By now, you may have heard a little something about Fraxel lasering, which claims to have benefits ranging from acne erasing to boosting of collagen production. To get the real deal on the benefits and risks of facial zapping, we reached out to Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology and lasering expert to get the full story on the benefits and downsides of Fraxel lasering.
First off, it's important to know exactly what Fraxel is. According to Dr. MacGregor, "Fraxel is a brand name related to a specific company, Solta Medical. Fractional laser skin resurfacing encompassess multiple different laser wavelengths with multiple setting and treatment possiblities." It works, according to Dr. MacGregor, because the lasers create microscopic zones of heated collagen in a grid pattern, which causes skin to re-build itself with no visible wound.
Kind of trippy, we know, but according to Dr. MacGregor, the results can truly be worth it. "After several treatments, uneven pigmentation improves, the skin looks brighter, collagen remodeling smooths fine lines, pores look tighter, and skin tone looks more even. Long term, sun-damaged skin can be improved dramatically with these lasers and several types of scars — even acne scars — can be treated."
Sounds like a complexion miracle, no? Well, according to Dr. MacGregor, there are some major risk factors to keep in mind. First of all, in the first few days after treatment, you can expect redness, rough texture, and some peeling. It's important to choose a dermatologist who is well-versed in lasers, as Dr. MacGregor warns that "lasers are not smart; they only operate according to the parameters set and skill of the physician using them." Your recovery time can depend on the strength of the treatment that you choose. Says Dr. MacGregor, "I can have a patient back to work the next day looking great, but I can also deliver a treatment that takes a full seven to ten days of recovery at home."
To cut down on irritation as much as possible, your doctor can follow your laser treatment with Light Emitting Diode exposure, which Dr. MacGregor says can reduce inflammation. And to further protect your skin: SPF, of course, as post-laser skin can be especially at risk for hyperpigmentation. Your skin will be extra-sensitive and susceptible to cold sore outbreaks and/or acne flare-ups. That's why it's essential to consult with your doctor pre- and post-treatment to address any risk factors.
We bet we know what your next question is: how much does Fraxel cost? That depends on the device used and on how large the treatment area is, but you can expect to shell out anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Yes, it ain't cheap, but if you're willing to shell out, you may end up with skin that's downright electrifying.
Photographed by Erin Yamagata