Q: What is Fraxel?
A: Fraxel is a laser skin resurfacing treatment used to minimize wrinkles, scars and dark spots on the skin. This special laser treatment is now widely used in the U.S. by both men and women. Fraxel works with the skin to encourage natural rejuvenation and regrowth of healthy skin cells. A non-surgical, non-invasive procedure, Fraxel belongs to a group of procedures called laser skin resurfacing.

Like other laser skin resurfacing technologies, Fraxel uses a high-powered laser to burn some skin cells. This burning encourages the growth of new, healthy skin cells. For most individuals, the regrowth of these cells offers a more youthful appearance. Fraxel treatments tend to have gradual results, making them ideal for those patients who want to look younger without making drastic changes to their appearance.

Q: How is Fraxel different from other laser skin resurfacing procedures?
A: For many years, two different types of laser treatment have been available for those individuals who want to pursue laser skin resurfacing. Each treatment type has its benefits and drawbacks, but Fraxel offers a unique combination of the two designed to provide excellent results with manageable recovery times.

Ablative procedures use high temperatures to make unwanted tissue vaporize. These treatments can be very effective but require weeks of recovery time. Many patients who want to pursue laser skin resurfacing don’t have the time needed to rest and recover after an ablative treatment.

Non-ablative procedures use the same basic logic as ablative procedures but cause far less damage to the skin. These types of procedures have shorter recovery times but don’t generally produce the same results as harsher treatments. Many patients have multiple non-ablative treatments.

The Fraxel laser combines the power of these two procedures to provide treatments that are highly effective but aren’t overly harsh on the skin. On the whole, three different types of Fraxel treatments are available. Three of these treatments are non-ablative. One is for maintenance of the skin while the other two are for repair of skin with severe to moderate damage.

The Fraxel re:pair SST treatment is an ablative procedure designed only for those individuals with severe skin damage. Thanks to the fractional technology used by the laser, recovery times are significantly better than with traditional ablative procedures. Most patients will realize significant results from this type of treatment in one to two appointments with their doctor.

Q: What type of laser will be used for my treatment?
A: A specialty laser designed by a research team at Reliant Technologies will be used to perform your Fraxel treatment. The laser will use fractional technology, designed to burn away only a fraction of the skin’s cells in order to encourage the regeneration of new, healthy cells. The Fraxel laser operates at 1550nm (nanometers) to treat a microscopic patch of skin.

As with any other medical laser, the Fraxel laser relies on beams of light in order to accomplish treatment goals. Your doctor will advise you as to how you should prepare your skin for the treatment. Because the Fraxel is a high-powered laser, it’s essential that you follow your doctor’s pre- and post-care guidelines carefully.

Q: What conditions or problems can Fraxel address?
A: Fraxel treatments are used to address a wide variety of skin problems suffered by adults. In general, Fraxel is considered a laser skin resurfacing treatment. This means that a laser is used to burn away problem skin and encourage the growth of new, more youthful-looking skin. As such, it has many different cosmetic applications. Among the most popular are:

  • Treatment for surgical scars and scars relates to accidents.
  • Removal of acne scars and reduction of pitting from acne scars.
  • Reduction or elimination of wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Removal or elimination of age spots, sun spots and other discolorations of the skin.
  • Removal of melasma from skin all over the surface of the face.
  • Removal of actinic keratosis lesions, which can be pre cancerous.
  • Improvement to the texture, tone and elasticity of the skin following damage caused by age, pollution or sun exposure.

Q: What happens during a Fraxel treatment?
A: Before you go in for your Fraxel treatment, your doctor will go over your treatment goals with you and confirm what’s going to happen during the procedure. This is a great time to ask any last-minute questions you have about what the treatment will be like or what you should expect during recovery. After all questions have been answered, a special blue pigment will be applied to your skin to help it absorb light from the laser. A numbing gel is then applied on top of the blue pigment to minimize discomfort.

