I had my 1st Fraxel Dual Laser treatment done 2 weeks ago (my 1st laser treatment ever) so I wanted to show you how my skin looks 14 days after the procedure and explain more about the laser and why I chose it. I did a vlog post about the procedure and the first 5 days of recovery and loved hearing your feedback and questions about it. In this post I’ll answer those questions plus show my Before & After pictures from the first 2 weeks!
I’d been curious about lasers for skin rejuvenation for a few years and after doing some research and talking to my dermatologist about it over the years, I decided on the Fraxel Dual Laser.
What Fraxel Dual Does:
The Fraxel Dual is FDA cleared to treat the following:
- Wrinkles around the eyes
- Acne scars
- Surgical scars
- Age spots/sunspots (pigmented lesions)
- Melasma (irregular patches of brown skin on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and nose)
- Actinic Keratoses (precancerous lesions)
- Skin resurfacing
Doctors will usually recommend 3-5 treatments spaced about a month apart. Most patients see best results after 2-3 treatments. Studies show that the 1927 nm wavelength gives 75-80% improvement after 3 treatments.
Why I choose the Fraxel Dual Laser:
- To un-do some of the sun-damage I inflicted on myself in my misguided youth. I was not nice to my skin over the years and would regularly roast in the sun, burn, and then tan so that after almost 50 years of that behavior I have age spots, uneven skin tone, surface roughness, fine lines & wrinkles, and enlarged pores — the calling cards of photo-aging.
- To treat my Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancerous skin legions that can become skin cancer if left un-treated). My dermatologist and I have been treating one AK on my cheek for 2 years now without much success. She did a scrape biopsy on it and it came back negative but it’s still there and it’s always changing so it makes me nervous to leave it on my face. Rather than having it surgically removed (which could leave a scar) I’m hoping the laser will remove the AK I can see as well as those that are most likely lurking below the surface.
- Curiosity. I read all the time that the celebs swear by laser treatments to keep their skin looking youthful, so I was just plain curious and wanted to see what it was like for myself.
How Fraxel Dual Laser Works:
The Fraxel Dual Laser gets it’s name from the fact that it uses 2 different laser wavelengths: 1550nm and 1927nm with each wavelength capable of delivering different results (the Dual part), and it treats a fraction of the skin at one time (the Fraxel part). The wavelengths can be used either separately or together so treatment can be customized by your doctor.
- 1927 nm targets superficial pigmentation: It’s best used to reduce sun-induced freckles, age spots, and actinic keratoses, and also treats but is less effective on superficial wrinkles, and texture irregularities.
- 1550 nm targets skin texture: It’s best used to improve deep lines, acne scars, and surgical scars.
- The Fraxel DUAL 1550/1927 treatment is a non-ablative meaning it doesn’t remove the entire layer of skin. Instead, it works by “creating heat in the skin through thousands of tiny, deep columns without injuring the surface of the skin. The heat generated by the laser promotes collagen production which causes the skin to tighten and look young and healthy. The fractional approach allows the skin to heal much faster than if the entire area was treated. This approach lessens the recovery period and reduces the number of complications that can occur. Multiple sessions are needed in most cases.” (source)
Fraxel is a brand name of fractional lasers and the company offers 3 options for intense to light skin rejuvenation:
Fraxel Re:pair: is an ablative fractional laser for the correction of moderate-severe photo aging. Ablative means it vaporizes some of the top layer of skin using a high-intensity carbon dioxide (CO2) laser. Fraxel Re:pair SST is a more aggressive procedure and is used to treat the most severe signs of skin damage. Results are achieved in 1-2 treatments and wound care recovery time is generally longer than other Fraxel treatments.
Fraxel Re:fine: is a non-ablative fractional laser for prevention and maintenance. Patients usually require between 4 to 6 treatments to attain optimal results. Treatments may be performed as often as every 7-10 days, but in most cases they are done 4 weeks apart. Down-time is minimal and results are modest.
Fractal Re:Store (Fraxel Dual): is a non-ablative fractional laser for mild to severe skin damage. DUAL 1550/1927 treatment results in less downtime and less post-treatment wound care. Most patients see excellent results after only 2-3 treatments. (source)
How Much It Costs:
I paid $1,500 for 1 Fraxel Dual treatment of my face (prices will vary depending on location).
A numbing gel is applied to the skin an hour before the procedure. There’s also a cooling device that glides along with the laser to aid in comfort. I didn’t find the procedure to be very painful. It feels like lots of pins and needles rolling over the skin. The first pass was quite comfortable, but by the 8th pass my skin was becoming more sensitive and it felt hotter and slightly painful. I found IPL to be much more painful than Fraxel Dual.
The procedure takes 20-30 minutes during which we chatted and my doctor explained what she was doing. Afterward, she applied Vitamin C serum because it can help to speed healing (see info. on the study below), and gave me ice packs to apply to my face.
My face felt hot (much like a sunburn), and tight and the redness and swelling began almost immediately. I was to ice for 15 minutes every hour, apply vitamin c serum 2x a day, wash with gentle cleanser, moisturize, stay out of the sun, and sleep with my head elevated.
