How Fractional Resurfacing Is Performed

Fractional Resurfacing is also known as Fractional Laser Resurfacing or Fractional Thermolysis. Commercially introduced in 2003, this method of skin rejuvenation is an innovative way of reducing marks left by acne or wrinkle lines caused by aging, melasma, freckles, age spots and more. Some of the Fractional laser system brands commonly used are Pixel 2940, Palomar Starlux 1540, Active Fx, Fraxel, Pearl Laser, Juvia and Affirm.

The Technique behind Fractional Resurfacing

Fractional Resurfacing, unlike other laser resurfacing procedures, targets only specific microscopic zones or areas, thus the term fractional. The lasers, instead of beaming full blast on one major area, are split apart into tiny pinpoints of lights or light fractions, almost comparable to correcting a digital image pixel by pixel. The micro beams reach both the dermis and the epidermis, producing thermal damage. The tissues in these microscopic zones are heat treated almost similar to a controlled sunburn, and are essentially damaged to expose the new skin. The body's natural healing response is to produce new collagen and replace the damaged skin surfaces with a new epidermal skin. The untreated surrounding tissues are left undamaged. These untreated tissues will also help in producing newer cells. By using this technique, intense energy can be applied with lesser risk and faster recovery time compared to other laser procedures. With the new cells, the skin's texture and appearance will improve noticeably.


The treatment is not allowed for people with skin sensitivity to light and an ongoing infection on the area to be treated. It is also not allowed for people who have used oral retinoids in the past 12 months or have used a topical cream with retinol in the past 2 weeks. People with darker skin tones require further evaluation due to reports of hyper pigmentation post treatment. The time in between treatment sessions is also longer, usually 4 weeks apart. The safety of the treatment to pregnant or breastfeeding women has not been established.

Treatment Process

The pain associated with the treatment process varies from person to person. Some reported mild prickling or a burning sensation, while some reported intolerable pain. An aesthetic topical cream is usually used to reduce this discomfort.

The need for gels, cooling systems and other solutions is dependent on the laser system used. Generally, the treatment takes approximately 30 minutes.

Side Effects

Common side effects are redness and swelling of the treated area 1 to 2 hours following Fractional Resurfacing. This is similar to a sunburn sensation and may last for 2 to 3 days. Flaking or peeling may occur within 4 to 7 days. Use of moisturizer may be able to mask the flaking. A bronzed appearance due to pigmentation may also occur for 3 to 14 days, depending on the skin type and treatment. On some patients, there have been reports of infection and scarring.

There are several laser systems available for Fractional Resurfacing. Each system is reported to have different effects. It is advisable to research and compare the laser systems and determine the one that will be right for you.

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