We discuss the selective conversion of buried layers of AlGaAs to a stable oxide and the implementation of this oxide into high performance vertical-cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). The rate of lateral oxidation is shown to be linear with an Arrhenius temperature dependence. The measured activation energies vary with Al composition, providing a high degree of oxidation selectivity between AIGaAs alloys. Thus buried oxide layers can be selectively fabricated within the VCSEL through small compositional variations in the AlGaAs layers. The oxidation of AlGaAs alloys, as opposed to AlAs, is found to provide robust processing of reliable lasers. The insulating and low refractive index oxide provides enhanced electrical and optical confinement for ultralow threshold currents in oxide-apertured VCSELs.