Ablative skin resurfacing, where the outer layer of the skin is removed, requires significant recovery times and it can lead to issues with scarring and hyperpigmentation. That’s why Houston Dermatologist Dr. Zhang prefers to use Fraxel fractional skin resurfacing for her Houston patients. Fraxel only impacts a fraction of the skin’s surface, hence the name, which makes these treatments much easier to take, while still being incredibly effective for improving a variety of skin issues.
What is Fraxel®?
Our Fraxel laser actually is the Fraxel Dual system. This features two laser wavelengths, a 1927nm that is used for pigmentation problems, such as sun spots; and a 1550nm wavelength that is used to improve skin texture issues, such as acne scarring and fine lines and wrinkles.
What Can Fraxel treatment Be Used For?
Dr. Zhang uses both of the available wavelengths in her Fraxel system for different skin problems. They can be used in tandem or separately, giving us lots of flexibility for treating various skin problems.
Sun spots, age spots, freckles, melasma, or actinic keratoses. No one likes these pigmentation issues, and that’s what this aspect of the Fraxel Dual system targets with its thulium fiber component.
This wavelength is in effect an erbium laser. It penetrates deeper into the dermis layer of the skin to initiate higher levels of collagen and elastin production. This improves the appearance of acne scars, wrinkles, overall skin texture and tone.
How does Fraxel work?
The secret to these treatments is the word “fractional.” The laser energy creates thousands of microscopic channels through the epidermis down into the dermis layer of the skin.
This has two effects. First, by creating thousands of microscopic channels through the skin, it encourages the surrounding unaffected skin to produce new skin cells to repair the perceived wounds created by the microscopic channels. Second, when the laser energy enters the dermis through these channels, it causes heating in the dermis.
The body responds as if wounded, triggering new collagen production to “heal” the perceived wounds. In reality, the microscopic channels heal in just a few hours, but the collagen production builds for months. Together, these two factors work to resurface the skin, improving everything from age spots to acne scars, actinic keratoses to surgical scars.
How is a Fraxel Dual procedure performed?
No matter if Dr. Zhang is using one or both Fraxel wavelengths, the procedure is the same. The wavelength applied is the difference. First, we clean the skin across the treatment areas. Then we apply topical numbing anesthetic to the treatment areas. This needs about one hour to fully take effect.
For the actual Fraxel procedure, the small laser handpiece delivers the laser energy down onto the treatment areas. The laser energy creates microscopic channels down through the skin (Fraxel was the originator of “fractional laser resurfacing”). These penetrate the epidermis and enter the dermis layer of the skin. When the body senses heat in the dermis, it assumes a wound has occurred and it initiates a “wound-healing response,” which involves instant remodeling of the collagen at the treatment sites and increased production of collagen and elastin moving forward for the next 12 weeks or so.
By creating only fractional wounds, surrounded by untouched skin, the body heals the microscopic channels within just an hour or two. This instantly begins the production of new, healthier surface skin cells, improving pigmentation problems. From there, the deeper energy of the 1550nm laser stimulates collagen and elastin production for widespread texture improvement.
What will happen immediately after my Fraxel Dual treatment?
For the first day after your session your skin will feel as though it has a mild sunburn. It will appear pink, possibly even red. Your skin will bronze as the first sign the pigmented spots have received the laser energy and are about to peel away. This can all be effectively covered with makeup.
How long do Fraxel treatments take?
To start your treatment at our Houston offices, we first apply topical numbing anesthetic to the areas to be treated. This takes about an hour to fully take effect. From there, treating the entire face with Fraxel takes just 20 to 25 minutes.
What are the risks of Fraxel Dual treatments?
The FDA has cleared Fraxel Dual for these uses: periorbital wrinkles, acne scars, surgical scars, age spots, sun spots, melasma, actinic keratoses, and skin resurfacing. That means these procedures had to pass rigorous safety testing prior to receiving approval.
Swelling and redness are the most common side effects from a Fraxel treatment. Swelling is minimal and usually only lasts a day or two. Redness fades within a few days. Pigmentation spots become darker initially, which can be disconcerting, but that is a sign they’re on the way out and the melanin causing the darker areas has been broken up. You may have some minor itching, dry feeling skin, slight peeling or flaking, and some bronzing of the skin, but these are all temporary effects.
Are Fraxel treatments painful?
We apply numbing cream an hour prior to your session. This ensures you’ll feel little. Some patients say the laser pulses feeling like a prickly sensation that passes immediately. Others say there is a sensation of warmth and heat, but that it isn’t unpleasant. Most patients feel these treatments are easily tolerated
Is Fraxel safe for all skin types?
Yes, these treatments are safe for all skin tone and types. If you have an active acne breakout, it’s best to wait for it to clear before having Fraxel..
What do I do for my skin before and after these treatments?
Preparation is simple. Dr. Zhang tells her Fraxel patients to stop using any retinoids, acids, exfoliators, or other products that can cause your skin to be more sensitive for at least a week prior to your treatment. If your appointment is in the afternoon, you can apply makeup as usual and we’ll simply remove it.
After your Fraxel session, you need to understand that your skin has temporarily lost some of its natural sun protection, so you need to apply 30 SPF sunscreen and wear protective clothing. You need to do this for about three months. That may sound extreme but remember it’s likely that too much sun exposure is what created most of your skin issues in the first place.
Schedule a Consultation
To learn more about Fraxel laser treatment, to schedule a consultation with Dr. Zhang call (713) 988-8442.