Fraxel and Fractional Laser Skin Resurfacing

If you are interested in skin resurfacing, you may have heard a lot about fraxel and fractional resurfacing. To better understand the significance of these new advances, some technical knowledge of laser skin treatment and technology is helpful.

Over the past few years the concept of Fractional skin rejuvenation or fractional laser skin resurfacing has evolved. With fractional skin resurfacing, an erbium laser beam is broken up, or fractionated, into many micro beams which are separated. So when they strike the skin surface, the small regions of the skin between the beams are not hit by the laser light and left intact. In the small zones (see figure below) treated by the fractional micro beams, sufficient laser injury promotes new collagen production to replace collagen damaged by aging or sun exposure.  Damage to collagen in the skin is a cause of skin wrinkles. The new collagen produced by the laser stimulation “plumps” skin wrinkles. The intact skin between the micro treatment zones allows for much more rapid healing (3-4 days) as opposed to 2-3 weeks for the older CO2, and enough pigment cells are left intact that hypo pigmentation does not occur.

Fractional Skin Resurfacingg

The diagram above shows the progression of laser skin rejuvenation technology from the older CO2 on the left to the newest fractional ablative lasers which have just come out. The Fraxel laser and the Lux 1540 are depicted in the 3rd illustration under Non ablative fractional laser resurfacing.

Fractional Non Ablative Laser Resurfacing

To ablate means to “surgically remove”. The Fraxel and Lux1540 are non ablative lasers which mean that when the laser beam strikes the skin the skin is not removed immediately, rather the laser beam heats the skin to cause inflammation and new collagen production. The benefits of the Fraxel and Lux 1540 non ablative laser skin treatments are dramatically reduced recovery time, but the results in terms of wrinkle removal and skin tightening are less dramatic than with ablative lasers.

However, the new fractional lasers like Fraxel and the Lux 1540 are able to penetrate much deeper than traditional non fractional ablative lasers and we are discovering that deeper penetration of the laser produces a much more dramatic stimulation of new collagen formation which translates into a plumping effect on the skin. This is particularly useful in treating depressed acne scars. Another diagram which helps explain this is the diagrammatic representation of the Lux 1540 below.

In summary, the benefits of fractional non ablative laser skin treatments are:

  • Less down time- only pink skin for 1-2 days and a day or so of bronzing that can be covered with make-up
  • Better new collagen production in the deeper skin layers causing skin plumping especially of acne scars
  • Fewer complications like hyper pigmentation (although with Fraxel there is a 15% incidence of hyper pigmentation (darkening of treated areas) especially in dark skinned people, but it is temporary.
  • Improvement in skin texture and possibly enlarged pores
  • Improvement in wrinkles

The field of laser skin rejuvenation is developing rapidly and new tech breakthroughs occur frequently. The benefit to you is that better wrinkle removal results are achieved with less down time and fewer potential side effects. The applications of fractional laser are expanding to other fields like skin tightening and eventually to fat and cellulite removal.