Smartskin CO2 Fractional Ablative Laser Resurfacing Review
I will start by saying that despite some of the reviews and advertising out there, this is a serious procedure that can do much more than simply leave you looking as if you have “sunburn”. The procedure and recovery time are of course, much better than with traditional CO2 resurfacing. There are also many types of lasers out there, and the aggressiveness of the treatment will vary depending on your doctor, and the skin condition you´re treating. As a result, the reviews are varied. My advice is to obtain as much information as possible from your doctor´s office about what your specific recovery will be like prior to deciding to go through with this procedure.
I have been considering some form of laser resurfacing to treat what I consider to be severe acne scarring that I have had for almost 20 years (since my late teens / early twenties). I have tried other, easier, more superficial treatments (including prescription products, glycolic peels, and a series of microdermabrasion treatments) and nothing really made a difference. I have put off laser resurfacing for several reasons: It’s expensive, it does involve down time no matter what type of treatment you have, I was a bit afraid of the pain and discomfort, and mostly I was fearful of spending money, and experiencing discomfort, and in the end being disappointed with the results.
After going to several consultations, and always leaving thinking that I would not follow through with the procedure, I found a dermatology and cosmetic surgery center that I really felt I could trust. I had my first full face CO2 laser treatment at the beginning of February, 2013. My doctor´s office fully prepared me for what to expect before, during, and after the procedure, which I so much appreciated. It was recommended that I have multiple treatments for optimal results. I have not yet decided how many treatments I will end up having. That will depend on how pleased I am with the results of each treatment and how strongly I feel it is worthwhile to have additional treatments. Time will tell.
Here is my review of the first procedure:
The procedure: The procedure itself was a bit more painful than I was expecting it to be, despite the preparation I received from the medical staff. It’s hard to imagine pain in advance. I was prescribed antivirals and antibiotics to use before and after the procedure. I was also prescribed a water pill (for swelling), Ativan (for anxiety), and Vicodin (for pain) the day of the procedure. I have a very low tolerance for pain medications and have had bad experiences with them in the past. I did not take the Ativan, but the nurse talked me into taking half of the Vicodin, and although it did make me sick in the end, I´m glad she did. They applied a topical numbing cream to my face for about 40 minutes and I was then given a LOT of injections on my face to numb me further. Some of the injections felt OK and others were quite painful, but the process was relatively quick. The laser treatment itself was painful at times. Some areas numbed very well , but other areas were very painful, such as around my lips and especially around my eyes. The PA informed me that I could ask for a break if I needed one and she did a good job of telling me where she would be working and exactly what to expect. She gave me items to squeeze which at first I thought was strange, but in the end I realized were very helpful. She did two passes over my whole face and then an extra pass (3 total) over the areas with the most scarring.
Day 1: Immediately after the procedure my face felt very hot and was throbbing. I was very shaky, but otherwise I was ok. My face was so numb that I really could not move my mouth very well to speak. For the first two hours this is how I felt. Hot, throbbing, and uncomfortable. It also felt a bit weird while the numbing faded. After 3 hours, I actually felt much better - no real pain - and it remained this way until night time. I applied cold, wet, washcloths to my face and then applied an ointment to my face. I did this about every 2 hours throughout the first day. The doctor´s office provided me with a post op healing kit that contained a gentle cleanser, a serum, and the ointment. It was a bit pricey, but in my opinion worth every penny. Throughout the day and evening, my face became increasingly swollen and I had increased spots of pinpoint bleeding, but I knew this was normal. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night I woke up feeling very lightheaded and nauseous (I´m sure from the half a Vicodin I had taken) and got sick twice, which with the condition of my face, was a really unpleasant experience. Not a very good night.
Day 2: When I woke up in the morning my face looked and felt very disgusting! There was oozing and crusting and bloody spots and I was a little more swollen. I was allowed to wash my face (which was a really gross experience by the way) and after washing, applying the serum, and then the ointment, it looked and felt much better. I went in to the doctor´s office the morning of Day 2 for them to just check on me and to sit under an infrared light, which is supposed to help with healing (not sure it helped, but who knows). They said I looked better than what they would have expected, which made me feel very relieved. For the rest of the day, my face became increasingly red (very dark red, like a kidney bean) and the swelling continued to increase and increase and increase, but I felt pretty OK under the circumstances. I continued using wet washcloths dipped in cold water with some ice cubes and a little vinegar. I also placed a small pack of ice on top of the washcloths. I did this about every two hours, then went through the face washing, serum, and ointment routine. I did this throughout the day. I felt OK until it was almost time for bed and then the itching became pretty bad. It was definitely better than pain (and also was expected) but I hardly got any sleep that night due to the severe itching. I decided not to even try to sleep – I read and watched Netfix and dozed when I could. It wasn’t so bad.
Day 3: I was in much better shape in the morning. My face was still dark red and very itchy, but the swelling had begun to lessen a little and I began to feel like a normal human being again, even if I didn´t yet look like one! The main issue on Day 3 was the continued itching!!! I continued my washcloth, face washing, ointment routine throughout the day. In the evening some of the dead skin began to come off very easily during the washing routine, which was great. The itching intensified even more at this point. Unfortunately, I had another almost completely sleepless night as a result. I think at this point I had slept an average of 4 hours per night since I had the procedure. I still hadn’t taken anything at all (not even over the counter medications). I probably should have tried Benadryl.
