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Fractional Co2 Laser: 7 Things You Should Know
Acne can go one of two ways: the less severe can disappear over time, but the nastier perpetrators can leave scars that are a lot more difficult to erase. These scars can not only hinder our appearance but also become a cause for concern when they start to hurt. If you’ve ever had difficult acne scars that wouldn’t go away with over-the-counter products, you might have heard of a treatment called laser skin resurfacing.
Laser resurfacing is a way to remove the outer layer of the skin in order to reveal the layer underneath. In essence, this new skin will have significantly reduced the appearance of any marks, acne scars, fine lines, and the like. Laser resurfacing is a highly effective cosmetic procedure under the right hands.
You might have heard of common types of laser skin resurfacing like the intense pulsed light (IPL) laser treatment, which is similar to the procedure used for body hair removal. There are plenty of laser skin resurfacing types out there. The most common ones include:
- Ablative lasers
- Non-ablative lasers
- CO2 laser skin resurfacing
- Pulsed-dye lasers
All of these laser skin resurfacing methods vary in types of lasers used, intensity, downtime, and benefits. Overall, they’re used to treat skin problems such as severe acne scarring, signs of aging, critical sun damage, and more. Some of them are able to stimulate the production of new collagen fibers. This renewed collagen production is one of the most vital parts of building healthy skin.
This guide is all about the fractional CO2 method. Here are seven things you need to know about it.
1. What does fractional CO2 laser skin resurfacing do — acne scars, signs of aging, and more?
One type of laser procedure is called fractional co2 laser resurfacing. When we say fractional lasers, we mean that the laser energy is broken up into tiny beams or pulses in order to target only a fraction of the skin. The treated area is only the part with severe skin concerns, leaving the rest of the skin untouched.
Fractional lasers could fall under the category of either non-ablative laser treatments or ablative lasers, depending on the type. However, CO2 laser treatments are generally considered ablative lasers as they can be very powerful and effective. Non-ablative lasers are great for mild cases, while ablative fractionated carbon dioxide lasers are best for more severe issues.
According to Skin MD, the fractional CO2 laser treatment can be used to treat the following skin concerns:
- Age spots
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Sun damage
- Crow’s feet
- Enlarged oil glands (especially around the nose)
- Sagging skin
- Uneven skin tone
2. How is the fractional CO2 laser treatment performed?
The fractional CO2 laser treatment session as a whole will probably last around 45 minutes to an hour. Your dermatologist or specialist will apply a topical anesthetic or local anesthetic cream on the treated area around 30 to 45 minutes before the procedure starts. However, the actual procedure with laser resurfacing only lasts 15 to 20 minutes.
Fractional CO2 laser uses ultra pulse or short-pulsed light energy blasted through a scanning pattern. It selectively targets the problem area by removing the damaged outer layers of skin. The lasers then produce a microthermal area deep in the skin which triggers the body’s natural healing process and stimulates collagen production.
Through this, you produce new skin cells that reduce the appearance of acne scars, extensive breakouts, fine lines, deep wrinkles, rosacea, vascular lesions, hyperpigmentation, and the like.
3. Does CO2 fractional laser really work?
Laser skin resurfacing treatments are known to be effective, albeit a little costly. The science behind them is that they simply remove dead skin and/or stimulate the production of newer skin through the laser, resulting in a smoother skin texture. However, it can’t treat sagging skin or skin laxity.
Darker skin tones have also been discouraged from using ablative treatments, but the truth is there are types of laser procedure treatments for this group — maybe just not this one. Dr. Jenna Lester, head of the Skin of Color Clinic at University of California, warns those with a deeper skin tone from getting fractional co2 laser procedures as they can result in more hyperpigmentation.
However, she also debunks the myth that you can’t go near a laser if you have dark skin. The truth is, many new laser technologies are completely safe for black complexions, brown complexions, and anyone on the deeper side of the Fitzpatrick scale.
The best decision you could make to secure your safety is simply to choose a board-certified dermatologist, or even a plastic surgeon. In the States, they have the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. In the Philippines, board-certified dermatologists undergo residency training at the finest hospitals and must pass the board exam conducted by the Philippine Board of Dermatology. So yes, these professionals are the people you should trust.
While this procedure is very much safe, there are some things you need to make sure beforehand.
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun at least 2 weeks before your scheduled treatment.
- Avoid ibuprofen, vitamin E, and aspirin.
- Avoid use of products that contain retinoids in order to avoid sensitizing the skin.
5. How long does it take to heal from CO2 fractional laser?
Fractional lasers have a very minimal downtime for most patients thanks to the technology that allows healthier skin tissues to still thrive even after your session. Skin MD states that the average healing time for the treatment area is 5-7 days.
While you’re healing, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Avoid sun exposure as the sun’s harmful rays can damage the delicate nature of your skin. Use a broad spectrum SPF daily to protect it.
- Use a gentle cleanser when washing your face
- Apply ointment to avoid scabs from forming and to treat prolonged erythema or redness.
- If swelling occurs, put an ice pack on the area within the first 24-48 hours to improve the skin’s appearance.
6. Who shouldn’t get this laser resurfacing procedure?
As wonderful as this treatment may seem, there are unfortunately people who are discouraged from getting it due to their medical history, preexisting skin condition, or history of cosmetic procedures.
According to Mediczech, these factors prohibit a person from availing this procedure:
- History of cold sores
- History of a herpes virus
- Acne medications in the past six months (ie. isotretinoin, accutane, etc.)
In the case of the first two, your doctor might simply advise you to take antiviral medication. If there is something you’re unsure about, always ask for help from your doctor as they can provide medical advice that will help you down the road.
7. How many fractional CO2 laser treatments are needed?
One thing you should prepare for in the event that you do decide to get a treatment done is that you’ll actually need to go back for multiple treatments in order to get the best results. However, all of this still depends on the severity of your skin issues. The average is 1-3 treatments at 4-6 weekly intervals.
If you’ve been scared to try this treatment or are just looking for more information to prepare for your appointment, we hope this guide was helpful! Just keep in mind all the things you need to prepare beforehand and consult with a professional for any queries you may have.
Do you have any experiences with this procedure? Comment them down below!
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.