Fractional or “pixilated” 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.
Fractional CO2 lasers excel at treating deeper wrinkles, more severe textural changes from sun damage, wrinkles, blotchiness, acne scars, and surgical or traumatic scars. It can be used on the delicate eyelid skin and around the mouth. It is also a very effective treatment for sun damage and precancerous growths (actinic keratosis). It can be used to improve texture, wrinkles, and blotchiness on the neck, chest, arms and legs.
How does the fractional CO2 laser work?
The fractional CO2 laser takes the CO2 laser beam and fractionates, or pixellates that beam into thousands of 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 aging like your general health, smoking, changes in weight, etc. If you apply sunscreen and wear brimmed hats, you can maintain the good effects of your CO2 laser treatment for several years.
When will I see results?
Bear in mind that the fractional CO2 laser can be customized. Treatments can be deeper, with more healing and downtime, or shallower, with less healing time. The deeper the treatment, the better the results generally. Most of the patients prefer to have two treatments that aren’t as deep so they can avoid a lot of downtime.
After your skin heals, which may take up to 3-14 days, there will be a period of 4 to 6 weeks after that when your skin might be slightly pink. During this period, your skin will feel smoother and looks less blotchy. As the color returns to normal, you will see fewer lines, less blotchiness, and more glow.
How are fractional CO2 laser treatments performed?
You need to arrive 1 hours before your treatment. Your face will be cleansed and numbing cream will be applied. Then you just relax, read, and listen to music, while the numbing cream takes effect.
After you get numbed for about half an hour, the numbing cream will be removed. The laser treatment takes about 10-15 minutes. You may feel the sensation of “pins and needles” during and right after the procedure. A strong stream of cold air is blown on the area during the treatment to make it comfortable. The discomfort ranges from mild to moderate (2-4/10).
Cooling mask will be applied after the procedure for 10-15 minutes for calming down of skin. Moisturizer and sunscreen will be applied immediately after the procedure before you leave.
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. Ice packs/frozen peas are used 5-10 minutes per hour for the first 5-6 hours after the treatment.
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. Allow 2-4 weeks for weddings, reunions, family pictures, etc just to be safe. Allow longer for body sites like arms or legs.
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. This may come after detailed consultation by Dr Teo.
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 (some are fine), use of Accutane in the last year (vs. 6 months), chemotherapy, history of difficulty healing or scarring, history of bleeding disorders, and pregnancy.
Are there any medical or cosmetic side effects?
The complications of fractional CO2 are rare. But here is a list of some of the possible complications of fractional CO2 laser treatments:
• Pain. Most people feel very little pain during treatment due to the measures as above. Rarely there is mild discomfort for the first day after procedure, it can be easily relieved by Panadol/Ibuprofen.
• Redness. A pink color 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.
SKIN REGERATION AFTER FRACTIONAL CO2 LASER