Fractional lasers are a type of laser that may be used for the treatment of a variety of skin conditions.
Fractional lasers may be used for skin rejuvenation/resurfacing to remove fine lines and wrinkles and improve the appearance of sun damaged skin. They may also be used to lessen the appearance of acne scars and dark spots or patches, such as age spots, or melasma.
Unlike standard laser treatments, fractional lasers affect only a small portion of the total surface area of treated skin. Only 15-25% of the skin within the treatment area is actually struck by laser light.
Patients require between 4-6 treatments to attain desired results. Treatments are performed no more often than once every 7-10 days, but in most cases they are done 4 to 6 weeks apart.
What happens during the procedure?
How the procedure is performed depends on several variables, including the part of the body being treated and the specific laser device being used.
The skin cleansed before the application of a blue tinted solution to the treatment area. The blue dye highlights the contours of the skin, allowing the laser device to adjust its energy output accordingly.
Topical local anaesthesia may also be applied to increase comfort during the procedure. A handheld device called the Zimmer Cooler may also be used to chill the skin and provide additional comfort.
During the laser treatment, the head of the laser is passed over treatment area in a series of horizontal and vertical passes, until mild redness appears.
A typical treatment of the face will take approximately 20-25 minutes.
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, the blue dye is washed off. You may find you still retain a blue tinge in some pores and blemishes for a few days, although this can be covered with make-up.
There may be some slight stinging of the skin for about one hour following the procedure. Ice can be applied to reduce any discomfort.
There is some redness and swelling following the procedure, which lasts an average of two to four days, and can be covered with makeup within a day or two. The entire visit lasts about 2 hours.
How many treatments are needed?
Multiple treatment sessions are required with fractional laser resurfacing to obtain optimal aesthetic results. The number of treatments recommend by your doctor will depend on several factors, including the area being treated and the expected results. For instance, a person whose skin shows signficant signs of photoaging will require more treatment sessions than a person with only mild photoaging.
In most cases, 3 - 5 treatments spaced about 5 to 7 days apart provides satisfactory results.
How much recovery time is needed?
Most patients will be able to return to work immediately following this type of procedure.
Images courtesy of Gerald Goldberg, M.D.