During the treatment, the doctor will direct small laser pulses at problems areas of your skin. These pulses will vaporize or burn a microscopic portion of skin cells so that newer, healthier cells can develop in their place. Your doctor will provide you with instructions for what to do if you’re uncomfortable during the Fraxel procedure, but most patients get in and out of the doctor’s office with no problems. Most treatments take between 20 and 45 minutes.

Q: What will my skin look like right after treatment?
A: Many consumers who would like to look younger have avoided skin resurfacing treatments because they are intimidated by long or uncomfortable recovery times. Thankfully, Fraxel offers excellent results without significant recovery time. Immediately following your Fraxel treatment, it’s likely that your skin will look a little red and might be slightly swollen.

Redness and mild swelling are both totally normal side effects of Fraxel treatments. Neither causes significant pain or discomfort, but patients may want to head home after the procedure if they are hesitant to have coworkers see their slightly reddened skin. All patients should talk with their doctors before taking medicine or using treatments to reduce redness or irritation after Fraxel. The majority of patients will be able to use cold compresses to reduce swelling and kill any pain.

Q: What can I expect after my Fraxel treatment?
A: Immediately following your Fraxel treatment, you can expect a slight tingling sensation on your skin. Many patients who have undergone laser skin resurfacing compare this feeling to having a sunburn. While this sensation can be slightly uncomfortable, it subsides in one to three hours for most patients. Your doctor will provide instructions for how you should care for your skin in the hours immediately following your treatment.

In the first six or so weeks of healing, you can expect your skin to become smoother and softer. You may notice that the elasticity of your skin has improved or that trouble areas seem to be fading slightly. However, you shouldn’t be startled if you’re just not seeing the results you were hoping for after six weeks. Because Fraxel is a non-ablative procedure designed to work on microscopic patches of skin, full healing can take three to six months.

In the months following your treatment, you’re likely to notice a significant improvement in any skin conditions targeted by Fraxel. This is because deeper layers of skin tissue are healing, allowing greater improvement to the appearance of scars, wrinkles and dark spots. It’s important that you continue to wear sunscreen during this recovery period. Wearing sunscreen every day helps to ensure the best possible results from the treatment.

Q: How long do the results of Fraxel last?
A: Before you can understand how long the results of Fraxel last, you have to take time to understand how this type of treatment works. The Fraxel laser, much like any other skin resurfacing procedure, is designed to burn a small portion of the skin cells so that newer, healthier cells can grow in their place. Because the logic behind Fraxel is fairly straightforward, the treatment can be used for many different types of skin conditions. Among the most commonly treated include scars, acne scars, wrinkles, melasma, sun spots and age spots.

Because Fraxel works to improve the appearance of the skin by encouraging the regeneration of skin cells, it offers long-lasting results. The exact amount of time that results will last depends upon each patient’s skin and treatment plan. The best way to ensure long-lasting results is to carefully follow all of your doctor’s post-procedure care guidelines. It’s important to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 in the months following your treatment so that the skin can heal fully. It’s also a good idea to continue wearing sunscreen on a daily basis to keep skin soft, healthy and supple.

Q: How many Fraxel treatments are needed for my skin?
A: The number of Fraxel treatments needed for effective results can vary greatly from patient to patient. At your initial consultation, your doctor will go over your treatment schedule and explain why a set number of treatments have been chosen. If you’ve had skin resurfacing treatments in the past, you may be worried about the recovery time after each treatment. However, it’s important to remember that Fraxel differs significantly from other laser procedures.

Most Fraxel procedures are non-ablative, meaning that they don’t cause extensive damage to the skin in order to realize results. Instead, they focus on burning away only a small portion of skin cells to provide excellent results with greatly reduced recovery times. The only drawback of these procedures is that results aren’t as drastic as with ablative, or harsher, treatments. Most patients will need to have between one and five non-ablative treatments to realize the results they’d like.

The Fraxel re:pair SST treatment, an ablative treatment, tends to have much more drastic results than other Fraxel treatments. As such, many treatment goals can be accomplished in one session. It’s important to remember that this type of treatment is reserved only for those individuals with severe skin problems. Recovery times for re:pair SST treatment is longer than with all other Fraxel treatments.