The redness increased throughout the day, but the hot, burning sensation lessened over the course of the evening. By the time I went to bed my skin felt more comfortable. I had to stop using Retin-A two nights before the procedure and I can’t use any anti-aging or exfoliating products for 2 weeks.
Day 1: My face was still swollen but the redness and hot sunburn feeling were diminished. My skin felt tight and dry and the brown spots were already starting to crust over and raise up.
You can see the striped pattern of the laser on my forehead and the darker red where she went more aggressively on my cheeks!
Day 2: The swelling is gone as is the majority of the redness. It’s turning more bronzy looking as the brown spots come to the surface. You could easily put on makeup the first 2 days and go about your business.
Any heat and discomfort are completely gone today. The crust is continuing to form and I look like I’ve been frolicking face-first on a lovely black sand beach! Today my skin feel dry and is soaking up the moisturizers and it’s starting to itch.
Day 3: Let the peel fest begin! When they say you may experience peeling on day 3, they mean it!
No amount of makeup will cover this… best to plan on hiding out at home on day 3!
The doctor said not to exfoliate or help it along so I had to sit on my hands all day! It was so hard to resist rubbing or pulling the flakes off.
My forehead is not peeling as much as the rest of my face, but it has the texture of an industrial rasp!
Day 4: 75% of the peeling has subsided and I’m loving the shiny new pink skin it’s revealed! It still feels dry and tight with just the forehead left to slough off.
Day 5: Back to normal! There’s just a little peeling at my hairline and on the actinic keratosis, otherwise my skin feels normal, but it looks so much clearer.
After that my skin really didn’t change much day-to-day. Full results are going to take 3-6 months to see as my skin generates new collagen and my wrinkles (hopefully) diminish a bit. Based on the research (75% improvement after 3 treatments), I guess I’m looking for 25% improvement from this first treatment.
Two-Week Post Procedure Before & After Pictures:
Photo Disclaimer: These are un-retouched photos taken 14-days apart in a home setting using the same camera and lighting set-up for both. I try my best to match the exposure, face angle & expression but can not make conditions match exactly. Photos are here so you can judge the value of the procedure for yourself, not to convince you one way or the other.
What I see in the pictures is that my brown spots and my larger age spots are slightly diminished which makes my skin look clearer overall. This laser does not correct redness so I still have lots of red spots, broken capillaries and mottled reddish tone. My pores are smaller, and the surface looks and feels smoother. I can’t say I see much of a difference in wrinkles yet.
To me, my skin looks much better and I’ve been going around without makeup and not feeling self-conscious about my skin, and I’ve gotten some lovely compliments from friends and family! When I do put on makeup it goes on so much smoother and looks so much better!
Was It Worth It?
That’s hard to say just yet if there will be $1,500 worth of improvement, but I’m pretty happy with it so far. . . I will definitely let you know in 3 months.
I’m not signing up for another one right now since I want to see the full results and see how long they last. Whether I do another will depend on that plus how well the actinic keratosis resolves itself… that little guy may be the deciding factor on whether I get more lasering done.
The only regret I have so far is that I wasn’t specific enough with my doctor on the day of the procedure. I wanted her to use both the 1927 laser for surface discolorations, and the 1550 laser on some areas for texture issues. She gave me the standard 1st treatment for my skin type which is to use only the 1927 for surface issues.
My advice if you’re interested in this laser (or any laser) is to do your homework about level of results you can expect from treatment, the side-effects, the down sides, and the down time.
Here are synopses of the studies I read and links to the source material for further reading:
Fractal 1927nm Results on Actinic Keratosis Study: A 2010 Clinical trial. AK counts decreased in all patients after treatment. At 2 to 4 weeks after the first treatment, AK clearance was 74% (range, 45% to 100%). At 1 month after the final treatment, patients averaged an AK clearance of 86.5% (range, 63% to 100%). At 3 months after the final treatment, average AK clearance was 79% (range, 63% to 100%). The treatment was well tolerated and represents an effective new option for the treatment of facial AK.” (source) Each subject underwent a series of 2 to 4 treatments with the Fraxel Re:store Dual that were spaced 2 to 4 weeks apart. No adverse reactions occurred for any of the subjects. In addition, the study found improvement in skin texture and pigmentation following a Fraxel treatment.
Fraxel and Vitamin C for recovery: A 2015 study on using Vitamin C + E + Ferulic acid post CO2 ablative laser treatment was successful in reducing healing time by 2 days. “This is first study to show that Vitamin C, E, and Ferulic acid correlate with more rapid wound healing post-fractional ablative laser.” (source)
Fraxel and Retin-A for improved results? A 2004 study confirmed there’s no truth to this. Study was on Tretinoin treatment before carbon-dioxide laser resurfacing. It showed no evidence of enhanced collagen formation, accelerated re-epithelialization, or quicker resolution of postoperative erythema with tretinoin pretreatment before laser resurfacing. (source)