Are brown spots and dry skin side effects of fraxel?

I had a fraxel treatment a few days ago and my skin now feels dry, tight and there are brown spots that weren’t there before. Is this normal? I never had any laser treatments so I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m not happy right now.


F, 39, Indiana

Tags:woman age 35-44 laser brown spots dry skin

This sounds like a typical early reaction to fractional CO2 laser treatment. I would suggest contacting your treating physician to make sure there are no additional instructions for post-treatment care they want you to follow.

What you describe are pretty normal reactions a few days after a Fraxel treatment. Fraxel skin resurfacing, for the uninitiated, uses pinpoint laser beams that penetrate the skin's surface to eliminate old, damaged cells. Fraxel laser treatments are great ways reduce age spots, sun spots, acne scars, and fine lines around the eyes.

The technician who performs the procedure will apply a topical anesthetic to the skin prior to treatment. The sensation of the laser pulsing is similar to that of a rubber band being snapped against the skin.

After your first session, and possibly even after subsequent sessions, you will encounter swelling and redness of the skin. Many times this will be accompanied with dry, flaking skin, while the dark spots that were treated may appear darker. This is natural. However, if you still believe there is a problem, I suggest you contact the office where the procedure was done and express your concerns.

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Swelling and redness are the most common side effects that we see following a Fraxel laser treatment. They usually subside in a few days. However, other potential side effects arising from this procedure including dry skin, minor itching, peeling/flaking, and what generally looks like sun-damaged skin in the treated area. Maybe what you are referring to as brown spots are really the sunburn or sun damage look, which slowly turns more bronze in appearance.


It’s difficult to evaluate your situation without first seeing any photos or doing a quick in-person exam, but it sounds like you’re experiencing a normal reaction to a Fraxel treatment.  Assuming the procedure was performed by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon, this would have been explained during your initial consultation, your skin would have been prepped for treatment before the first session, and you would have received a list of post-procedure instructions to follow.

You are likely scheduled to return for another procedure in a couple of weeks, as several sessions are generally required to obtain full results. I recommend contacting your physician’s office to explain the situation and see if there are any additional post-procedure regimens you can follow.

Different skin types react differently to Fraxel/fractional laser treatments and other cosmetic procedures. Some of our clients don't like what they see in the mirror the first couple of days after the treatment. I assume you followed their post-treatment instructions, like avoiding sun exposure, using a gentle cleanser on your skin, and applying the recommended aftercare cream.

The natural healing process may take awhile as the production of new collagen and elastin are needed to repair the damaged tissue. In the meantime, there will be dryness and tight spots at the treatment site, and the brown spots that were treated may actually appear darker for a few days before the old skin cells slough off.