What was the actual progress day by day? Would the results be worth all the time spent in the hospital? Howard Sobel, founder of Sobel Skin and board-certified dermatologist, could give me the answers I had been searching for. Discover the cost, benefits, and side effects of Fraxel and my before and after photos.
What is Fraxel?
Rebecca Marcus, a board-certified dermatologist, says Fraxel is a laser brand performing fractional skin resurfacing. Dr. Sobel says that there are three types of Fraxel. “The Fraxel (1927) (a.k.a. Fraxel Repair, a non-ablative Fraxel that uses a different wavelength to treat acne scars and wrinkles. Fraxel Repair is a non-ablative but uses a wavelength different from the one used to treat wrinkles and acne scars.
Dr. Marcus explains that Fraxel can treat only a small fraction of skin. This allows for faster healing and less downtime. Fraxel has become popular in skin resurfacing and treating wrinkles, unwanted pigmentation, and scars.
Dr. Sobel says that Fraxel can improve the appearance of dark spots, acne scarring, fine lines, and uneven skin tone. He says Fraxel’s downtime is relatively short compared to more invasive treatments. In a week, most patients can return to their regular routines.
How to Prepare Fraxel
Fraxel may not be suitable for all skin types. Consult a qualified medical professional first before committing to the procedure. “Be honest about your sun exposure,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tracy Evans. There can be severe consequences if you don’t report all your sun exposures. Tell your laser specialist if you have had herpes or cold sores history before they begin the procedure. The heat from the laser can cause an outbreak. “We always pre-treat patients with antivirals in order to prevent this.”
Preparation is important. Dr. Marcus says that preparing for the procedure properly can make a big difference to your results. Patients should avoid exposure to the sun for at least four weeks before (and after) their procedure. Avoid chemical peels, exfoliating treatments, and any other treatments that may irritate your skin for at least two weeks before the Fraxel procedure. It’s best to delay the process if a patient is experiencing active acne.
In preparation for the treatment, your provider may ask you to stop using (or begin using) certain skincare products. “To prepare you for Fraxel your provider may recommend that you use a cream containing hydroquinone, or other brightening ingredients to [reduce] the hyperpigmentation even before you start the laser,” says Dr. Evans. We often stop using tretinoin for one to two weeks before the procedure.
What to Expect During a Fraxel Treatment
In most cases, Fraxel can be done at a doctor’s clinic. The procedure takes around 20 minutes. “Soothing serums or sunscreen can be applied after the procedure. You will look flushed and avoid sun exposure,” Dr. Marcus advises.
Your provider will apply a numbing lotion that needs to be left on for 45 minutes before the laser is used. Dr. Evans says that numbing cream is crucial for a successful treatment. The procedure cannot be done effectively without it. It is well tolerated if you use a topical cream to numb the area.
Prednisone was prescribed to me by Dr. Sobel to reduce swelling in my face. I took it for three days. Dr. Sobel assessed and recommended the Fraxel Power Level. I told him I wanted to get as much power as possible, so he recommended a level 8 (out of 10). It was then off to the races.
The nurse used a laser to treat my face. She did two or three passes in each area (forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin) over 15 minutes. The “fractional” treatment is called Fraxel, which targets only a small part of your skin at a given time. Imagine your skin as a grid. To get the best treatment, you must review each section multiple times.
The laser is hot and gets even more desirable with each pass. A cooling air hose can help to counteract this. I held a stress ball most of the time to keep my mind off the pain. My opinion is subjective, but I find the treatment tolerable. The treatment was fair. There were moments when I felt my skin was being burned off. But then, the nurse would finish that area, and I’d get a respite.
Remember that pain thresholds vary from person to person. Dr. Marcus says that while the pain is sometimes uncomfortable, it’s tolerable, and topical numbing lotion helps.
Fraxel Laser Treatment
After the nurse had finished the laser, Dr. Sobel checked everything. He did an extra laser pass on the more complex areas, mainly the large brown area on my cheek and some spots on my nose.
After the treatment, my face burned far more than I would have on my worst days of sunbathing. Ice packs were immediately applied to reduce swelling and provide some relief. The laser was visible where it hit my face and where it did not. You can see areas that were not red, like around my lips. But the majority of my skin was red.
My Day-by-Day Fraxel Diary
The effects of the dryness were evident within minutes. Everything was red, except for the few areas that the laser did not touch (around my lips or the line between the outer corner of my left eye and my hairline–which resulted from the safety glasses). The pigment had already started to surface.
The pigment was more intense the next day, especially on my cheeks. I also started to see the “grid-lines” that were forming as a result of the laser. The microscopic dots showed the exact path the laser took.
Grid lines are now visible on my forehead and nose, and my cheeks and right side (especially that stubborn spot) have become darker. It was also rougher and almost scabby in texture.
I woke up with a rough texture and a much darker pigment. The “scabbing,” on the other hand, had lifted off my cheeks and revealed a fresh layer of skin beneath.
I had a shower just before dinner and noticed the scabbed layers were much less noticeable. I washed my face in circular motions and noticed scabby patches on my fingertips. This meant that the circular motions had lifted the scabs, and the steam from the shower had softened. After stepping out of the shower, I discovered a new layer of skin covering my cheeks. The skin was red,, but this was my first glimpse at the treatment is effectiveness.