ASK Dr. Polecritti: What Are The Benefits of CO2 Fractional Laser?

Question: What are the benefits of CO2 Fractional laser? How do I know if I’m a candidate?

Answer: Resurfacing laser treatments have come a long way in the last 10 years.  Originally, fully ablative CO2 laser resurfacing was the only choice.  These lasers provided a very nice result but required patients to undergo general anesthesia and then they had a very long recovery window.  Even though the results were typically good, most people did not want to endure this level of recovery. Fortunately, the laser companies were able to design lasers to provide the same level of result without the negative recovery time by inventing fractional CO2 lasers.  These lasers are still ablative, meaning they remove or destroy the outer layer of damaged and dead skin but do so in a non complete manner as before.  The fractional method only treats a percentage of the target area and therefore the recover is much quicker and more tolerable.  In order to have the same effectiveness though, as the old completely ablative lasers, typically three treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart are required.

Laser resurfacing is an awesome technology.¬† The treatment can significantly improve fine lines and wrinkles, it can tighten the skin, decrease pore size, correct dyschromia (improve dark “age spots”), and increase the thickness of the skin by increasing collagen production.¬† All of these benefits make the skin appear healthier, and more youthful. The beauty of many of the current lasers is that they can be adjusted to the needs of the patient.¬† If someone wants a light refreshment, it is possible, or if someone needs a very deep resurfacing, it can also be done.¬† Therefore almost everyone is a candidate for this type of treatment because it can be detailed to the individual’s needs.

Many patients ask about the pain of the treatment:  All treatments are done in the office with the patient awake.  Topical anesthesia is placed on the skin and this takes the edge off, oral medication is also offered if requested.  It is not painless, but quite tolerable and the results are worth it.
Depending the severity of the settings, Recovery can be from less than 24 hrs to 1 week.  Your needs and treatment  protocol will be evaluated during your consultation. Results form the treatment are two fold.  You will see significant improvement in the softness and texture of the skin within one week.  The rebuilding of collagen due to the treatment takes a few months to appreciate.  Therefore, about 3-4 months, the skin treated will be thicker and more vibrant than before equating to a more youthful and healthier appearance.

One word of caution: Not all “Lasers” are the same.¬† The industry has exploded with “laser treatments” and many med spas, dermatologists, primary care doctors, chiropractors, etc. offer “laser” treatments.¬† Often times they are not the same thing as what has been discussed above and not true lasers. Non-ablative, radio-frequency, ultrasound, etc. treatments are frequently marketed as laser resurfacing and they are NOT.¬† Buyer beware, trust only a board certified plastic surgeon when it comes to this type of treatment.