One of the critical parameters that has not been examined carefully following laser skin resurfacing is the effect of eschar on the wound healing process. Because occlusive dressings minimize the occurrence of eschar, the present study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of occlusion following laser resurfacing. It is clear that CO2 lasers promote epidermal cell loss and variable amounts of dermal injury. To characterize the wound repair process after laser treatment, biopsy specimens were obtained 2 to 4 days after treatment. Specimens from 15 patients were examined; the preauricular biopsy specimens were paired such that one specimen was from skin that had been occluded and the other specimen (from the same patient) was from skin treated without occlusion. Skin specimens were examined by indirect immunofluorescence using antibodies to specific epidermal and dermal antigens. The results indicate that the keratinocytes that repopulate the epidermis migrate from the hair follicles and express keratin 17, an intermediate filament protein expressed in keratinocytes during the early stages of wound healing. The migration of keratin 17-expressing cells begins 48 hours following laser resurfacing in skin treated with occlusion, whereas cell migration from the follicles of skin treated without occlusion is delayed. In summary, occlusion promotes enhanced cell migration and diminished eschar formation, resulting in more rapid healing.