Fractional resurfacing lasers, commonly known as Fraxel, treat acne scarring and fine lines. Fraxel lasers use a chemical element called erbium to gently resurface the skin. Doctors call this “non-ablative,” meaning that these lasers work by heating up the targeted tissue, without actually removing a layer of skin. The process encourages your body’s natural collagen production to fill in unwanted skin imperfections such as fine lines, scarring or wrinkles.
Generally speaking, Fraxel lasers are better options for patients who are under 50 years of age with mild to moderate acne scarring and fine wrinkles.
Fractional Lasers Treat Many Skin Problems
Fractional lasers are used to treat the following conditions:
- Sun damage, fine wrinkles and aging occurring on the face, neck, chest and hands and can also be used on the arms, legs and back
- Certain cases of melasma, a common skin problem that causes brown to gray-brown patches on the face.
- Certain kinds of acne scarring and surgical scars
- Wrinkling and fine lines around the eye and on the eyelids
- Skin texture and tone
- Reduces precancerous lesions by replacing sun damaged skin with new skin
How Fraxel Works
The Fraxel laser creates tiny “microthermal” zones deep in the skin that your skin repairs by replacing old sun damaged skin with new skin. Fraxel creates 1,000 to 2,000 microthermal zones per centimeter squared. Each treatment replaces about 15-20 percent of the damaged, wrinkled or scarred skin and triggers the body’s natural healing process by accelerating the production of collagen and new, healthy skin cells.
Generally, a series of 3 to 5 treatments are done; usually one every 3 to 8 weeks. Benefits are achieved with minimal discomfort and nominal risk. Most people drive to and from their Fraxel appointments. For a full face treatment, it takes about an hour and you’ll feel a pins and needles sensation. You should plan on being in the office for two and a half hours in total.
How Fraxel Laser Treatments are Done
You will need to arrive for you appointment about 1-1 ½ hours before your treatment. You must be on time as the full time is needed for numbing and photos. Either you or a technician will cleanse the treatment area and apply a numbing cream. Relax, read or listen to music while the numbing cream takes effect.
The numbing cream will be removed after about an hour and a blue dye may or may not be applied. You’ll be taken to the laser room, made comfortable and a thin layer of gel will be applied to help the laser rollers slide evenly over the face.
Fraxel Treatment for Eyelids
Fraxel eyelid treatments may be performed at the same time as a Fraxel face treatment. Patients should arrive with a clean face, having removed all eye cosmetics. Inform your clinician if you have any permanent makeup before beginning the treatment. Numbing eye drops are placed in the eye to aid in the insertion of a contact lens-like eye shield, which fits comfortably within the eye to protect it.
The eye treatment is then performed on the upper and lower eyelids. It’s normal that areas treated with Fraxel may have some swelling and redness for 2-3 days after the treatment.
What to do Before a Fraxel Treatment
These are the types of instructions you may see from your doctor.
- Stop using Accutane 6-12 months before treatments
1-2 Weeks Before Treatment :
- Buy several bags of ice packs/frozen peas
- Buy a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil
- If possible, stop using Asprin, Advil and Aleve. Tylenol is ok.
- Stop using all Retinols/Retin-A, Renova, Tazorac, “anti-aging” products
- Stop using all glycolic acid treatments
- Avoid sun exposure for 2 weeks prior to treatment
- Stop minocycline, doxycycline and tetracycline
- Stop waxing
- Stop using abrasive scrubs and microdermabrasion treatments
Within a week after their first treatment, many people notice results, particularly smoother skin that looks less blotchy and has a glow to it. Results depend on what your issue is and what you want treated. When doing a series of treatments, you may need to wait until all of the treatments are done, which can be from 5 to 6 months, in order to see the complete and best results. Collagen will usually continue to develop even up to three to six months after your last treatment.
How Long Treatment Effects Last
How well you protect your skin from the sun, combined with your genetic aging process are the factors that determine how long a Fraxel treatment will last. Apply sunscreen, wear sun protective clothing and avoid tanning, including tanning booths. If you do, your skin may continue to look good with only annual maintenance treatments.
On the Day of Treatment:
- It’s very important to be on time as you will need the full time for numbing and photos
- Eat a meal 1-2 hours before your treatment. It will prevent you from feeling jittery with the numbing cream
- Avoid caffeine for 4 hours before your treatment
- Wear comfortable clothing such as sweats
- Remove make-up or eye contacts before arriving
- Bring a wide brimmed hat to your appointment to wear after your treatment.
- If you are pregnant or breast feeding, you’re not a candidate at this time
- If you have a tendency to hyper pigment, talk to your doctor about starting a bleaching regimen four weeks before treatments begin
What to Expect After the Treatment
Your skin may feel as though it has been sunburned during the first 24 hours after the treatment. It will look very red immediately after but the redness will fade over the next 1-3 days. Use ice packs for 5-10 minutes every hour for the first 5-6 hours after the treatment. You can usually go back to normal activities, including wearing make-up, within 1-3 days. Occasionally, the redness may take longer to resolve. Make-up can be worn to help cover it.
Bruising may develop and although this is rare, it can take up to two weeks to resolve. Just to be safe, allow 2-3 weeks between a treatment and special occasions such as wedding, reunions, family pictures, etc.
A few days after each treatment, your skin may look “bronzed” and that can last from 1-2 weeks. Skin may flake and exfoliate a little but using a moisturizer will help to reduce the appearance of dry flakes. It will take several treatments to obtain optimal results.