Fraxel Laser Treatments – 19 Most “Burning” Questions Answered
Since the discovery of laser skin surgery several decades ago, the technology has undergone tremendous evolution. With the demand for flawless skin growing each day, it is only normal to expect development of newer laser procedures.
One such procedure is Fraxel Laser treatment which is growing in leaps and bounds since its development in 2000. So, is this laser treatment worth all the hype?
To answer your questions, we have delved into the subject and looked for literally anything you would want to ask.
To give this even more credibility, we have only used updated information and included quotes from real doctors. Here is more on Fraxel Laser Treatments and everything you need to know.
What is Fraxel Laser Treatment?
This is a skin resurfacing procedure that uses the Fraxel device, a trademarked name for laser skin resurfacing device, to make minute injuries to your skin. The wounds are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye but they are enough to trigger a wound healing response which consequently signals your skin to produce collagen.
This kick-starts a process that creates long-term effects and benefits such as restoring your skin tone and texture, smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles, reducing pore size, tightening your skin and getting rid of or improving the appearance of a host of skin flaws.
For more severe cases, a stronger and ablative fractionated carbon dioxide laser is used. Why? It targets the skin’s epidermal, middle and deep dermal layers to produce significant changes in skin texture, tone and tightness. It does this by removing the outer layer of the skin.
What Do Fraxel Lasers Treat?
Fraxel lasers can treat many skin issues. What’s even better is the fact that dermatologists recommend it for all skin colours, including black and brown.
While the risk of hyperpigmentation still stands, the treatment is done alongside short doses of topical skin lightening therapies to avoid triggering pigment production. These therapies are however not meant to lighten your skin in any way.
It is also paramount that the procedure be done by an experienced skincare specialist who is well versed on the appropriate requirements for your skin type.
Here are conditions that Fraxel Laser targets:
- Scars - post operation, boxcar, icepick or rolling scars etc
- Acne Scarring
- Stretch Marks
- Under Eye Treatment
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Melasma / brown spots / hyperpigmentation
- Actinic Keratoses
- Large Pores
Fraxel Laser treatments can be used on all parts of the body. However, it is most commonly used on:
How Many Treatments Does it Take to See Results?
The number of sessions that you require may vary depending on the condition you are treating. For example, you might require only 2 sessions to treat pigmentation while acne scars and wrinkles my take 3 to 5 sessions depending on their severity.
The time between sessions is also dependent on the condition but it generally ranges between 3-5 weeks. Sometimes, especially in severe case like deep pitted acne scars, a dermatologist may recommend a series of treatments that require a few sessions, a break of several months, then another series.
After the first treatment, you should have a smoother complexion, more evened out tone and clearer complexion that progresses as your skin resurfaces.
With 2-3 treatments, fine lines and wrinkles will be less noticeable, your texture will even out, and the pore size will decrease while hyperpigmentation and photo damage will be cleared. As noted above, acne scars and other scars may require more treatments to completely diminish.
Once you get the desired results, one yearly treatment should be enough to maintain the results as long as you maintain proper skin care regimen and healthy habits.
While at it, be sure not to overdo the treatments; as Dr. Macrene Alexiades puts it:
Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas
"When women — especially those under 40 — use these devices too often, their skin sometimes develops a shiny plastic appearance due to too much wound-healing response."
Note; the treatment triggers collagen production and cell renewal beneath the visible layer of the skin. Your skin will therefore continue to improve over time and may take 2-6 months before you see full results.
What Do you Need to do Before a Fraxel Laser Treatment?
Before you undergo the Fraxel laser treatment, it is important to ensure that your skin is in the right condition. This helps with faster and better results, hastens the healing process and keeps adverse effects at bay. Her are a few pointers:
- Stop other treatments or procedures that may irritate the affected area a few weeks before the treatment. These may include; exfoliating, waxing, skin bleaching and chemical peels.
- Generally care for your skin through cleansing, moisturization and proper nutrition to keep it in the best condition.
- Don’t start on new topical or oral medication or skin care routines for up to 4 weeks before treatment, if it is necessary, notify your dermatologist.
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight for a few weeks prior to treatment
- On the appointment day, it is better to go without makeup since it will be removed anyway.
- If you are a first timer, a patch test on a small area of skin, maybe behind the ear, a week before can help you decide whether to go ahead with the treatment.
What to Expect During a Fraxel Treatment
When you arrive for your appointment, a numbing cream is applied on a clean, makeup free skin and is allowed anywhere between 45-60 minutes to work. Your eyes are protected through the entire treatment. The residual cream is then removed ready for the treatment.
The treatment itself may take 20 minutes to 1 hour depending on the part being treated. For example, a whole face may take up to 1 hour while a post-op scar may take even less than 20 minutes.
Although different people have reported different experiences, you should expect some discomfort or pain sensations. The numbing cream helps to make this mild.
Some clinics have additional measures such as pumping cold air onto your face or giving additional painkillers to help you get more comfortable.
Fraxel Laser "Before and After" Results
Fraxel Laser treatments ability to diminish many skin flaws and especially scars, whether they are boxcar, icepick or rolling scars, gives it an edge over other treatments and especially topical ones.
Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College
"Being able to go that deep allows you to really break up that scar tissue that’s clouding the textural difference, whereas a cream wouldn’t be able to"
Here are some "Fraxel Before and After Images" we've found from the internet:
What are the Side Effects and Dangers of Fraxel Laser Treatment?
Like every other treatment, Fraxel Laser has its own set of not-very-pleasant effects. Most are however temporary and shouldn’t keep you from getting the treatment if you’re convinced you need it.
These effects vary from non-ablative to ablative Fraxel Laser:
Non-Ablative Laser (Non-wounding)
- Flare-up of the herpes cold sores
- Temporary skin darkening especially if your skin is dark or tanned
- Mild swelling and reddening which may last for a few hours or days
- Itching and stinging
- In very rare cases, blistering or scarring
Ablative Laser (Removes thin skin layers)
Besides the above, the following effects can occur
- Infection-bacterial , fungal or viral
- Ectropion or turning of the eyelid when it is done near the lower eyelid- this can be corrected through surgery
Additionally, several conditions can contribute to adverse effects or render you unfit for the treatment. Your doctor might caution you against it if you:
- Have active acne
- Have used Isotretinoin for acne within the last 1 year
- Suffer from autoimmune disease or have a weak immune system
- Easily form scars or keloids
- Are pregnant or nursing
What is Normal Fraxel Laser Treatment Recovery Time?
According to Clear clinic Acne & Acne Scar Treatment Centres, Fraxel Laser has very little downtime:
“Most patients have only 2-3 days of downtime after each Fraxel treatment. Unlike other laser treatments, you may apply makeup and sunscreen immediately after the Fraxel treatment’’
That said, healing time may vary among various individuals with some taking up to a week or more for the swelling, reddening and itching to subside. Flaking may take up to 4 weeks or more.
If you are planning to attend an event where you want to look your best, you might want to schedule your treatment to at least 3-4 weeks before. If you happen to have it too close to the event, consult your dermatologist on the best makeup choices.
Pro tip; “Inform your dermatologist right away of any unexpected changes in your skin post-laser...If you allow redness or irritation to persist for too long, it becomes a lot harder to treat and may not go away for up to a year.” Dr. Macrene Alexiades
Fraxel Laser Treatment Recovery and Aftercare Tips
Fraxel Laser treatment promises great and long-lasting results. However, these are dependent on how well you can take care of your skin. So, what is recommended for best results? Here are a few tips:
- Protect your skin from exposure to sunlight at all cost
- Avoid active/harsh skin care products; ask your dermatology for advice
- When your skin starts peeling, resists the urge to pick, peel or exfoliate. Instead, use a mild cleanser and moisturizer
- Use clean bedding and face cloth to avoid infection
- Ice packs can help with the swelling and warm feeling but you should consult your doctor before using them.
What is Fraxel Dual Laser?
A fraxel Dual laser is a type of laser that comprises of two lasers with varied wavelengths in the same device. One wavelength treats superficially, targeting pigmentation and photo damage while the other goes deeper, making it suitable for deep lines, acne scars and wrinkles.
How Much Does Fraxel Laser Treatment Cost?
The cost of the treatment is dependent on several factors. These include the condition being treated, the treatment area, the state or country from where you seek treatment and the number of sessions required.
To get a wholesome picture of how much you will have to part with, here is a look at cost per treatment in different regions across the world:
US (New York City): Generally, cost ranges from about $1600 to $4000: Acne scars -$1500, hyperpigmentation on the hands- $850 and $1000 on the neck. At LM Medical NYC, a package of 3 treatments spaced 6 weeks apart goes for $2100, and $850 for a single treatment.
UK: A consult from a doctor will cost you $132. Price depends on the pigmented area; from about $1150 for 1 area, $1547 for 2 areas, and $2095 for 3 areas. For acne scarring, wrinkles, and fine lines expect to pay anything from $330 to $655.
Canada: Fraxel skin resurfacing goes for about $447 to $560. For Fraxel Dual treatments the cost goes up, starting at about $633. A full Fraxel facial costs about $1256 while a small area of hyperpigmentation costs on average $648.
Australia: A spot-check shows Fraxel treatments to be cheaper compared to the other regions. For example Skin Resus, a Western Australia based clinic charges about $1027 for a full facial. Cost depending on the size of treatment area: Small- from $185, medium-from $314, and large- from $437.
Fraxel vs Other Laser Skin Resurfacing Options
When it comes to Laser resurfacing, there are quite a number of options at your disposal. Let’s look at how they fare compared to Fraxel Laser
Fraxel vs. IPL
When asked about how one chooses the best between Fraxel Laser and IPL, Dr. Kosari, Dermatology, Laser & Vein Specialists of the Carolinas had this to say,
“Both devices can treat multiple concerns at the same time. For example, IPL can treat freckles and redness from rosacea while Fraxel can address age spots and wrinkling. During a consultation, you and your physician will have a discussion about your desires from treatment and an appropriate plan can be agreed upon”.
What’s the difference?
Fraxel uses laser energy to penetrate the skin to deal with skin issues listed earlier. Unlike other lasers which emit one specific wavelengths, IPL uses short bursts of light with different wavelengths to treat skin issues such as redness, age spots and hair removal.
