Get the Facts on Fraxel

February 19, 2015

By Matthew Pruitt

What is a Fraxel laser treatment?

Fraxel is an FDA approved laser treatment that creates micro wounds in the skin to stimulate the production of collagen. The procedure causes controlled injury to the skin which sends it into repair mode and speeds up the frequency of cellular turnover. This helps the texture of the skin and can create a more youthful appearance.

What’s collagen?

Collagen is a protein that is found in many parts of our bodies, including our skin. As we age, collagen begins to break down and it is harder to build back up. For example, a sign of loss of collagen is when we see loss of firmness, more lines and wrinkles in the skin.

How does Fraxel treatment remove sun damage?

There are two different wavelengths we use for Fraxel treatment; the 1927 and the 1550. The 1927 is used for targeting pigmentation, treating it superficially. It may take several treatments to treat most of the pigmentation, but during the “down time” from one treatment to the next, pigmentation will surface and peel and/or flake off. The 1550 wavelength; Fraxel Restore, is used for resurfacing. It is great for correcting scarring, wrinkles, texture and tone. The 1550 wavelength penetrates deeper into the skin to help rebuild collagen. The two wavelengths can also be used together in the Fraxel Dual setting. This treatment will treat both pigmentation and texture of skin. The Dual is one of our most popular Fraxel treatments because it can treat multiple concerns.

Who are ideal candidates for Fraxel?

Fraxel can treat acne scarring, wrinkles, tone, sun damage, and some types of melasma. It’s also a great anti-aging treatment for someone who wants a gentle resurfacing and fresher look to their skin.

Does it matter what kind of skin type you are?

Anyone can benefit from Fraxel; from the lightest of the light to the darkest of the dark skin types. However, darker skin needs to be treated with more caution. Darker skin has more melanin present; if the melanin is over stimulated by light and heat from any laser treatment, unwanted hyperpigmentation can occur. With clients who have darker skin, we prefer to space treatments further apart to allow the skin to heal and therefore prevent the melanin from overproducing. SPF is an ABSOLUTE MUST year-round, rain or shine for these darker skin types, but it is also VERY important for anybody doing Fraxel.

Are there any reasons to avoid a Fraxel treatment?

Current sunburn and/or tanned skin cannot be treated with Fraxel, along with any recent sun-exposed skin. Anyone who is prone to keloid scarring, cold sores, has current open wounds (on the area being treated), or extremely sensitive skin should not have Fraxel.

How many sessions does it usually take to remove heavy sun damage?

For heavy sun damage, we recommend anywhere from 3-6 treatments. The client must be compliant and wear SPF and stay out of the sun.

How many sessions does it take to remove a relatively deep scar?

We usually recommend about 4-6 treatments of Fraxel for deep scarring – it can take approximately three until the client sees a noticeable difference. It depends, however, on the depth and type of scarring.

Is the skin more prone to sun damage immediately after a Fraxel treatment?

After a Fraxel treatment, the skin is in an extremely sensitive state. SPF of at least 30 (we usually recommend 50+) needs to be worn and re-applied throughout the day. Even if it is cloudy, raining, snowing – SPF NEEDS to be worn! We do not perform Fraxel treatments on clients who we know are soon going to a location where they will be exposed to a lot of sunlight. We also do not recommend doing Fraxel in the summer months. Even for months after the treatment, the client should be extremely cautious to sun exposure. SPF, hats, sunglasses and other concealing clothing is recommended.

How long do you need to stay out of the sun after a Fraxel treatment?

In general, sun exposure isn’t good for the skin. Any direct sun exposure after Fraxel can lead to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It is best to stay out of the sun for three months post treatment. If you are going to be somewhere sunny, wear protective clothing and SPF 50 to cover the treated area.

Is the skin more prone to acne scarring right after a Fraxel treatment?

The skin is not more prone to any scarring after the treatment unless the client were to pick or peel their skin during the recovery time. If a breakout occurs after the treatment (which can happen), it is best to leave the inflamed areas alone and not to touch any pimples.

How long do the effects of a Fraxel treatment work?

The effects of Fraxel are permanent if the client is compliant. Clients must avoid direct sun exposure to the areas and take good care of their skin. If clients follow our protocol for Fraxel, the results should be permanent, except for the natural progression of aging. Sun exposure, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption are all things that can speed up the aging process and inhibit the results of Fraxel.

When would you need to get the procedure done again? In two years? 10 years?

The full result of one Fraxel treatment is usually not seen until six months after that treatment. A lot of people will see an immediate difference after their recovery time, but the full result will show months later as the skin is still healing. With any laser treatment, maintenance is usually required. Some people like to get Fraxel once a year for a general resurfacing or to keep melasma at bay. For clients with acne scarring or deep wrinkling, it may be best to do a series and once the series is completed, do one treatment a year to maintain the results.

Can Fraxel treatment be done to the whole body?

Fraxel can be done on different parts of the body. The settings are adjusted to treat different areas. If being treated on the body, it should be done for the same reasons it would be on the face – such as acne scarring, pigmentation, resurfacing, etc.

What are the best products to aid healing after a Fraxel treatment?

Epidermal Repair by SkinCeuticals is an excellent product to use immediately post your Fraxel treatment and throughout the few days of healing. It hydrates, moisturizes and protects the skin, allowing it to repair safely and healthily. Elta MD Laser Enzyme Gel is great for clients with oily/acneic skin. It’s very light on the skin and has a cooling effect to make the skin feel more comfortable. SPF 50+ is also a must. We sell all of these products at Skin Bar!

How should you take care of your skin immediately after a Fraxel treatment?

We do not let our clients leave without Epidermal Repair and SPF on their skin. Immediately after Fraxel it is best to stay hydrated and we recommend applying ice to the treated area to cool the skin and reduce any swelling. Once the skin has calmed down slightly, it is important to stay moisturized (with Epidermal Repair or a similar product). When applying any product during the recovery time, ensure to pat the product gently into the skin rather than rubbing in. We recommend clients to use a very gentle and benign cleanser when washing their skin such as Cetaphil. No irritating products should be used – avoid glycolic, scrubs, retinol and toners.

Is it possible to have too many Fraxel treatments? Would one treatment every six months be too many?

It depends on the clients’ concerns with their skin and what exactly they are treating. A client doing Fraxel for acne pitted scarring is going to need more treatments than a client doing Fraxel for a gentle resurfacing. One treatment every six months for the rest of a client’s life would be too much. If a person doesn’t need more than one treatment a year, depending on their concern, they should not get more than one. Doing too many treatments too frequently can harm the skin.

Can you have a Fraxel treatment done at any age?

There is no minimum age for Fraxel. We do, however, usually treat people 18 years and older. Scarring can be traumatic for individuals and they may wish to do Fraxel to correct it at a young age with a parents’ consent. If a 20 year old came in to do Fraxel for anti-aging, we may recommend them to try other treatments first to prevent the aging process such as peels, microdermabrasion and laser genesis, but if a 20 year old came in to treat scarring than Fraxel may be appropriate to do at that age.

Matthew Pruitt

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