(HealthNewsDigest.com) – Fractional lasers have come a long way since they were first introduced. My first experience was with the original Fraxel®, when they were still using the blue dye that left your skin slightly tinted for a day or so. For someone who has had her share of BOTOX and for whom lasering under the arms doesn’t cause a whimper, it was pretty painful. My eyes swelled up and I was the color of a boiled lobster for five days, applying ice packs.
Fast forward to the new fractional non-ablative lasers, and the side effects have been greatly reduced and results have also improved dramatically. One of the advantages of fractional technology is that it is totally customizable – your doctor is in the driver’s seat. Fractionated lasers work in kind of a checkerboard pattern, targeting microscopic squares of damaged skin to reach about 30 percent of your skin’s surface in one session, leaving the remaining untreated skin to help heal the treated areas quickly. Downtime is usually minimal after the treatments with redness and sometimes mild swelling for a few days. These systems are considered safe for most skin types and may be used for the face, neck, chest, and hands. On average three to five sessions is the usual course per area; that is, face or neck or chest or hands. The discomfort is entirely manageable when you are topically numbed and you have a friendly doctor who uses blasts of Arctic air to frost your skin before the laser beam touches you. The end result is undoubtedly smoother texture, tighter pores, fewer or lighter brown spots, springier skin that looks and feels younger and healthier.
The next generation of fractionated laser resurfacing goes deeper and are called “ablative.” Remember carbon dioxide lasers in the 1990s that left everyone beet red and oozing? This is a much kinder, gentler variation. The premise is that fractional ablative or CO2 lasers go deeper and do more work, and that this technology falls somewhere between the original fractionated systems that are more superficial, and the very deep lasers that basically no one wants anymore because of the downtime. The newest type of CO2 laser offers the safety of fractionated laser therapy with the long lasting results of traditional CO2 laser treatments.
These devices include Fraxel: RePair (www.fraxel.com), Lumenis Active FX™ (www.lumenis.com), Palomar Lux 1540 (www.palomarmedical.com), Sciton ProFractional (www.sciton.com) and Alma Pixel 2940 (www.almalasers.com), many others. They work in basically the same way, by using microscopically small but deeply penetrating and highly effective CO2 laser energy to remove the visible signs of sun damage, discoloration, acne scars and lines and wrinkles and stimulate the body to produce new, healthier collagen. The result is a significantly improved appearance of wrinkles and scars, and smoother, more even complexion. One treatment, rather than multiple treatments as in non-ablative fractional lasers, is usually done, although a second treatment six months later may be recommended in some cases. The benefits are less redness, swelling, and a more significant improvement with the added bonus of skin tightening. The results are about as close to a facelift as you can get without a scalpel. According to New York Facial Plastic Surgeon Sam Rizk (www.drsamrizk.com), “Fractional surfacing offers patients substantial improvements in skin texture and tone. We are also using a fractional ablative resurfacing at the time of a face or necklift on selected areas.”
One downside is that most people will need twilight anesthesia and healing after this treatment is longer than nonablative lasers, with redness lasting a week or two. The skin’s appearance will continue to improve for several months. The price tag is higher than the baby fractionated lasers; around $4,000 and up for the deeper fractional procedures for a full face treatment.
The crux of the great laser debate that goes on between doctors and patients in every corner of the world is about the more you do, the more it hurts, the more red you get, but the more dramatic results you get, and of course, vice versa. No matter how you look at it, the benefits of these systems on skin texture, tone and quality are undeniable and the science is now well accepted.
WENDY LEWIS is President of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy and author of 10 books including Plastic Makes Perfect (Orion). Www.wlbeauty.com. She is the Founder and Editor of www.beautyinthebag.com
Wendy Lewis Beauty