“Fractional” Skin Resurfacing:Over time our skin ages, becoming duller, blotchy, and wrinkled. Sun exposure, heredity, smoking, acne scarring, and the movement of facial expression contribute to this unwanted “weathered” look. Over the years technology has evolved to help patients look and feel better about damaged skin by improving texture and reducing wrinkles, scars and imperfections.
Fortunately, less-invasive alternatives to the traditional, very painful CO2 laser are now available. “Fractional” laser technology delivers light to your skin in patterns of small microbeams, basically “pixels” of laser energy similar to the pixels of the computer screen you are using. The very narrow beams heat the dermis in tiny columns, stimulating collagen remodeling as well as affecting the epidermis. Because only part of the skin is treated, the outer layer is not vaporized, and the skin is not left raw.
At the Maryland Dermatology Laser, Skin, and Vein Institute, our board-certified dermatologists have performed research with multiple lasers to help achieve the goal of improving wrinkles, skin tone, and scarring while minimizing recovery time and side effects. They have lectured and published their results, and are nationally-known experts in the field.
The benefits of fractional laser treatments become apparent over weeks to months after treatment. Typically a series of at least three to five sessions is necessary. Whether your schedule permits an hour, a day, or a week of redness after treatment, there is most likely a fractional laser that will improve your skin. You have a choice of which fractional laser treatment to have and, importantly, who will provide the treatment.
At the Maryland Dermatology Laser, Skin, and Vein Institute, we offer exceptional choices and a comprehensive approach towards better skin. We can explain differences between fractional lasers and customize the approach for you. We have more than twenty years of laser experience that compliment our dermatological expertise and professionalism.
The decision-making processHere are some questions to consider before your consultation with a physician at the Maryland Dermatology Laser, Skin, and Vein Institute:
- How fast do I want to see results?
- How much time off does my schedule permit?
- Am I ready to protect my skin from the sun as directed?
- What is my skin type—is this type of laser safe for me?
Fraxel™Fraxel, from Reliant, set the standard for fractional lasers when it was cleared by the FDA to treat wrinkles around the eyes in 2004. It has an exceptional success rate, and is also currently cleared for other conditions as well, such as acne scarring, age spots/ brown spots, and melasma (mask of pregnancy). It does typically have some recovery time with each treatment. We have been using the Fraxel laser since 2004, and in 2007 we upgraded to the new Fraxel SR1500 model. Not only does it hurt less than the previous Fraxel and allows for more precise treatment as well as greater depth of heating, but there is no more blue dye. These are big improvements. A treatment takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes, after an hour’s preparation with a topical anesthetic cream. Afterwards, treated skin is quite red, with some swelling. Make-up can be applied the same day if necessary. One can resume normal activities the next day, with a “sunburned” look usually lasting three to five days. There may be some peeling. Sun sensitivity lasts approximately one to two weeks after the redness fades. Typically, patients need at least five treatment sessions, depending on the severity of the condition.
ActiveFXThe ActiveFX uses fractional CO2 energy with the UltraPulse Encore from Lumenis to help tighten the skin, reduce wrinkles, and improve skin texture. Because there are small “bridges” of untreated skin, this modified CO2 device does not leave the skin raw. Collagen remodeling continues for several months, but improvement in texture and wrinkles is usually noticeable within a week. A treatment takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes after an hour’s preparation with a topical anesthetic cream. Afterwards, treated skin is red for 24 – 96 hours , with some swelling. The redness from this laser typically lasts five to seven days, with some crustiness and flaking. Sun sensitivity lasts approximately one to two weeks after the redness fades. Makeup can usually be applied after three to four days, so one needs to plan for the sunburned appearance during the first week. We recommend allowing at least one week after treatment before a significant social or professional event. Typically, patients get noticeable , sometimes dramatic improvement of lines and texture with one treatment. Multiple treatments may be necessary with more severe scarring or wrinkling. With a proper skincare regimen, this improvement for some patients may last several months and for others it may be permanent.* We have been using CO2 laser for more than 10 years, but the development of the ActiveFx in 2006 has been a breakthrough in reducing side effects. Efficacy and safety have also been greatly improved. This has been accompanied by greater safety with less side effects and improved comfort both during and after the procedure.
*Results may vary for each patient.
Palomar Starlux 1540This device uses a different wavelength to deliver energy into the skin, usually helping acne scars, texture and wrinkles. For those whose schedules do not permit the recovery time seen with the Fraxel and ActiveFX, this device can be very helpful. We have been using the 1540 since 2005, having been active in its research phase. A treatment takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes; most patients prepare with a topical anesthetic cream. Afterwards, treated skin is quite red, with some swelling. Redness usually lasts one to three days, with swelling resolving over the same period. Typically, patients need at least five treatment sessions, depending on the severity of the problem.
Cynosure AffirmFor those with less severe problems who want benefits with little to no recovery time, the Affirm™ can be the logical choice. Cynosure’s Affirm™ uses Combined Apex Pulse™ technology to deliver light energy with less discomfort. The vast majority of patients need no numbing cream applied before treatment. Cold air blowing on the skin provides enough comfort for almost all. Most patients need at least four to six treatments. The speed of the treatments (less than 20 minutes for the full face) and the quick recovery (most patients are raw for less than a day with slight swelling) allow this treatment to work with almost any busy schedule. We have been using the Affirm since 2004, having been active in its development and research phase as well.
*Patient results may vary.