Fractional Laser Treatment (Laser Skin Resurfacing)
What is Fractional Laser?
A variety of these devices, from Fraxel® to Affirm® lasers, utilize this technology. The idea of the laser is to create a number of vertical injuries to the patient’s skin with non-treated, uninjured skin in between the treated areas. A similar process, on a microscopic scale, is done to the skin with fractional laser treatment. The untreated skin helps the wounds to heal quite quickly, replacing the area with new, healthy and smoother skin.
Fractional laser treatment with the 1,550nm erbium fiber laser (Fraxel® Laser, Reliant Technologies) has bridged the gap between the ablative and non-ablative laser modalities used to treat the epidermal and dermal signs of skin aging.
Of all the methods which can rejuvenate the skin, there is no better treatment than fractional laser skin resurfacing. This latest laser treatment is far more effective than any non-surgical method currently available like chemical peeling and drug therapy. In addition, the laser fractional therapy is more effective and safer than any of the other surgical procedures like dermabrasion and face-lift. Nowadays, a new surgical skin resurfacing treatment methodology, using a fractionated carbon dioxide laser can offer both improved results with much fewer side effects.
However, a major drawback of the laser therapy is the cost. It is at least twice as costly and like all other treatments is only a temporary solution for the treatment of aging skin.
How do Fractional Lasers Work and is Performed?
Though you always find an individual who has a lower threshold for pain, most of my patients find laser treatment very tolerable. In their opinion, it’s not painful at all. Therefore, the procedure is usually performed with local anesthetic creams or even without anesthesia. The treatment session takes about 45 to 90 minutes with 3 to 7 days interval between sessions.
By targeting water as its chromophore, the laser induces a dense array of microscopic, columnar thermal zones of tissue injury that do not perforate or impair the function of the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). The treated skin area rapidly recovers with newer skin and healthy tissue (Non-Ablative Therapy).
The fractionated carbon dioxide laser beam is broken into numerous microscopically thin beams that strike the skin and vaporize sun damaged or scarred tissue. This causes the skin to tighten, and during healing, produce collagen – the protein responsible for skin structure and appearance (Ablative Therapy).
When therapy is done in fractions, this allows the skin to rapidly recover with little downtime. Further the side effects with this type of therapy are less and complications are very rare. In most cases, the old damaged skin is replaced by the new skin within a few days.
What is the recovery time and the final results?
Recovery from laser treatment is generally not lengthy and usually involves some redness and swelling for several days.Because fractional laser therapy only treats part of the skin, additional therapy is required to treat the entire skin surface. Most individuals require anywhere from 4 – 6 sessions to treat the damaged skin.
The results of fractional laser skin resurfacing are not immediate but evidence of a smoother and tighter skin will be evident after 2 – 3 sessions. Patients experience an immediate improvement during treatment associated with the laser heating their skin. The collagen contracts making the skin appear immediately tighter. However, the final results related to collagen production which takes several weeks to months to be remodeled (8-12 weeks). Patients will continue to see improvements in their skin for the first three to four months following treatment. However, the results are not permanent.
What are the risks of Fractional Laser Procedures?
Rarely, infection and scarring or discolorations of the skin are certainly theoretical possibilities. However, the strict following the medical instructions will help you to avoid these complications.
Stretch Marks ??
There are treatments available, particularly with lasers, which can help improve stretch marks, however, no treatment can yet make a stretch mark go all the way back to looking like totally normal skin.
So, keep in your mind these three facts:
- Laser and other modalities improve the problem but don’t remove it.
- There are no ‘perfect’ treatments for stretch marks.
- A series of treatment sessions are usually needed to obtain the best results.
Causes and types of Stretch marks:
With expansion of the skin, by pregnancy or morbid obesity… etc., the elastic fibers of the deeper layer of the skin (Dermis) are broken, leaving a Red Stretch Marks or Linea Rubra. After healing of this cracks by fibrosis, they become a whitish in color in what is called White Stretch Marks or Linea Alba.
How to prevent these marks?
One thing you can do during pregnancy or times of weight gain is to apply topical creams like alpha-hydroxy acids or Retin-A medicines. These topical medicines can be helpful in curbing the onset of stretch marks in the first place.
Treatment of Red Stretch Marks:
As these marks look a lot like early scar tissues, lasers can be highly effective at reducing the redness and stopping some of the inflammation. Lasers also induce collagen growth and remodeling, as well as some elastin remodeling which improves the look of the skin. The pulsed-dye laser is the treatment of choice for this.
Treatment of White Stretch Marks:
The latest development in the treatment of stretch marks is fractional laser therapy. There are some risks that some patients may not be responsive to the therapy, as well as some risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in darker individuals that takes some time to fade away.