Fractional C02 Laser Resurfacing Therapy For Cystic Acne Scars
As I was scrolling through the Groupon offers available near my home in Los Angeles, California, I paused immediately when I saw a particularly enticing deal from a medical spa. They were offering Fractional C02 Laser Resurfacing Therapy for only $300 per session, which is a drastic markdown from their regular price of $800. I was already vaguely familiar with this form of laser skin resurfacing, since my struggle with severe cystic acne from my teens and into adulthood had left my cheeks and nose freckled with pockmarks and hyper-pigmentation. I’m 26 now, but only two years ago I was finishing up an aggressive 6-month course of the prescription acne medication Accutane. That was my third time taking the potentially depression and suicide-inducing drug to control my skin’s breakouts and immense oil production.
I am confident that this final round of medication (along with lifestyle changes like a plant-based diet and quitting smoking) have knocked out my acne once and for all, but with the active inflammation finally under control, I began to consider my treatment options to deal with the leftover scarring. It’s true that my pockmarks were not what one might consider “severe.” In fact, I feel quite lucky that the damage was so minimal that most people wouldn’t consciously notice it. And yet, when I look at myself in harsh light, or see photos taken from certain angles, the uneven texture of my skin can be a painful reminder of the acne that once made me feel incredibly self-conscious.
Before putting down my deposit for the laser procedure, I wanted to make sure I did my research on the facility that was offering such a deep discount on the service. The adage “you get what you pay for” rang through my ears while visions of faulty, discount laser equipment and horrible facial burns danced through my head. Thankfully, we live in the age of the internet, and a quick search on yelp.com let me know that not only was my prospective medical spa legitimate, but they also had only glowing reviews! As it turns out, they simply happen to use Groupon as their main method of marketing to new patients.
I was surprised when the spa gave me an appointment for the next morning, which was a Friday. This seemed like ideal timing, since as the esthetician on the phone explained, I would need to avoid sun exposure for several days after the laser treatment. Going out in the sun following a laser procedure can cause sun damage, because your skin's outer protective layer is damaged by the laser. With that in mind, I stocked up on magazines and groceries and prepared to hunker down for a relaxing weekend with the curtains drawn while my skin healed.
I arrived at the medi-spa and conducted a quick visual inspection of the building. While driving there, I made a commitment in the car that if anything looked unhygienic or even remotely suspicious, I would cancel the appointment. No money saving bargain was worth an entire lifetime of permanent damaged skin on my face! But everything was as clean as if it were a doctor’s office, with the welcome addition of beautiful furniture and a flat screen cable TV.
My esthetician’s name was Astrik, and she first briefly consulted with me about my acne scars. She took note of the larger pockmarks, and even pointed out some raised bumps that linger around my nose. For these marks, she did ultimately recommend the Fractional CO2 Laser Therapy that I had come in for. Astrik let me know that I would likely need multiple treatments, 6 months apart, to see my scars completely erased, but I would see the results of the single treatment gradually over the 6 months that followed the procedure. Essentially, the laser stimulates new collagen production, which causes the depressed scars to rise up and look smoother, leading to skin rejuvenation.
After reading and signing the liability waivers, Astrik applied a numbing cream to my face and left it on for about 20 minutes. It was an odd sensation to have a completely numb face, and it utterly fascinated me. I then reclined in a chair while Astrik discharged the laser across my entire face, working in sections of about 1 square inch. I had protective blackout goggles on, but the laser felt to my anesthetized skin like a very hot light, with occasional pricks of what felt like a small, white spark of static shock.
Astrik then turned up the power of the laser beam and targeted the larger scars that she had noted earlier. This part felt intense. It’s not that it hurt at all, but part of my brain seemed to recognize that one very small section of my face was getting a laser blasted at it. But before I could even get freaked out, Astrik had already hit more severe scars on my face, including around my nose.
I looked at myself in the mirror and was struck by how unusual my skin looked. Blush red, but also sort of dead and waxy. “You’re very red,” said Astrik, “and it’s going to get worse.” She applied a petroleum jelly-based ointment to the treated area, and then sold me a bottle of that very same ointment! She explained that the skin was very vulnerable, because it had no impermeable barrier to protect the bloodstream from infection. Therefore, it was important to keep the laser-treated skin coated with the ointment’s occlusive moisture to protect it and keep it from drying out.
By the time I arrived home, the redness had gotten worse, just as Astrik had warned me. I also suddenly felt very tired, which I suspect was my body’s response to the traumatic nature of this procedure. After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ, and my skin was telling my body to take a nap.
Over the next few days, my skin healed quite nicely. It began to “exfoliate” slightly, but never got the point of peeling. Initially, I could feel these strange, rough, geometric bumps on my face. They seemed to be in a perfect grid-like pattern of dots in the treatment areas, precisely where the laser hit my skin.
Astrik called me the following Monday to check in. I reported that everything was coming along nicely. She suggested I come back in about 6 months for another treatment, and reminded me I was entitled to the Groupon price for all future treatments. She predicts that three sessions would completely erase the scarring, although I would see an improvement after just one.
Six months later, and I’m extremely happy with the way the laser therapy softened the appearance of my scars. I am particularly enjoying much smaller pores on and around my nose, which used to be a real point of concern for me. I will likely be returning for another treatment, perhaps this November? That would be just in time for the Holidays.
This procedure has not only made me feel better about the appearance of my skin, it has also made me feel more confident and proud of my ability to have this procedure done. I love knowing that I can safely take steps to improve the personally important aspects of my appearance in my own time, on my own terms, and with confidence in the medical team that provides the care. I recommend the fraction C02 skin resurfacing procedure.