Which is better?
This highly depends on the skin issues you are looking to resolve.
Fraxel vs Pixel Lasers
Both treatments have proven to be effective on aged and damaged skin. There are however some differences to with mode of action, sessions required and the expected recovery time.
What's the difference?
Fraxel lasers penetrate the skin more deeply resulting in delivery of more heat to the tissue. This results in greater stimulation of collagen resulting in drastic improvement of skin appearance. On the other hand, Pixel lasers do not penetrate deeply hence may require multiple treatments compared to Fraxels’.
Which is better?
When it comes to severe cases of hyperpigmentation, Fraxel laser performs better and results can be expected anywhere between 1 and 10 days. Pixel treatments will however be preferable for superficial cases, for example acne spots; with improvement being visible in 3 to 7 days.
Fraxel vs. CO2 Lasers
Fraxel is a non-ablative treatment. This means it does not dig deeper into the skin and at the same time, it leaves some tiny areas intact to promote healing. Also, it results in less drastic improvement and is recommended for less severe cases.
CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser on the other hand is a fully ablative treatment; meaning it works by removing the upper skin layer. This leads to dramatic improvement of the condition under treatment.
Another difference comes from the recommended skin types for each treatment. Fraxel laser works for both dark and light skins while CO2 laser is not recommended for dark skin- reason being it can cause hypopigmentation.
Fraxel vs Fractora
Both of these treatments work to correct the same skin issues especially acne scars, hyperpigmentation, skin texture, fine lines and wrinkles.
What's the difference?
Unlike Fraxel which uses light energy, Fractora uses a matrix of micro-pins and bipolar radiofrequency energy to heat the deeper layers of the skin to stimulate collagen production.
When it comes down to what to treat, Fractora is said to work on all skins types, with no incidences of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It’s also works on skin with active acne- giving it an edge over most other treatments.
Fractora can also be more expensive especially for persistent and deep rooted blemishes. Typically, it takes 3-6 sessions every 2-4 weeks to treat blemished skin, which can be costly compared to Fraxel laser which has variety of sessions depending on severity of your skin.
Fraxel vs Halo Laser
The Halo is a new hybrid fractional laser treatment that makes use of a combination of different wavelengths. Its laser head incorporates two wavelengths (ablative and non-ablative), unlike the Fraxel laser which uses a single 1550 nm (non ablative) wavelength.
This Halo is usually compared to the Fraxel Dual, a hybrid Fraxel laser that also uses 2 wavelengths; 1550nm erbium and 1927nm thulium wavelengths. The additional laser can be used on its own or in combination with the erbium laser.
What's the difference?
The halo is a new entrant into the market hence there is bound to have questions about its effectiveness over the already established Fraxel laser. Firstly, Halo laser administers two wavelengths one after the other leading to a shorter treatment time.
Secondly, the non ablative wavelength of the Halo laser penetrates deeper compared to the one used in Fraxel laser. Lastly, treatment has been said to have better results against some conditions such as photodamaged skin.
Fraxel vs. PicoSure
Both of these treatments are effective against fine lines, brown and dark spots as well as acne scarring.
What's the difference?
The key difference in PicoSure’s mode of action is that it converts laser energy into pressure waves, which when transferred to the affected tissue, causes rapid vibrations leading to shattering. This takes away the risk of burning the surrounding tissue- a side effect associated with Fraxel lasers.
According to Dr George Anterasian, a Los Angeles based dermatologist, PicoSure treatments result in quick recovery time. The puffiness and ‘pinkish’ appearance that manifests after treatment also clears within hours- as opposed to Fraxel procedures which take a few days to show noticeable results.
However, PicoSure treatments are not as extensive as Fraxel treatments- meaning, several sessions may be required to treat a condition which the latter can do in a session or two.
Can You Do Fraxel Laser Treatment at Home?
Yes you can; advances in technology have seen lasers fashioned into handheld devices which can be used at home. Operating this DIY devices require minimal to no training. Among the pioneers in this line of products is the Re’Aura, a flagship of Philips (UK), based on Fraxel® technology.
The technology works at 1435 nm wavelength, making it a low density, low energy non ablative laser. It's recommended for use on the face, hands, chest, arms and neck. For ease of use, it comes with intensity controls starting with practice mode.
As the laser passes through the skin, thousands of tiny laser beams are passed into skin layers. This triggers production of collagen, renewal of cells, and replacement of old skin cells.
The product goes for about $800 but this can go up depending on the seller. To use the laser, you should apply a performance gel on the treatment area. It allows the device to work optimally by providing enough contact to the skin.
The treatment is recommended to be used twice a week for 8 weeks; with application of a hydrating and soothing comedogenic aftercare complex. This ensures that you do not suffer from PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation), leaving you with a smoother, younger and a much improved skin.
There you go! You have no excuse for not making an informed decision. Fraxel Laser treatment has been in the market for almost 2 decades now but it has gathered enough following to take its place among the best Laser Treatments.
If you are suffering from any of the issues that Fraxel Laser is known to correct, then it is definitely worth a try!