Fractional CO2 Laser Softened My Acne Scars, But Had Downtime
Before and afters
I'm in my late-30's and had begun to see the wear and tear of life on my face. Too much sun exposure when I was younger, a little left over acne scarring from my teens, some dry skin, and the normal stresses of life seemed to add to the wrinkles and fine lines that I saw in the mirror every day.
I decided that I would treat myself to some sort of skin rejuvenation for my 40th birthday. I tried some of the more pricey, "high-quality" skin care products from the makeup counters at a few upscale department stores. Maybe the products helped to reduce some brown spots, but none did the overall job that I was looking for.
I wanted to avoid the pain, cost, and downtime of any plastic surgery, so I started to research other solutions online. Turns out there are a number of treatments to make your face look better. There are injections, like Botox, that relax facial muscles, reducing wrinkles and give you a softer look. There are injectable options, like Juvederm and Restylane, which plump up the lines and wrinkles. There are creams that contain Retin-A that stimulate the growth of new skin cells and can help reduce dark spots and the like (available by prescription). And, the list goes on.
What intrigued me most was the use of lasers, referred to as fractional lasers that are used to reduce lines and wrinkles, sun damage, age spots, skin pigmentation associated with acne scarring, and overall skin tone. Turns out that fractional laser treatments can be used on almost any part of the body – face, chest, and hands, among others.
I honed-in on a few board-certified plastic surgeons and dermatologists in my area and went for a consultation. It was explained to me that fractional laser resurfacing is a noninvasive procedure that will bring back the skin’s natural or near-natural look. It's able to target imperfections and treat microscopic areas of the skin. This leads to the treated areas of the skin blending in with the untreated areas, improving your overall look.
I was hooked. I chose the office I was most comfortable with, set up the appointment, and was ready for my first laser procedure. I want to add here that I went with a fractionated / fractional CO2 laser treatment (CO2 = carbon dioxide). Fractionated lasers are ablative lasers, but the laser only ablates (resurfaces) a fraction of the skin (unlike fully ablative CO2 lasers).
I arrived on a Thursday afternoon for my treatment. After cleansing my skin, the technician applied a numbing cream to my face. This topical anesthetic would help to numb the pain / discomfort from the procedure. After giving the anesthetic some time to do its job (about 30 minutes), and applying a gliding gel, the technician started the procedure.
I can't say that it didn't hurt. For the 30 minutes or so that I was being treated, there were times that I had no pain and other times where the pain was moderate.
After the treatment, the technician cleaned my face and applied a cream to my face to help with its recovery. There was redness and swelling of my face, and it felt like I had a sunburn. I followed the post-treatment directions closely to make sure I aided the healing process. I was told that each patient is different and that the healing time can vary. I managed the pain afterward with some ice packs, ibuprofen, and some cream that made the skin feel less tight. I was also very mindful about avoid sun exposure for quite a while.
That night, and in the immediate days afterward, my face was puffy and you could definitely tell that I had a treatment done. The skin was red and I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Even though I was told that these were normal reactions to the fractional laser treatment, I still wondered why I looked like a boiled lobster.
About 4 or 5 days after the treatment I started to notice that my skin was calming down. It was less red and the puffiness was lessening. I religiously followed the post-treatment instructions given to me by the technician, but still kept my interaction with friends at a minimum. I work from home, so there was no in-person meetings with my work colleagues.
In my case, it took me almost 2 weeks for the treated skin to heal and a new layer of healthy skin cells to appear, which is basically what I was told by the technician. There was some continued redness of the skin for up to a month after the treatment, but any discoloration I had could easily be hidden with makeup. Note: check with the technician for types of post-treatment makeup that fractional laser friendly. Other than what I mentioned above, there were no complications or strange side effects for me.
If you do work in an office, I suggest you plan on being away from work for one to two weeks. I also recommend that if you plan on having this procedure done, you do it far in advance of any major occasions, like a wedding, high school reunion, etc. That will give you enough time to completely heal from the procedure.
Now that it has been a few months since my treatment, my skin looks softer and younger looking. I can't believe the reflection in the mirror. It definitely took years off my face. People that do not know me swear that I am in my early- to mid-30's, so I definitely feel that I took a few years of wear and tear off my face. There’s a slight chance I may have to repeat the process in a few years (some people do), but for now I am following the skin care regimen I should have been adhering to for the past 20 years or so, so we’ll see. For now though, I am enjoying my "new look."