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Back in the '90s, blasting wrinkles meant horror-flick-like oozing and months of redness as "ablative" lasers burned off the skin's surface and a younger-looking version grew in.

Laser 101

THE TREATMENT: Ablative (i.e., skin-wounding) Fractional Resurfacing continued...

How It Works: The laser beam strikes the skin in thousands of places, destroying tissue a millimeter deep in those microscopic spots only (think perforated paper). Surrounding skin remains intact, allowing for faster recovery than the original ablative devices but more intense results than the nonablative fractional laser. The hole-punching fires up the body's wound-healing response, which generates collagen and smooths wrinkles. It's ablative and therefore riskier for women of color, but can be executed successfully at a doctor's discretion.

How It Feels: Generally performed with local anesthesia similar to what you'd get in a dentist's office. After 15 minutes of post-treatment discomfort and an application of ice packs, pain is minimal. For 24 to 36 hours, skin oozes and bleeds (just as pretty as it sounds), followed by five days of crustiness. Once crust peels, new, pink skin emerges and makeup can be worn; complete healing within two weeks. (FYI, this laser comes in three varieties: CO2, Erbium, and YSGG. CO2 is harshest, while YSGG offers the quickest, easiest recovery.)

Price: $1500 to $5000

THE TREATMENT: Ablative Carbon Dioxide Resurfacing (i.e., the original '90s procedure)

What It's For: Still the most aggressive fix for hard-core lines and acne scars; can also tighten loose skin but is safe only for fair skin types (olive tones and women of color risk permanent pigment loss).

How It Works: By blasting away the skin's top layer, this aggressive single treatment bulldozes wrinkles.

How It Feels: During, like needles across the face (it's sometimes performed under general anesthesia). Recovery-wise, think burn victim on day one as open wounds ooze and bleed, followed by five to 10 days of rawness while your obliterated epidermis regenerates (sorry, no makeup for up to two weeks). Overall pinkness persists for two to four months.

Price: Approximately $4000 to $8000, depending on size of area treated

THE TREATMENT: Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

What It's For: Eliminating brown spots and other sun-induced discoloration and spot-treating broken capillaries. When performed with nonablative fractional treatments, can amplify skin-tone-evening benefits--but it has no effect on wrinkles.

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