What it is:
The erbium is similar to the CO2 in the way it works (vaporizing outer layers of skin and effecting some skin contraction underneath) but it resurfaces with less heat, so healing takes place in about a week, with most redness fading in one to two weeks. At one month, patients have little or no redness. The long-pulsed erbium laser is thought to be more effective (but is also more invasive) than the short-pulsed erbium.
$2,000 to $5,000 for full-face resurfacing, less for partial face treatment
Wrinkles, acne scars, sun damage, and irregular pigmentation
In general, the erbium is gentler, with fewer side effects and a shorter postoperative recuperation (one week instead of two), but it does not produce as much tightening of the skin and does not give the same dramatic results as the CO2. Still, it is becoming the machine of choice for many doctors, including New York City plastic surgeon Helen S. Colen, M.D. "With the erbium, we can get significant enough improvement without as much trauma to the patient and fewer post-op complications," she explains.