Q: How do I care for my skin after the Fraxel treatment?
A: In the hours immediately following Fraxel, you may need to use cold compresses to control the swelling and stinging that can follow the procedure. This stinging is much like a sunburn and shouldn’t be cause for panic. Your doctor will give you specific instructions about how you should cleanse your skin and what products are safe to use in the days and weeks following your treatment.

Several days after your Fraxel treatment, you may notice that your skin gets dry or begins peeling and flaking. Again, this process is much like what your skin goes through during a sunburn. You’ll need to use plenty of moisturizer during this time to keep your skin soft and supple. Be sure to use only those moisturizers and skincare products recommended by your doctor.

In the months following your treatment, it’s important that you wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. Wearing sunscreen during this initial healing period helps to ensure that you get the targeted results you’re looking for with treatment. If you fail to wear sunscreen, your skin may become burned again before it’s had a chance to heal fully, leading to prolonged healing times. Getting a bad sunburn after a Fraxel treatment can even cause scarring.

Though it’s not required, your dermatologist and doctor will likely recommend that you continue to wear sunscreen every day after you have recovered completely from Fraxel treatments. Doing so helps to protect your skin from further damage, prolonging the results of your procedure. Remember that sunscreen can also help prevent the development of skin cancers.

Q: When should I start noticing results from Fraxel?
A: Most patients will receive a course of Fraxel treatments in order to realize their overall skin improvement goals. This means that changes to the skin can be gradual, especially for those patients who will be undergoing a course of three or more treatments. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see results in the weeks immediately following your first Fraxel treatment.

The first results you notice from Fraxel should be apparent in the first few weeks after the treatment. Thanks to the gradual regrowth of skin cells, you’ll likely notice that your skin is softer and smoother than it was before treatment. Depending on your treatment goals, you may also notice that dark spots have become lighter. Fraxel has subtle results in the weeks immediately following treatment, so you shouldn’t worry if you don’t notice drastic changes.

Full healing after your Fraxel treatment will take between three to six months depending on your body and your skin’s condition. By the six-month mark, you should notice great results from your Fraxel treatment. If wrinkles were targeted, you should notice some plumping and minimization of fine lines. Scars and acne scars should also be lighter with less significant pitting. Your doctor will determine how frequently you can have Fraxel treatments and what results you should expect after each treatment.

Q: Has Fraxel been approved by the FDA? 
A: Many different Fraxel treatments have been approved by the FDA. Extensive clinical research backs up the safety and efficacy of Fraxel. Because Fraxel has been approved by the FDA and is used for some non-cosmetic purposes, patients with disfigurations, pre-cancerous actinic keratosis lesions or other health-compromising skin conditions may be able to pay for Fraxel treatments through private insurance.

Q: How many people have undergone Fraxel treatments?
A: Since Fraxel lasers were first pioneered by scientists at Reliant Technologies, more than 800,000 people around the world have undergone Fraxel treatments for a wide variety of cosmetic and medical reasons. Doctors have treated patients of all ethnicities, and Fraxel has proven effective for individuals of all different skin tones and types.

In addition to the 800,000 procedures performed, Fraxel is also regularly evaluated by researchers at Solta. Even though Fraxel is an incredibly effective and reliable technology, scientists are still working to improve it. More than 35,000 histologies and 50 peer-reviewed papers back up the safety and success of Fraxel. Researchers always aim for the same, high-level results when developing new Fraxel treatments or making improvements to current technologies.

Q: Are there any side effects to Fraxel treatments?
A: Fraxel treatments are designed to provide improvement for a wide variety of skin conditions without long recovery times. However, this doesn’t mean that Fraxel treatments are entirely without side effects. Before you decide on Fraxel, it’s important to understand what side effects you might experience. The effects described below are common, but you should ask your doctor any other questions you might have about side effects.

