What Is a Carbon Laser Peel?

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on July 23, 2023
4 min read

Minimally invasive skin resurfacing treatments are very popular for improving the appearance of skin. In 2020, almost two million Americans got either a chemical peel or a laser treatment. These outpatient procedures are often effective, affordable, and only require a quick appointment to complete. There's a wide variety of laser treatments and peels to choose from depending on what your skincare goals are.‌‌

Resurfacing treatments are classified in three ways: superficial, medium, and deep. The difference between them has to do with how many layers of skin the treatment penetrates. Superficial treatments deliver modest results with minimal recovery time. Treatments that go further below the surface of the skin have more dramatic results, but the recovery is more complicated.‌‌

One popular option for mild to moderate skin issues is a carbon laser peel. A carbon laser peel is a superficial treatment that helps with acne, enlarged pores, oily skin, and uneven skin tone. They're sometimes called carbon laser facials.

Despite the name, a carbon laser peel isn’t a traditional chemical peel. Instead, your doctor uses a carbon solution and lasers to create a peeling effect. The lasers don’t penetrate the skin too deeply, so there's very little recovery time. The treatment takes about 30 minutes, and you can resume regular activity right away.

Carbon laser peels usually take place in your doctor's office or at a medi-spa facility. You should always make sure that the person performing the procedure is trained in administering it. Any skin treatment comes with a risk of injury or infection so having a trained professional perform the carbon laser peel is crucial for safety.

A carbon laser peel typically involves the following steps.

Carbon lotion. First, your doctor will apply a dark-colored cream with a high carbon content to your skin. The lotion is an exfoliating treatment that helps prepare the skin for the next steps. You will sit with it on your face for several minutes to let it dry. As the lotion dries, it bonds with dirt, oil, and other contaminants on the surface of your skin.

Warming laser. Depending on your skin type, your doctor may start with one type of laser to warm your skin. They’ll pass the laser over your face, which will heat the carbon in the lotion and cause it to absorb impurities on your skin.‌

Pulsed laser. The final step is a pulsed laser that your doctor uses to break down the carbon. The laser destroys the carbon particles and any oil, dead skin cell, bacteria, or other impurities on your face. The heat from the process also signals a healing response in your skin. That stimulates collagen and elastin production to make your skin look firmer.

Because the carbon laser peel is a mild procedure, you won’t need any numbing cream before the treatment. You should be able to leave the doctor's office or medi-spa right after it's over.

The carbon laser peel is effective for treating acne. The whole process works to eliminate oil, debris, and bacteria in the pores, which are often causes of acne. Doctors find that it can clear up existing acne and prevent new breakouts from occurring for weeks or months.‌

You may need multiple treatments to see effects on acne. The treatment is non-irritating, so it doesn’t make inflamed skin feel worse during treatment. You can repeat carbon laser peels as necessary without negative side effects.‌‌

In addition to treating acne, carbon laser peels may also improve:

  • Signs of premature aging
  • Dull complexion, tone, and texture
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Oily skin
  • Dark spots
  • Mild acne scars

Carbon laser peels are entirely non-invasive and very mild. As a general rule, there's no special preparation needed but consult your doctor to be sure. If you use prescription skin treatments, your doctor may suggest discontinuing them to avoid irritation.‌

The procedure itself is painless, though some people say they feel a mild stinging sensation during the treatment. Most people feel fine immediately afterward. The most common side effect is slight redness, which usually subsides within a day. Your doctor will probably recommend using gentle products and sun protection after the treatment.‌

You will probably notice some improvement after one treatment, which exfoliates the skin and unclogs pores so that it looks brighter and clearer right away. Your results may continue to improve over time as your skin produces more collagen and elastin.‌‌

Doctors often suggest multiple carbon laser peels for maximum effectiveness — often four to six appointments spaced several weeks apart. Your doctor can help you decide how many treatments you need.