What is Fractional CO2 laser?
Fractional carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers are one of the latest advances in non-surgical skin rejuvenation treatments. The CO2 laser has the longest wavelength of all the lasers on the market and can be used safely on darker skin types with appropriate adjustments in the settings.
Fractional CO2 lasers excel at treating deeper wrinkles, more severe textural changes from sun damage, wrinkles, blotchiness, and acne scars. It can be used on the delicate eyelid skin and around the mouth. It is also a very effective treatment for sun damage.
How does Fractional CO2 laser work?
The fractional CO2 laser takes the CO2 laser beam and fractionates, or pixellates that beam into tiny little shafts of light. These tiny shafts of light penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. The skin then repairs those tiny shafts by pushing out the old sun damaged skin and replacing it with new skin. The “collateral” heat damage also helps to shrink existing collagen.
How long do the effects of a fractional CO2 resurfacing laser treatment last?
That depends on how well you protect your skin from the sun and other factors that cause ageing. Such variables include your general health, smoking, changes in weight, etc. If you apply a good quality sunscreen and are sensible about your sun exposure, you can maintain the good effects of your CO2 laser treatment for several years.
When will I see results?
Bear in mind that fractional CO2 laser can be customised. Treatments can be deeper, with more healing and downtime, or shallower, with less healing time. The deeper the treatment, the better the results generally. You won’t see the full results for 3-6 months. After your skin heals, which may take up to 3-14 days, there will be a period of around 4 to 6 weeks after that when your skin might be slightly pink. This can be covered up with make-up if required. During this period, your skin will feel smoother and looks less blotchy. As the colour returns to normal, you will see fewer lines, less blotchiness, and more glow.
What will I look like right after the treatment and what is the healing time?
During the first 24 hours after treatment, your skin may feel as though it is sunburned. A water mist spray can be used to alleviate some discomfort. Your skin will peel for 2-7 days and will be pink for 3 to 6 weeks. This healing all depends on how deep your treatment is. After a week or so, you can wear make-up to cover the pink. Rarely, bruising may develop, which can take up to two weeks to resolve.
Can I go back to work and activities immediately?
No, you will need to take the rest of that day off. For the lighter fractional CO2 treatments, you will need around 3-5 days of downtime. For the deeper treatments, plan on 7-10 days of healing before you can go out in public.
How many treatments will I need?
The number depends on the extent of your sun damage, scarring or wrinkles, and on how much downtime you can accept. If you can tolerate 7 days of downtime, you would generally need only 1 or 2 fractional CO2 treatment.
Are there any reasons not to be treated with these lasers?
Reasons not to do a fractional laser treatment may include use of medications that increase photosensitivity, use of anticoagulants, use of Accutane in the last year, chemotherapy, history of difficulty healing or scarring, history of bleeding disorders, and pregnancy.
Are there any medical or cosmetic side effects?
- Pain. Most people feel very little pain during treatment due to the measures taken by your practioner. Rarely there is mild discomfort for the first day after surgery.
- Redness. A pink colour may persist for two weeks to two months after the laser surgery. In rare instances, it may last three to six months. This is more common in patients who have a history of flushing and blushing easily or who already have dilated vessels on the surface of the skin.
- Wound Healing. The CO2 laser causes a superficial wound to the skin that takes approximately 2 to 10 days to heal. The superficial injury of the outer layers of the skin may result in mild to moderate swelling. Crusting is rare but peeling is common. Once the surface is treated, it may be sensitive to the sun for approximately 4-6 weeks.
- Pigment Changes. The treated area may heal with increased or decreased pigmentation. This is rare and occurs most often in darker skin and 2-6 weeks after treatment. Hyperpigmentation usually fades in three to six months, though rarely pigment changes can be permanent.
- Excessive Swelling. Immediately after laser surgery, there will be swelling of the skin. This is a temporary condition and will resolve over three to seven days.
- Scarring. There is a very small chance of scarring. This includes hypertrophic scars or, very rarely, keloid scars. Keloid scars are thick, raised scar formations. To minimise chances of scarring, it is important to follow post-operative instructions carefully. It is important that any prior history of unfavourable healing be reported. Do not pick!
- Eye Exposure. There is also a risk of harmful eye exposure to laser surgery. It is important to keep your eyes closed and have protective eyewear at all times during the laser treatment.
- Depression or emotional difficulties even if the procedure is successful.
- Since every patient is an individual, you may not respond exactly the way other patients do. You also may not be completely happy with the effects of treatment.
- Infection. Occasional infections can occur. If not treated promptly, these could result in scarring.