Fraxel ~ Saving Face & Erasing Sun Damage

I’d like to tell you that I was never a sun worshipper. That I never, ever laid out in the sun. That I always wore sunscreen. That I sought shelter from the wicked, wrinkle causing sun under a big ol’ beach umbrella. But, that’s not the way it was.

This, my fellow Karousers is how it really went down…

Flash back to Ohio, circa 1984. I was flipping through Seventeen Magazine when an Esprit ad stopped me in my tracks. The girl in the ad had the most beautiful bronzed skin I had ever seen. She also had these lustrous blond streaks in her auburn hair. My friend, Christy Johnson, who was hanging up her new Duran Duran poster, assured me that we could get the same look – all we needed was some baby oil and some Sun-In. I pocketed my allowance money and peddled my bike as fast as I could to the drug store.

And that’s pretty much how I spent the next couple of decades – trying to get my fair skin darker and my dishwater blonde hair lighter. (Why is it that we always want what we don’t have?) And while I spent countless summers with perfectly tan legs in crisp, white shorts, I didn’t consider the damage I was doing to my face. Why would I? I certainly couldn’t see any of the effects of it at the time.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I moved to Florida, where it seems that everything revolves around the water and being outside. I adopted the Florida lifestyle wholeheartedly. But by this time, I got a little smarter, or so I thought. I started wearing sunscreen. Little did I know it wasn’t the right kind of sunscreen with the right ingredients. (More on this later.) So all that face time with the Florida sun took it’s toll as well.

All this leads me to about three years ago when I was getting ready for my wedding. One day, I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Damn, girl! You look tired and speckled.” Where was the pretty, fresh faced girl that had stared back at me for so many years? I knew she was in there somewhere, but I needed help. So, I went to see my friend Kaisa Marshall at Skin NV in Tampa. (Kaisa and her talented team offer an extensive menu of skin care options, including laser treatments, Botox, and dermal fillers.)

Like any good friend, Kaisa was honest and agreed that I had some work to do to get my face back in shape. (Notice what maturity does, it enables you to choose friends who help your cause, not hinder it. Damn that Christy Johnson.) Kaisa suggested we start with a Visia scan to show extent of my sun damage. Here’s what we had to deal with:

{Sun damage on the left side of the face tends to be worse because it’s the side that’s exposed when driving.}

{Underlying damage that could eventually come to the surface.}

Together, Kaisa and I came up with a plan to give me back my clear, glowing complexion and to erase whatever sun damage we could. Kaisa suggested a series of peels and Fraxel Laser treatments. Because of the extent of my sun damage, we agreed that I would likely need two or three peels and two or three Fraxels. After that, we’d need to put a daily maintenance program in place to make sure I didn’t incur more sun damage.

I didn’t really understand what Fraxel was. So I sat down with Kaisa and asked her a few questions.

What does Fraxel stand for? 

Fractionated laser, which means that it affects a fraction of the skin. It leaves the skin intact so the downtime is less than with other laser treatments.

Why should someone get Fraxel? 

Fraxel improves overall skin tone and texture. It is great for sun damage, age spots, and scarring. It is important to communicate with your practitioner about what results you are trying to achieve. It’s also beneficial for:

  • Reducing wrinkles around the eyes.
  • Treating pre-cancerous lesions (actinic keratosis).
  • Renewing skin on the face, neck, chest, arms, legs, and back.

 Who is a candidate for Fraxel? 

Just about anyone. At Skin NV we have two different types of Fraxel lasers. A 1550 and a 1927. Each of these lasers address different issues. Fraxel may only be contraindicated for pregnant women and very dark skin tones.

What is the process for getting a Fraxel? 

The first step is doing your research on your practitioner’s education and experience level. The next step is a consultation to determine which Fraxel treatment is recommended.  Before the treatment, we apply a numbing cream and you sit for an hour waiting for it to take affect. The Fraxel treatment time takes anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes.

You numb the skin. Is getting Fraxel painful? 

It could be uncomfortable without numbing cream. We want our patients to be as comfortable as possible. We can also prescribe Valium for maximum comfort level, as long as you have someone pick you up after your procedure.

How does the laser work to get the desired effects?

Fraxel treatment uses patented fractional technology to target damaged skin with microscopic laser columns that penetrate deep into the skin. The laser treats only a fraction of tissue at a time, leaving the surrounding tissue untouched, which promotes rapid healing. This stimulates your body’s own natural healing process, replacing the old and damaged cells with fresh, glowing, healthy skin.

Is it painful after the procedure? 

