The Fraxel laser is considered one of the most significant advancement in skin rejuvenation since the advent of laser resurfacing in the mid-1990s. Fraxel laser treatments greatly improve the appearance of sun-damaged or aging skin yet avoid significant post-treatment inconvenience for the patient. The advantages of Fraxel laser treatment are so substantial that the Fraxel laser was named as one of 10 “Breakthroughs of the Year 2006” in women’s health by Health magazine. Laser resurfacing is effective because with this treatment sun-damaged skin is actually removed by the laser; with healing, new skin replaces the superficial skin layers where most sun damage occurs.
In “traditional” laser resurfacing superficial skin layers are removed from 100% of the treated skin area, and the post-operative recovery can be quite prolonged. The natural barrier function of the epidermis (the topmost skin layer) is lost because this layer has been completely removed. Until this layer grows back, the s
kin must be protected until healing is complete (in one to two weeks). Thus, the “down time” is significant after traditional laser resurfacing. Although laser resurfacing is very effective in smoothing wrinkles and removing sun damage, it also carries the risk of lightening the skin tone (hypopigmentation) which may be permanent.
A Fractional Approach
The Fraxel laser was developed as a safer alternative to traditional laser resurfacing and provides significant improvement in skin aging with minimal “down time” after the treatment. Fraxel laser treatment is “fractional” in that only about 20% of the skin surface is affected during a typical treatment. Tiny, microscopic spots of laser energy (usually about one million with a full- face treatment) are evenly distributed and are surrounded by untreated skin. Because the treated spots are so tiny, the epidermis remains intact at all times and the only effect of the treatment is mild redness and swelling for two to three days.
Because the tiny spots of treated skin are replaced with new skin, this fractional treatment will achieve much of the improvement of traditional laser resurfacing after a series of Fraxel treatments (five full-face Fraxel treatments will treat essentially 100% of the face). Age spots will be largely removed because they are replaced with new epidermis. The tiny spots of Fraxel laser energy penetrate deep enough into the dermis (the deeper layer of skin) to stimulate significant production of new collagen; this new collagen results in smoothing of wrinkles around the eyes (“crows feet”) and the cheeks. When your skin produces its own collagen, the results are long lasting because endogenous collagen persists for years.
Because the recovery phase after Fraxel is so gentle, the treatments are extremely safe; the risk of hypopigmentation is near zero. The Fraxel is so safe that treatment can be done virtually anywhere on the body and can improve sun damage on the neck, chest and even hands! Fraxel can also improve stretch marks on the abdomen and thighs.
Dr. Langdon has used the Fraxel laser since November 2005 and is one of the most experienced Fraxel physicians in the United States. In fact, Dr. Langdon is one of the first physicians anywhere to acquire the second-generation enhanced Fraxel system, the SR 1500. The advantages of the newest Fraxel laser (compared to the original) include greater efficacy, no need for the use of blue tracking dye on the skin, and significantly higher energy treatments with less sensitivity of the skin. Many of our patients have had treatments with both the “old” and the “new” Fraxel and all report that treatments with the newest laser are significantly less painful and are very easily tolerated.
Choose the Best Fraxel
Patients should be aware that the newer higher power Fraxel laser (the SR 1500) is only available to Dermatologists and Plastic Surgeons. “Medical spas” or “aesthetic centers” that are not affiliated with such specialist physicians are limited to a lower power and less effective version of the Fraxel laser.