Fraxel® was the first fractional laser skin resurfacing device to come on the market. It’s used to smooth out fine lines, even out unwanted skin pigmentations and discolorations (such as “age” spots), reduce pore size, and improve overall skin tone and texture. It does this by making tiny injuries to the skin, each about one-tenth the diameter of a hair shaft, while leaving the tiny areas of skin between these injuries undamaged. The treated sections regenerate new collagen, (necessary for healthy, youthful-looking skin), a process that is helped along by the surrounding non-affected tissue.
Three Levels of Treatment
There are three Fraxel lasers. Two (re:fine and re:store) are non-ablative. In other words, they don’t remove (ablate) the top layer of skin. Fraxel re:fine, the mildest treatment of the three, is used to minimize fine lines around the eyes as well as “age” spots and other pigmentations. It also resurfaces the skin. Fraxel re:store is used to treat similar problems (although slightly deeper wrinkles), as well as acne and surgical scars.
Fraxel re:pair is an ablative laser. Like the other Fraxel lasers, it treats the skin fractionally, but removes all layers of the skin within each of its tiny treatment “columns,” including the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidemis. The Fraxel re:pair is used to reduce the appearance of moderate to severe wrinkles and mottled skin, including that caused by underlying vascular changes in the skin. Its results are more dramatic than those achieved with the non-ablative Fraxel lasers, but the healing process is longer — about a week with Fraxel re:pair compared to 24 to 48 hours with Fraxel re:fine and Fraxel re:store.
What to Expect During and After Treatment
A topical anesthetic or numbing agent will be applied to your skin about 60 minutes before the treatment begins. If you’re having a Fraxel re:pair treatment, you may also be given a mild sedative to relax you during the procedure. During the treatment itself, which can take 20 to 40 minutes, you’ll feel an increased sensation of heat. Air will be gently blown on your skin during the entire procedure to keep its surface cool. On a pain scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, most patients tend to rate the pain at about a 4.
For about 24 hours after a non-ablative treatment, you’ll feel — and look — like you have a sunburn. Your skin will appear pink or red. Over the next week or two, your skin will flake and bronze temporarily.
After a Fraxel re:pair procedure, your skin may experience some pinpoint bleeding, and it may ooze for a couple of days. You may also experience redness, swelling, and peeling or flaking for a week or so.
Your physician will give you written instructions for how to care for your skin following treatment. These may include applying cool compresses to your skin and sleeping with your head slightly elevated for a day or two to help reduce swelling. You may apply make-up and sunscreen after 1 to 4 days.
With Fraxel re:fine and Fraxel re:store, you can return to your normal activities the same day as treatment. With Fraxel re:pair, you can expect to reenter your social life within 2 to 7 days, depending on how aggressive the treatment was.
Possible Side Effects
The reported long-term side effects of treatments include a less than 1 percent risk of scarring, which may take the form of a discoloration of the skin, a texture change, or a bump or depression. In rare instances, a cold sore flare-up or an infection may occur. If you’re prone to cold sores, tell your doctor; you should take an antiviral medication before your treatment.
For optimal results, you may need more than one treatment, particularly if you’re having a large area of skin on your face or body treated. With the milder treatments, many patients eventually see a 20 percent to 40 percent improvement in fine lines and wrinkles. More aggressive treatments can lead to a 30 percent to 70 percent improvement.
Am I a Candidate?
If you have sun damage, discoloration, fine to severe lines and wrinkles and/or acne scarring this may be a good treatment for you.