You will feel heat for about two hours after the treatment. We recommend using cold compresses and staying cool for 24 hours.

What can someone expect after having it done? 

Mild swelling and redness for the first 24 to 48 hours. The skin texture then becomes slightly rougher and then sloughs off. The results are both immediate and progressive. The next three to six months will bring more improvement as the deeper layers of the skin continue to create new collagen.

Is there anything special we have to do before a Fraxel? Any supplements to avoid? If so, why? 

Avoid sun exposure for at least one week prior to treatment. Avoid tanning beds and spray tanning for at least two weeks prior to treatment. Also, avoid using any Retin A or Hydroquinone for at least 48 to 72 hours prior to treatment.

Can you Fraxel other parts of your body like your chest and hands? 

Absolutely! These are both very common treatments, especially on the hands. These areas are where our age shows up most. Check out our before and after pictures of the chest and hands on our website.

How many treatments on average should a person have done to see the best results?

Desired outcomes are typically reached in multiple treatments. The specific number of treatments is tailored to your goals and desired results as well as your lifestyle. We will work with you to identify the appropriate level of treatment and your preferred downtime.

What is the maintenance plan after a Fraxel? 

We customize maintenance plans to every patient’s lifestyle and what they are looking to achieve. Physical sun block is always a must. Sunscreen should contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and don’t forget to wear a hat. The use of proper skin care and keeping up with chemical peels will help to maintain results.

How much does a Fraxel treatment cost? 

Nationally, Fraxel prices range from $500 to $1,800. Our prices vary depending on the size of the area you are looking to correct. Prices range from $100 for a spot treatment to $850 for a full face treatment of the 1927 Fraxel.

Why should I have my Fraxel treatment done at Skin NV?

We have highly trained and skilled practitioners performing Fraxel. They take extreme care and making sure the patient is comfortable and receives the desired result. We are also the only practitioner in Tampa who has the 1927 Fraxel machine.

I had two Fraxel treatments. The treatments were a bit uncomfortable, but tolerable. For about two hours after the procedure, I felt like I had an intense sunburn on my face. I used cold compresses to alleviate the heat sensation. Here are a few photos that show my progressive healing.

Day 1:

{Left side, immediately after the Fraxel treatment.}

{Right side, immediately after Fraxel.}

{Forehead, where all the melasma rears it’s ugly head.}

Day 2:

My face felt tight and dry. I applied a lot of cream to help add moisture. Kaisa also applied oxygen therapy to my face, which made it feel much better.

Day 4:

By day four the itching and peeling had intensified. It was a challenge not to pick the flaking skin. (Doing so can result in scarring.) I began seeing the fresh, pink skin emerging.

{Notice how many brown spots have flaked off.}

{Between the dead skin waiting to flake off, you can see the lighter forehead with less melasma.}

{The chest and hands take longer to show results and longer to heal.}

{Hands and chest are two other areas where we show our age.}

Before & after two Fraxel treatments:

{Before}

{After}

Amazing improvement! My pigment is lighter, most of the age spots are gone, and the texture of my skin is smoother.

Fraxel continues to work months after you receive it by promoting collagen growth and cell turn over.  When used in conjunction with chemical peels, it will erase a fair amount of sun damage and help smooth out the texture of your skin. Months after my last Fraxel and before launching this website, I had a series of photographs taken. I was thrilled to see that my complexion appeared clearer and smoother. (Photos were not retouched.)

What I know for sure is that there is no magic eraser for all the damage we’ve done to our skin. But, with some patience and discipline (and knowing the team at Skin NV), you can turn back the clock on aging.

I don’t want dark, tanned skin anymore. That was so 1984. I think I’ll stick with the lighter hair though.

{These days, you’ll find me reading in the shade with a big hat.}

Skin NV is on Facebook and online. Skin NV is located in Tampa, Florida. When you see Kaisa, don’t forget to mention that you like Karousing!

Enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe to Karousing so you don't miss one smart, sexy, spiritual thing.
 
  • Kim Graham

    HiKarina,
    Two things:in the market for a new estetician, so I will check into SkinNV and second, we are thinking of going to Paris and Normandy in May. Would love to get together with you sometime when you are available to talk to you about your trip with David! My number is 784-4618. Thanks and I love your blog!

  • Tracey Jaensch

    Enjoyed meeting you yesterday at skin nv and reading the blog on fraxel. Very helpful and informative. Enjoyed meeting a fellow English major and lawyer. Being a lawyer isn’t all bad though! Enjoyed the rest of the blog as well.