April 23, 2020 All About The Fraxel Laser For Melasma
Fraxel lasers can effectively treat a wide range of skin conditions, including melasma. Although this type of laser can help correct many complexion problems, it isn’t right for everyone. In today’s blog, we discuss the function, the benefit, and the safety of using the Fraxel laser for melasma.
What Is The Fraxel Laser?
The term ‘laser’ is an acronym for ‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’. There are many types of lasers, one of which is the Fraxel. Its name comes from a process called ‘fractional technology’ which perfectly describes the way the laser works – it only targets a fraction of the skin.
The Fraxel laser is characterized by wavelengths, which can penetrate deep into the epidermis and the dermis. Different wavelengths are used to improve different skin conditions (Edgar). The most popular laser, the Fraxel Dual, uses two wavelengths, 1550 and 1927, to treat skin issues. 1927 is mostly used to treat discoloration (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, sun-damaged spots, and melasma), while 1550 is used to treat more serious issues such as deep wrinkles or acne scars.
Fraxel laser is an effective solution to treat multiple skin conditions, such as:
- Sun-damaged skin
- Fine wrinkles on the face, neck, and the chest
- Fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes
- Uneven skin texture and tone
- Acne scars
Fraxel laser is a non-ablative laser, but it has the same efficiency as an ablative laser, which makes it convenient for treating melasma. One study on the benefits of using Fraxel lasers for melasma found that 60% of the women saw 75% to 100% of their melasma clear up (Alamgir).
The Skin Quiz
Our Dermatologist worked closely with experts to create a melasma skin quiz that guides you to the best treatments on the market
How Does The Fraxel Laser work?
The Fraxel laser works by creating many microscopic injuries that penetrate deep into the skin. Those injuries ‘tell’ your skin that there are specific places that need extra collagen to heal and treat the condition. The new skin cell growth that replaces the old ones improves skin texture, tone, and pigmentation.
There are two types of Fractional technology:
- Ablative: More aggressive treatment that removes skin cells and stimulates the creation of collagen deep within the skin. This type of laser has longer down-time.
- Non-ablative: This treatment works by heating the tissue beneath the skin without removing surface skin. This type of laser works effectively in blending the melasma with the healthy-looking skin.
In order for the Fraxel laser to work its best, patients need to prepare themselves in advance:
- Don’t wear makeup
- One week prior to the treatment, don’t use any peels, active acids or products that contain retinoids
- Prior to the treatment, you will be topically numbed with a cream for around 45 minutes (Shunatona)
After all this is done, the treatment lasts no longer than 20 minutes, depending on the size of the target area. If you have excessive acne breakouts or wounds, your treatment might be delayed.
The Potential Side Effects Of Fraxel Laser Treatment
Some side effects are pretty normal when treating your skin with a Fraxel laser. However, there are a few studies that suggest using a Fraxel laser doesn’t lead to many side effects at all. One such study was done on 961 patients who were treated with Fraxel laser and of those, only 7.6% had a reaction to the treatment, the most common being acneiform eruptions and herpes outbreaks (Alamgir).
Immediately after the treatment, you may experience redness, swelling, itching, and peeling. It can take up to 7 days for your skin to come back to normal (Irwin).
Proper aftercare is essential for faster healing:
- Don’t peel the skin yourself, it’s tempting but you’re increasing the down-time
- Don’t use any acids or cosmetic products with strong ingredients in this stage
- Don’t expose yourself too much to the Sun and always use sun-protection cream
Is It Safe To Use Fraxel Lasers For Melasma?
For most people, Fraxel lasers are safe to use, but they aren’t right for everyone – particularly those with darker skin types. Treating melasma with a Fraxel laser might cause inflammation that can actually make this condition worse. It’s important to consult with your dermatologist to determine if Fraxel lasers are right for you.
In addition, you need to choose a dermatologist that is board-certified, has a good track record, and who will be able to guide you through the entire healing process.
Prescription Melasma Treatments
The Fraxel laser can be an effective solution to deal with melasma in the short term, but it may fail to give you the desired long-term results. Melasma is a chronic condition, and that’s why you need a powerful solution for the long-term. For some a long term prescription over seen by a dermatologist is the most effective option.
- Alamgir, M. Melasma Treatments: A Review of Laser Therapies and the Integration of Reflectance Confocal Microscopy. Practical Dermatology. https://practicaldermatology.com/articles/2014-june/melasma-treatments-a-review-of-laser-therapies-and-the-integration-of-reflectance-confocal-microscopy
- Irwin B. Guide to Fraxel (Fractional Resurfacing) Lasers. Skintour. Published May 9, 2017. https://www.skintour.com/lasers-radiofrequency-devices/laser-treatments/guide-to-fraxel-fractional-lasers/
- Removing the Mask of Melasma. MedEsthetics. https://www.medestheticsmag.com/removing-mask-melasma
- Trivedi MK, Yang FC, Cho BK. A review of laser and light therapy in melasma. International journal of women’s dermatology. Published March 21, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5418955/
- Watts KM. Why Fraxel Is One of the Most Popular Skin Resurfacing Tools. Healthline. Published June 11, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/fraxel-treatment#how-does-it-work?
About the author
Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in clinical drug development and medical innovation. He is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida and is also the Chief of Dermatology at the ...