for an individualized, comprehensive evaluation. Dr. Dawes will offer individualized recommendations regarding the best treatment options available to you in a way that will allow you to make a confident, well-informed decision.

  2. You will then meet with a staff member to review your customized quote, discuss financial options and ask questions.

  3. Discuss potential treatment or procedure dates.

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