Not for the faint of heart, the Fraxel Laser treatment is arguably one of the most painful lasers out there. Depending on who you are, you may even be prescribed a sedative beforehand — and everyone is topically numbed first. I have a crazy-high pain tolerance (I actually prefer not to be numbed for a lot of procedures), but I even still get a bit squeamish every time I go in for my yearly treatment. Yes, it burns, baby!
But I must say this: for my skin woes — aging and sun-damage — nothing, and I mean nothing, has such a dramatic effect on my face’s overall appearance. It even beats Botox! Because I wish I had a spirit guide the first time I went through with my Fraxel (I called the doctor incessantly, panicked that the redness wouldn’t go away, that I’d always be a burn victim, and that I’d never get my visage back), I’m walking you through a day-by-day, play-by-play of what to expect. So read on, check back in during your downtime, and you won’t ever need to be on WebMD in the wee hours of the night or stalking your derm post-procedure!
When I arrived at my appointment, a provider applied numbing cream all over my face and let it sit for an hour, while I sat and wrote and caught up on life (kind of peaceful downtime!). Once that time was up, my doctor came in and promptly proceeded to go over each area with the Fraxel laser. The forehead hurts the worst, FYI, so I’d suggest getting that over with first! Your doctor will do several “passes” over each area — the truth is it gets more uncomfortable as each session layers. Just keep in mind that this treatment is over in about 5-10 minutes. Immediately after, your face will feel like it has a really bad sunburn. The doctor will apply a post-treatment cream (mine was La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5) and oodles of sunscreen. I like to take an Advil afterwards and ask for ice packs for the ride home to help with swelling and pain. Remember, with post-procedure skin care less is more — nothing with active ingredients should be applied whatsoever for at least a week. I used soothing Aloe for relief throughout the first night and day, topped with Aquaphor and sunscreen. I got lucky this time around and the entire week after I got my Fraxel, the weather was foggy. But I still piled on insane amounts of sunscreen and wore a hat when I left the house.
On the car ride home
My face still burned, and looked like I had been frying in Palm Springs poolside with a foil plate to reflect the sun. Tiny granules of dotted skin started to appear — these coffee-grind looking lesions will eventually slough off your face to reveal a new layer of fresh skin.
“Nothing, and I mean nothing, has such a dramatic effect on my face’s overall appearance as Fraxel.”
Day 2 close-up
The pain will be gone, but in exchange today is the day you’ll look most freakish. Your skin will feel tight and a bit itchy, but it’s just uncomfortable, not painful. In terms of appearance: the first day after treatment I probably could’ve gotten away with being out in public. Not on day 2! Here, you’ll see my face started to be overcome with brown sandpaper-like spots.
Day 3 close-up
A lot of the brown spots started to slough off, beginning with the center of my face. Don’t pick these! Your face needs to heal itself, and you shouldn’t attempt to speed up the process, no matter how desperate and curious you may feel. The outer edges along the hairline and jawline are always the last to look normal again. You’re probably not having a first date today, but anyone you feel comfortable telling about your procedure won’t be too weirded out.
Here, at my boyfriend’s house, I’m almost as good as new! Clearly, I felt okay seeing the world again on day 4. I’m still applying Aquaphor, Cicaplast and loads of SPF continually throughout the day. Still no makeup, though.
Looking glowy and with just a few remnants of dead skin left, I see the light! My skin is fair again and some of my fine lines and wrinkles have disappeared. Woohoo!
I’m loving life (and my face)! My skin feels as soft as a baby’s tushie and is as radiant as ever. I’m definitely vowing to never let sun on my face ever EVER again.
Day 7 – glowing!
I’m just now getting back into my regular skincare routine. Nothing harsh like exfoliants or Retinol, but I’m okay with serums and my regular moisturizer. I really do love this laser, and next year (budget willing) I’ll do my neck, décolletage, arms and hands, too.