After dealing with deep cystic acne during my early twenties, my skin showed a lot of wear and tear. Ice pick scars and boxcar scars marked where adult acne had touched the hallows of my cheeks, temples and chin. My skin looked uneven and rough. My self-consciousness over my appearance increased when I started working at an agency post graduation where meeting with clients and attending events was part of my weekly schedule. I began researching acne scar removal treatments and discovered fractional lasers.
My discovery came in 2010, six years after lasers emerged on the market and luckily for me, enough time to establish whether any long-term side effects existed.
Since hitting the market in 2004, fractional lasers have been touted as the gold standard for improving skin imperfections. They have cultivated a strong reputation for addressing issues like fine lines, visible photo aging, wrinkles, acne scar removal and age spots with minimal side effects.
How do fraxel lasers work?
Fractional lasers create microscopic laser columns that penetrate deep into skin. Each column damages a fraction of tissue at a time, leaving the surrounding tissue intact. The body’s natural ability to repair is harnessed and new skin cells and collagen are formed.
Short-term side effects
Swelling, redness, pain, itching, cold sores (only if you have a history of outbreaks) and potentially, small white head breakouts during the healing process are side effects experienced during the first 7-10 days post treatment.
Long-term side effects
Though long-term negative side effects are rare, there have been cases reported of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation months after treatment; typically seen in patients with more melanin in their skin. The clinician can assess whether this is a concern during the consultation.
The potential for hyperpigmentation post treatment is a rare side effect. Usually, resulting from prolonged sun exposure. The skin is very sensitive post treatment and it is recommended patients stay out of the sun for two months following treatment.
What to expect
– Immediate swelling and pain after the 20-30minute treatment
– Swelling dissipates over the course of 1 week
– Brown spots will darken and become raised, eventually sloughing off revealing lightened freckles and sun spots
– As the skin repairs itself on a deeper level, it will continue to build collagen, resulting in a fuller, youthful appearance that hits its peak around 3 months post treatment
Best results are seen with 3-5 treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart.
While researching online, I read some frightening reviews for Fraxel on RealSelf (i.e. tales of bleeding skin, damaged dermis which resulted in sagging skin, severe pain, and hyper-pigmentation post procedure).
Dr. Anne Chapas, New York City based dermatologist and founder of Union Square Laser Dermatology, assured me that these outcomes are rare when treatment is done by board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. “The laser has different settings making it stronger or lighter, also varying the depth of penetration. Due to these variables, improperly trained individuals could use incorrect settings on patients resulting in negative side effects,” says Chapas.
Over the Spring-Summer of 2012 I had four Fraxel treatments done at Union Square Laser Dermatology. The results were amazing! My acne scars were visibly reduced by 90%, my freckles were lightened by 30% and I had improved skin texture and tone. Friends and family constantly complimented my skin. I was finally one of those people with good skin!
-by Amy Chang