The Fraxel is a laser used to resurface and tighten the skin. It is also very effective in reducing acne scars. The Fraxel differs from other lasers in that it coagulates and vaporizes micro-columns (micro-holes) into the epidermis and dermis, and the penetration is deeper than with other lasers, up to 1.6 millimeters as opposed to 0.3 millimeters of the CO2 laser). The coagulated cells in these columns are taken away by our white blood cells and mast cells. Think of it as removing up to 20% of the surface, thus tightening the skin. Because the micro-columns leave normal skin between each column, healing is very rapid. With a non-Fraxel laser, an entire sheet of skin is removed, and new skin must be regenerated from the deep dermis, which takes much longer to heal. With the Fraxel, swelling and some peeling may occur for a week or so depending upon the aggressiveness of the settings on the laser, and pinkness may last for several weeks. With the older CO2 laser pinkness may last 4-5 months. The skin following the Fraxel may feel dry and scaly for a few weeks. A moisturizing sun block is recommended following treatment.
In our New Youth Laser Center, we have both the Dual, an erbium Fraxel and the Repair which is a CO2 Fraxel Laser. The Re:store produces very little heat, and there is less tightening of the skin and the recovery is faster. Generally, in people with lots of sun damage and wrinkles, the Re:pair is indicated in those over 45 years old.
A Fraxel laser treatment takes 30-45 minutes according to the size of the area treated. Optimum results with the Re:pair (the CO2 Fraxel) usually takes one treatment whereas with the Re:store 3-4 treatments spaced at least one month apart are indicated.
What result can be expected from Fraxel treatments?
- Reduced or eliminated pigment abnormalities such as age spots or pregnancy mask (melasma).
- Tighter skin, especially with the Re:pair
- Less wrinkles such as crow’s feet around the eyes and wrinkles around the mouth and virtually anywhere.
- Reduced pore size
- Improved acne scars, other scars and stretch marks.
Areas treated with the Fraxel are the face, neck, chest, hands and arms. Any type skin can be treated. Using the Fraxel with an injectable filler, such as Sculptra (to inflate the face), can dramatically rejuvenate face as well as the hands.
The risks of the Fraxel are:
- Hyperpigmentation (too much pigmentation) generally temporary
- Hypopigmentation (loss of pigmentation) rare, but it is permanent
- Fever blister, which can leave scars. We treat everyone with anti-virals to help avoid this.
- Discomfort and scaly skin may occur for longer period of time.
In my practice in Savannah, GA, prior to any resurfacing procedure, like the Fraxel’s or deep peels, patients must prep their skin with at least one month of Retinol or Retin-A, glycolic peels, and hydroquinone, all of which are in the New Youth Skin Treatment system. This reduces the risk of prolonged redness or pigmentation problems and is highly recommended.