What is Fractional Laser Resurfacing?

The term “fractional” definitely gets a lot of buzz in the world of cosmetic laser procedures. But what exactly does it mean? And more importantly, how does it help or hurt the results of laser resurfacing procedures?

Let’s start by defining fractional. It means relating to a number that is less than one. So if we extend that to percentages, it is less than 100%. A fractional laser resurfacing procedure is one that only removes or affects a percentage of the treated skin, not the entire surface.

These lasers use beams that are fractionated, or broken up into a grid-like pattern. Imagine holding a flashlight up to a wall in a dark room. It lights up the entire surface of the wall. Now, by placing a filter over the beam with 10, 20, or 100 holes in it, you can project many larger or smaller light beams. Fractional lasers do the same thing with their energy beams. Depending on the condition being treated, its severity, and how much recovery time you have, fractional laser resurfacing treatment allows a truly personalized procedure.

By developing this technology, researchers found that since the body didn’t have to regenerate an entirely new layer of skin, healing times greatly decreased. Recovery time from the first full ablative resurfacing procedures generally takes 2-3 weeks. A fractional ablative resurfacing procedure’s recovery time is usually 4-7 days! And the results, they’ve found, are very comparable!

There are two types of energy sources that are usually used for fractional laser resurfacing procedures: CO2 and Erbium. The two best-known fractional lasers used for resurfacing are the Fraxel and Sciton Profractional. At Celibre Medical, we use the Sciton Profractional for our treatments. It uses Erbium as its energy source. Erbium is highly attracted to water; and since the skin is saturated with water, it’s perfect for treating the skin! As the skin absorbs the energy, it is ablated or removed. The depth of this injury can be carefully controlled with the settings. And because the beam is fractionated, we can set the percentage of skin to be treated anywhere from 5%-44%. This really allows us to completely customize a treatment to your specific needs!

The Sciton Profractional is a great choice for treating all sorts of tough skin problems like acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkling, and sun damage or uneven pigmentation. Because this procedure targets the deeper layer of skin as well as the surface, it can be painful. We want your experience to be as pleasant and comfortable as possible. We have found that using a combination of topical numbing cream, anesthetic injections of lidocaine, and prescription pain medication allows our patients to relax and really not feel much at all during their laser resurfacing treatment!

The recovery after fractional laser resurfacing generally takes about 4-7 days. During that time, you will have redness, dryness, and peeling. Most people are almost fully healed by the 4th day. While you may be able to return to a more normal skincare regimen by then, you can continue to have some redness for up to 1-2 weeks after the procedure.

Since this new skin is fragile and still in the early stages of healing, it is super important for you to avoid all types of sun exposure and be extra vigilant about wearing sunscreen! We can help you plan your skincare after your fractional laser resurfacing and are always here to answer any questions that may come up after your treatment.

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