Laser treatments tend to get a bad wrap as being extremely painful, but I’d categorize the experience as just mildly uncomfortable. Most patients, including myself, describe it as the feeling of tiny rubber bands being snapped against your skin. That being said, there are a couple of measures taken to make the experience as pain-free as possible.
For example, no matter where you go, a nurse or esthetician will likely apply a medical-grade numbing cream to the area being treated for about 15 to 20 minutes pre-treatment. The exact brand and formulation depends on your doctor’s preference. Dr. Green preferred to use a numbing cream containing lidocaine and within minutes of having it applied my face was almost completely desensitized. After the cream is removed, it’s time for the doctor to fire up the laser and get started.
First, the doctor will adjust the machine to the level of intensity, or wavelength, appropriate for your goals. “Fraxel is actually two lasers in one. The 1927 wavelength allows us to treat superficial imperfections, improving pigmentation,” Dr. Green explained. “The 1550 wavelength targets skin texture, improving deep lines and acne scars. The components can be used together or separately, depending on your needs.”
Fraxel is technically safe to use on all skin types. But when it comes to people with darker skin tones (who have more melanin), there is a risk of developing darkening or discoloration. If you fall into this category, lower energy levels will be used as a preventative measure during your treatment.
The amount of time spent under the laser takes about 10 to 15 minutes. After a few minutes your skin may start to feel warm, as if it’s being heated from within. Throughout the treatment, your doctor may change the intensity of the laser depending on the area of your skin and the type of damage being targeted. Usually, two passes are made across each section of your face. And then almost as quickly as it started, you’re done.
To help cool and calm skin after your treatment, cold compresses may be applied to your face. There are also specific masks like
<product href="http://www.skinceuticals.com/biocellulose-restorative-masque-3606000497573.html?cgid=face-masque" target="_blank">SkinCeuticals’ Biocellulose Restorative Masque</product> ($125) that were created specifically for use after laser treatments. These can also be applied immediately following the procedure. The Biocellulose Masque was formulated to reduce the feeling of heat while starting the healing process.
Before leaving the office, your doctor or an esthetician will apply moisturizer and sunscreen to your face. These two steps are imperative to your routine for the next for weeks because your skin will be extra sensitive and it needs to stay protected and hydrated. Think of your newly resurfaced skin as that of a newborn baby’s. It must be coddled with a delicate touch and taken care of diligently.
Dr. Green said this means avoiding makeup and any kind of sun exposure for at least a week. Pro tip: I suggest bringing a hat with you to your treatment and wearing one when possible for the next few weeks as another protective measure.