WHAT IS IT?
Fraxel (Solta Medical) is a brand of fractional lasers used for skin resurfacing, which smoothes out wrinkles and rough, bumpy scars (raised or pitted), fades age spots, photo damage, melasma, and other pigmentation issues, shrinks pore size, and improves overall skin tone and texture. Fraxel makes several different types of lasers that function at a range of intensities, from mild to major, to treat a spectrum of patient needs, from general skin maintenance to erasing deep wrinkles and dark spots.
A fractional laser emits energy in a grid of microscopic columns, rather than a solid beam. “A fractional laser beam comes out like little pixel dots and affects only a percentage of the targeted skin,” explains dermatologist Robert Anolik, who uses Fraxel lasers in his practice at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. This means that instead of damaging all the cells in a treated area, only a fraction of them are destroyed, leaving behind a smattering of healthy cells that will be the heroes and initiate a robust healing response. The regenerative action provided by the non-damaged tissue left behind is what actually rejuvenates the skin.
Fraxel makes both ablative and non-ablative fractional lasers. The most popular are the non-ablative versions, because they don’t remove the top surface layer of the skin, practically eliminating any downtime to recover and greatly minimizing risks of infection, swelling, and loss of pigmentation. “The laser penetrates through the surface of the skin, but creates microscopic wounding within the dermis. This spurs new collagen production and remodels skin to a healthier state,” explains Dr. Anolik. After receiving the treatment, it takes 5 days for the damaged skin to naturally flake off, and along with it goes dark spots and rough, uneven patches. Over the next few months, as new collagen is created, wrinkle depth is further diminished and skin tone and texture continues to improve.
Below describes the two most popular Fraxel lasers:
- Fraxel re:store Dual 1550/1927 is a stronger non-ablative laser and offers more significant rejuvenation. This one seems to be the most popular laser used by dermatologists because it has the flexibility of treating mild to severe skin damage.
- Fraxel re:pair is the company’s only ablative laser, which removes the surface layer of your skin. Consider this option only if you have the most severe type of skin damage, such as serious acne, traumatic, or surgical scars, substantial sun damage, or deep lines around the mouth, eyes, or along the cheeks.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Fraxel treatments are ideal for people who want to smooth out wrinkles and rough scars, fade pigmentation issues, and generally improve overall skin tone and texture. Depending on your degree of these skin issues and your downtime limitations, there are several Fraxel lasers from which to choose. A Charlotte’s Book trusted expert who specializes in Fraxel can best help you determine which is right for you. Should Fraxel be too intensive for you, its baby sister, Clear + Brilliant is an ideal treatment for starters.
Know that Fraxel treatments aren’t ideal spot treatments. “If someone has just one brown spot on their forehead, but otherwise has beautiful skin, I wouldn’t use Fraxel,” says Dr. Anolik. There are other pigment-specific lasers, like a ruby, Vbeam or nd:YAG, which are more effective spot treatments. Fraxel lasers are better suited for treating larger areas, such as your entire face, hands, chest, or patch of stretch marks on your body.
Certain medical conditions and medications may increase risk of side effects, so it’s always important to talk to a trusted doctor about your medical history. Of note, “We don’t want anybody to be on Accutane within a year of having a resurfacing procedure,” says Dr. Anolik. Also, if you have experienced abnormal scarring, such as keloids which grow well beyond the area of the injury, you should avoid skin resurfacing treatments. Patients with psoriasis and vitiligo will be closely analyzed before being approved for treatment.
WHAT DOES THE TREATMENT FEEL LIKE?
There is mild to moderate discomfort associated with most Fraxel non-ablative laser treatments (re:store Dual 1550/1927) and pain management techniques are administered accordingly. An hour prior to receiving any type of Fraxel laser, a topical numbing agent is applied to the skin. During treatment there is a warm, prickling sensation that most deem tolerable. Doctors will usually help alleviate discomfort with an air-cooling device. Once finished, your skin will feel warm (almost like a mild sunburn) for up to 24-hours depending on which treatment you received. Some cases may require periodic cooling with an ice pack (or frozen blueberries).
Fraxel re:pair, the ablative laser, is more intense and some doctors administer local anesthesia, a low dose of Valium or similar pain medicine, or even offer IV sedation, but that’s rare.
Dr. Anolik takes added measures for his patients. “If I’m treating someone with medium intensity or stronger and am working around their mouth, I’ll also administer Valtrex. The majority of us have the virus that causes cold sores, even if we don’t get them, and this sort of stress around the lips could trigger a breakout,” he says.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size, location, and condition of the targeted area.
ARE THERE IMMEDIATE SIDE EFFECTS?
Fraxel re:store Dual 1550/1927 will cause your skin to look very red with some mild swelling, which subsides within a few days. There will also be some mild to moderate skin peeling over the next 5 days as damaged skin is naturally sloughed off. Other less common side effects include temporary bruising or slight blistering at the treatment site, which usually fades within 2 weeks.
Since Fraxel re:pair removes the surface layer of your skin, side effects are more severe. “Patients typically have scabbing, crusting, swollen skin for 5 to 10 days, then residual pinkness for another 3 weeks,” explains Dr. Anolik.
Overall, your rate of recovery depends on the treatment type and how sensitive your skin reacts to it. Downtime could be as short as 1 day or as long as 3 weeks before you’ll want to hit the streets makeup-free.
“The most common risks, which are still very low, are getting a superficial infection from bacteria or cold sores, or developing a dermatitis rash from either the irritation of the laser or any of the products you use post treatment. The biggest risk is if it was done improperly by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, and could cause scarring and abnormal pigmentation,” warns Dr. Anolik. Browse The Book for the best experts in your city.
WHAT ARE ANTICIPATED RESULTS?
Results are both immediate and progressive. Within days of getting zapped, your skin will feel smoother and appear brighter and more even-toned. Over the next 3 to 6 months, the deeper layers of skin will continue to heal and bring on additional improvements, such as softening of fine lines and wrinkles around eyes and mouth and clearing away unwanted age spots or sun discoloration.
RECOMMENDED COURSE FOR OPTIMAL RESULTS?
In many cases, a single Fraxel treatment is enough, but it really depends on your goals and requirements. Your doctor may recommend several treatments spaced out 3 to 8 weeks apart.
WHO SHOULD GIVE ME THIS TREATMENT?
You should only visit an actively board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Dermatologists should be certified by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD). Plastic Surgeons should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Both of those boards are part of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a non-profit organization that is considered the gold standard of physician certification. Consult the Charlotte’s Book Premier Provider directory to find a doctor who meets these standards and specializes in this treatment. For more information about how we choose our providers, please read Credentials We Abide By.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Prices start around $1,200 to $1,500 depending on how large of an area is treated.
Everyone’s skin reacts differently, so first timers should schedule treatments 2 to 3 weeks (at the very least) before a big event or photo op.
Some doctors prefer to use Fraxel lasers over others because they have a unique rolling tip, which is perceived to provide a more even distribution of energy with less room for human error of overlapping zapped areas.
Of course, you religiously use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, but after receiving a Fraxel treatment, sun protection is more important than ever…and foundation or tinted moisturizer with sunscreen is not adequate. You need a full teaspoon to get the full benefit, and (hopefully) you don’t slather on that much makeup…so play it safe and apply sunscreen first, then any makeup spiked with SPF is an added plus… and if possible, avoid direct sunlight for several weeks post treatment.
Disclaimer: As always, this information is provided to you for educational and/or informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an endorsement of any particular product, treatment, or procedure. This information is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about any procedure or treatment, users should always consult their doctor or other qualified health care professional. Please visit our Terms of Service to view our full disclaimers