Because Fraxel relies on a laser that burns microscopic portions of the skin, redness after the procedure is the most common side effect of the treatment. This redness usually goes away in a day or two, giving way to bronzing much like happens after a sunburn. Several days after the treatment, you may notice that your skin flakes or peels. This is also normal and can be combated with moisturizers.

A much less common side effect of Fraxel is infection. Infections after treatment can be avoided by cleaning your skin according to your doctor’s instructions and avoiding hot tubs, saunas and intense exercise for two to three weeks following the procedure. If an infection does develop, it will be treated with antibiotics. Because infections can prolong healing and undermine the effectiveness of the procedure, it’s important to avoid them whenever possible.

Q: Will my Fraxel treatment hurt? 
A: The Fraxel laser has been designed to provide the results that patients want without causing significant pain. Before Fraxel treatments are performed, a topical anesthetic will be applied to your face. This anesthetic is designed to numb your skin for a short period of time so that bursts from the Fraxel laser don’t cause discomfort. If you have serious concerns about your comfort, talk to your doctor about ways to control anxiety well in advance of your appointment.

During the Fraxel treatment, cold air will also be used to alleviate any discomfort in the area. If you do feel pain, it will likely be a low-grade discomfort on par with that of a mild sunburn. A tingling sensation is normal, especially in the hours immediately following the treatment. Let your doctor know if you feel significantly more pain than you expected during the procedure.

Remember that staying calm and relaxed is key to minimizing discomfort. Following all of your doctor’s guidelines in the weeks leading up to your procedure will also help eliminate pain. Stop taking any medications indicated by your doctor to ensure that the procedure goes smoothly and that you don’t cause yourself unnecessary pain.

Q: How long will it be until I can return to work after my Fraxel treatment?
A: Fraxel treatments are designed to provide patients with long-lasting results without lengthy recovery times. The majority of patients who undergo treatments can return to work the next day. This is because Fraxel, unlike many other skin resurfacing procedures, doesn’t cause substantial damage to the surface of your skin. Any redness of the skin that’s still present the day after treatment can be controlled with cold compresses.

The day after Fraxel treatments, most patients will be able to put on makeup or shave. However, you should follow the specific instructions given to you by your doctor if you have any questions about what you can and can’t do after your treatment. While you can return to work the day after the procedure, it’s important to avoid exposure to bright sunlight or UV lights. You should also avoid getting overly sweaty or doing strenuous work the first few weeks after your treatment.

Remember that your age, overall health and skin condition determines how much time you’ll need to recover from Fraxel. Those patients who are having re:pair SST treatment or other intensive treatments may need to take some time away from work to recover. Your doctor will provide you with information about your expected recovery time during your initial Fraxel consultation.

Q: Who can undergo Fraxel treatments?
A: Fraxel lasers are FDA approved to treat surgical scars, acne scars, pigmented lesions such as age spots and sun spots, melasma, wrinkles and other dermatological conditions. They can be used for a wide variety of resurfacing procedures, to diffuse pigmentation and to eliminate some pre-cancerous lesions. The FDA has approved these treatments for men and women of all ages.

While Fraxel treatments have been approved for a broad swath of the population, that doesn’t mean that they’re ideal for every patient. Your doctor will evaluate your skin condition and talk with you about your treatment goals before recommending a treatment. Your doctor is best able to decide whether Fraxel will be an effective treatment given your situation.

Remember that your ability to undergo Fraxel treatments may also be impacted by any other health conditions you have. It’s important that you are completely candid with your doctor to ensure that you’re a good candidate for Fraxel.

Q: If I’m interested in Fraxel, how do I get started?
A: Adults who are interested in pursuing Fraxel treatments can get started by talking to a qualified cosmetic surgeon who can evaluate your skin and formulate a treatment plan. Your doctor will explain the technology behind Fraxel to you in detail and will help you understand the number of treatments that you’ll need in order to see results. Going through this initial consultation will prepare you to undergo your Fraxel treatments.