Day 4: Once again, I woke up feeling and looking a bit better. The swelling had gone down even more. Throughout the day, more and more skin came off each time I washed. By the end of the day it was about 95% gone and I had brand new and very red (like almost cherry red) skin. I used a new serum included in my post op kit this evening. This serum seemed to soothe the itching a bit. The itching was still present, but it was fortunately less intense than yesterday. My husband went out and picked up some Benadryl for me, which I took about an hour before bed. It helped and I should have done this 2 days earlier. I finally got a decent night’s sleep!
Day 5: I woke up so much better and in a great mood today, because I could tell the healing process was well underway. I also think the good night’s sleep helped a lot. I had planned to return to work this afternoon, but unfortunately this really wasn’t possible. My face was still too swollen, so I decided to reschedule my appointments. By the afternoon 100% of the dead skin had come off. By the evening, the swelling appeared to have reduced quite a bit and the shape of my normal face was actually visible again!!! The skin was still so red, which I knew was normal.
Ahhhhh……I felt and looked almost just like me again. I was so relieved and my mood was wonderful at this point. My face was still itchy. I still used the ointment during the day while working from home and still washed every few hours (it just makes it feel better). In the afternoon, I changed to regular moisturizer, used my post op make up and WOW…..I was so happy with how I looked that I actually cried. I don’t know if it’s just because I had been so hideous looking for the last week or if the results really were impressive, but I was really happy with what I saw. I was able to work and although I know I still looked a bit odd (still a little swollen and my face wasn’t moving quite right yet, especially if I smiled), but no one seemed to notice. I used regular moisturizer this evening and slept soooooooo well and appreciated my night of sleep so, so much!
Finally I look like I have a sunburn (albeit a bad one) and my cheeks are still a bit swollen, but otherwise I’m back to normal. Using my soap, serum, and normal moisturizer. Still washing every few hours to help soothe the itching (which is still present but very much improved). Back to work and to my normal routine.
I felt a little bit disappointed with the results at this point since the swelling had completely gone down and, of course, the swelling had made the skin appear smoother. However, I took some pictures and compared them to my “before” pictures and I definitely can’t complain. The results are visible and at this point I feel very strongly that the procedure was worthwhile.
I now feel the results I see are the final results, since there is definitely no swelling left. I am pleased with the results and scheduled my second procedure for the first week of April. The second procedure will focus only on the most scarred areas, not the entire face. This is mostly to save a little money, and also I don’t know that it’s necessary to do the entire face again. I’m taking things one procedure at a time and will make decisions about future procedures as I go.
I have days when I feel a bit disappointed with the appearance of my face, and days when I feel the difference is truly wonderful. I still feel the procedure was worthwhile. My face overall is smoother and tighter. The scars are all still there but since the skin is smoother and tighter, they are less noticeable and almost look a little blurred. I have gotten a lot of compliments and people who do not know what I´ve done have asked what I´m doing differently. Several people have asked if I have changed my make up, which actually makes me feel good since I am wearing much less makeup now than before I had the procedure. I am satisfied enough to feel that this procedures was worth the discomfort, the time off from work, and the money spent. I plan to continue with the second procedue in a couple of weeks.
First I want to thank those that provided reviews and helpful information on this site! I’m not sure I would have decided to go through with this procedure without those reviews, and I’m glad I did. Some of the tips (like the vinegar and water) I learned from this site and these tips were so helpful. The following are the things that really helped me get through this procedure:
Wet washcloths (a lot of them), ice, and vinegar
Cloth Headbands to keep the hair off of my face (and prevent it from getting too greasy from all the ointment).
Sterile gauze, which I would use to dab my face for the itching (you really want to avoid touching your face while it’s healing, and while the skin is so new).
Benadryl!!!! (next time I will start using it on the night of Day 2)
The post op kit from my doctor’s office – fantastic!
Good lip balm
Saline eye drops (my eyes got so dry, especially overnight).
Plain, fresh, low sodium foods and lots of liquids (to help reduce swelling)
Most importantly, it helps if you try to avoid scrutinizing your face on a daily basis! My face would change so, so much in the course of just a few hours. Over the course of a few weeks I went from looking horrible, to looking great, to seeing actual results (which are very good overall but not as good as the first couple of weeks after the procedure when my skin was stil so new and a little swollen). I tried very hard not to look too closely or to compare before and after pictures until at least 2 weeks passed, but it was hard. I am now 6 weeks post procedure and can say that for me, the ¨real¨ results were not evident until about 30 days after the procedure. Since then, my face has remained the same.
I am not posting pictures, but am willing to share them directly with others who message me. I am also willing to share my doctor’s name if asked. I will also do my best to post additional updates in the future. So many people post reviews of the few weeks after the first procedure and then don’t follow up. It would be great to hear from people 6 months or a year afterwards – I will do my best!