Of course, many patients also prefer to consult with a dermatologist before undergoing Fraxel. Talking to your dermatologist is important because you should understand your skin conditions and what causes them before you choose a treatment course to manage or eliminate them. When you visit your dermatologist, ask about traditional treatments for your skin condition.

It’s important to remember that Fraxel is considered an elective procedure for the majority of patients. This means that your private insurance company won’t cover Fraxel treatments unless they are for very specific, pre-approved medical reasons. At your consultation, be sure to talk with your doctor about the overall costs of Fraxel. As you weigh the costs, remember that improving your skin’s appearance can significantly improve your quality of life. Youthful looks might have a price tag, but feeling truly great about yourself is priceless.

Q: What are the biggest benefits of Fraxel treatments?
A: Patients who are considering Fraxel treatments must weight the benefits and drawbacks of this type of skin resurfacing procedure. As with any non-surgical cosmetic procedure, there are risks associated with Fraxel. However, the benefits so far outweigh these risks that most patients find Fraxel a safe, effective course of treatment. Three key benefits of Fraxel stand out for most patients.

Excellent treatment results. With over 800,000 procedures performed on individuals of all ethnicities around the globe, there’s no doubt that Fraxel is one of the most effective skin resurfacing treatments around. Patients who undergo a carefully designed course of Fraxel treatments enjoy excellent results ranging from the removal of dark spots and wrinkles to an overall rejuvenation of the skin. Healthier, smoother, younger-looking skin is no doubt the top benefit of Fraxel treatments.

Reduced recovery times. Unlike earlier laser skin resurfacing treatments, most Fraxel treatments don’t require extended recovery times. In fact, the majority of patients with mild to moderate skin damage will be back to work or school the day after a Fraxel treatment. Even those patients who elect for more intensive, ablative procedures such as the Fraxel re:pair SST treatment enjoy recovery times that are significantly shorter than with traditional laser procedures.

Long-lasting results. Because Fraxel works with a patient’s skin to build new, healthy cells, the results of this treatment can be incredibly long lasting. Patients choose Fraxel because the changes that they notice in their skin can be maintained over many months or even years. Remember that enjoying the long-lasting results that Fraxel promises means taking great care of your skin after treatment. Cleansing, moisturizing and using sunscreen all help to keep skin looking fresh and young long after treatment.

Q: What are the biggest risks or drawbacks of Fraxel treatments?
A: As with any cosmetic or medical procedure, there are some risks associated with Fraxel. Before you consider the risks involved with the treatment, remember that most can be mitigated by choosing a highly trained, licensed doctor to complete all treatments. Working with unlicensed, fly-by-night aestheticians or medical spas is extremely dangerous and significantly increases the chances that you’ll have side effects from any non-invasive or invasive treatment.

The primary drawback of Fraxel is the minor redness and burning or itching that patients experience in the days immediately following the procedure. When compared to the drawbacks of other skin resurfacing techniques, this discomfort is minor. Most patients can control or eliminate this discomfort by using cold compresses and following post-procedure care instructions carefully.

A more serious, and far less common, side effect of Fraxel is scarring. In fact, scarring is a risk with any laser procedure. If too many laser bursts are applied to one area or if the laser isn’t carefully controlled, doctors run the risk of causing scarring. Scarring is also more common in sensitive areas such as the neck. Because of these risks, it’s important that you make sure that your doctor is fully licensed, has been trained to use Fraxel and has completed successful Fraxel procedures.

Q: How do I know if it’s the right time for Fraxel? 
A: Only you can decide if it’s the right time to undergo any type of cosmetic or medical procedure. As you evaluate your Fraxel treatment options, think about how your skin condition affects you on a daily basis. Do you feel discomfort or anxiety in social situations? Do you have a hard time leaving the house without makeup or are you reluctant to shave because you worry that people will see acne scars? If skin conditions significantly impact your daily life or prevent you from doing everything that you want to do, it may be a good time to consider Fraxel. Of course, you should only consider Fraxel if you’re in good health.