Fraxel for Sensitive-Skinned Souls - Tacoma, WA

My Fraxel journey has had its challenges, and I'm...

My Fraxel journey has had its challenges, and I'm not close to through yet, but I thought I would post here in case my experience is helpful to others. My motivation to get Fraxel is that at 38, my ultrafair skin is starting to show too many signs of aging, plus I have actinic keratosis which seems to get markedly worse with each year. I also have acne scarring from hormonal acne around my face, and a couple of scars leftover from chicken pox when I was a baby. I decided to go for the full-face Fraxel. Some background: I have dark reddish blonde hair, freckles, blue-green eyes, and VERY sensitive skin. I basically look like a Viking girl - I'm about 70% Irish/Scandanavian. I have some other skin issues like hand eczema and skin allergies.

The Fraxel procedure sounded like what I heard from most others. I took a Vicodin before, so that helped - I honestly can't believe they don't prescribe that AND a Valium for those who want it. Luckily I had some Vicodin leftover from another procedure and they said it was o.k. to take, but I really wish I'd had the Valium too. Don't take aspirin, though -luckily I didn't, because they said the one before me did and apparently she bled like crazy and it made it more difficult. As for me, I got my lidocaine, and they said my skin had a pretty normal response to the procedure. It sucked, but it wasn't unbearable (not nearly as bad as lazer tattoo removal for a deeply shaded tattoo, for those who've had that. Now THAT feels like sizzling bacon grease being poured on your body.). The pain levels, with Vicodin, were worse than "a rubber band snapping" -- it was more like a bad Indian burn, except it was complete with the smell of my own burning skin - delightful! Plus it SOUNDS awful: Like a tiny chainsaw on your face. The worst part for me was that my provider - a resident under my plastic surgeon- didn't always let me know what she was doing and she startled me several times by suddenly changing positions, which I didn't like. She also sounded impatient with me when I flinched as a result of that, saying tersely, "Keep still!" Doctors, I know it's annoying when we move, but trust me, I was doing my very very best to be still and calm. It is so important to speak compassionately to patients while we are getting this done, especially for the first time. We are scared and in pain - just be extra gentle. e.g. "Oh, was that a bad one? I'm sorry I startled you with that.. you're doing great! Just please try not to move, okay?" would've been so much nicer. But she wasn't that bad. Also, the nurse who prepped me didn't adequately put the lidocaine topical numbing agent around my nose, mouth, and the edges of my face, so those hurt more. I found the area right by my ears to be incredibly sensitive -- I wanted to jump off the table but somehow steeled myself. As it was, I really impressed myself by not crying at all, and by keeping expletives G-rated - "Oh Mother of Pearl!" and "Ouch -Dang it all to Heck!" The assistants in the room were fantastic - they kept me distracted with funny stories and asking me about recent vacations, to remind me of things I find happy and relaxing. I love them!

When I got done, they smeared me up with Aquaphor and bandages, but I took a peek in the mirror first. It looked like someone had taken raspberry jam - complete with seeds, and smeared it over my full face. Really disturbing. When I left, I put on a hoodie as they'd suggested but DUH - I didn't even think that it should be a ZIP-UP! In fact, I'm ordering myself an ultraplush, extra large zip up hoodie after I get done with this post as a reward for undergoing this ordeal. They put bandages on me, but I wasn't prepared for how many people were staring at me as I left! My doctor's location is in a larger hospital and people were just kinda lame. I couldn't wear the big glasses or scarf I'd planned - too much risk of contamination.

The first few hours were TERRIBLE! I took two more Vicodins and they did nothing. I felt like my skin was being held down on a griddle. I started doing my regular diluted ice-water and vinegar soaks. Let me tell you, that washcloth was the only thing that made me feel better. If you're doing vinegar soaks as recovery, have a nice clean stack of washcloths and towels ready. I also recommend having hand sanitizer near and if you have someone who can run errands for you, that's great too. I could NOT leave the house the day of or the second day.

In between vinegar soaks, I put on Aquaphor. This process is truly disgusting. I recommend using a wooden tongue depressor to get the product out of the container so you don't contaminate the ointment. Every time I'd put some on, I could feel scabs moving under my fingers. Gross gross gross. But after each vinegar soak, I would see more gore come off on the washcloth and slightly improved skin - every single time I did it. It was definitely motivating to see that.

Day 2 was pretty disgusting but not painful. The scabs were steadily coming off and I could see pretty pink skin underneath. Hope started to build that I would not look like a character from The Walking Dead soon. Day 2 and 3, I had a huge red/black mark under one eye that looked like a port wine birthmark or a black eye. Broken blood vessel, possibly?

The third day was TERRIBLE! I woke up to numerous small whitehead-like pustules, which I suppose are the milia I've seen other people post about. But I also had red bumps, and I started itching so bad that I thought I'd go nuts. The texture of my skin was like a coarse sandpaper. The nurse called me back right away and said she'd talked to him and it sounded like I was having a bad allergic reaction to the Aquaphor. It's an occlusive ointment, meaning it doesn't let your skin breathe, which can cause the blemishes. But the insane itching was probably a reaction to one of the ingredients in Aquaphor: maybe the lanolin, but who knows. The nurse suggested taking benadryl, increasing vinegar soaks to get the Aquaphor off, and trying a little bit of hydrocortisone. Well, that helped but the hydrocortisone itself made me intollerably itchy too. So I went for awhile without lubricant, and when my skin started feeling tight, I tried Cerave moisturizing cream, which was much better and contains humectants as well as emoillients. I've been alternating between that, and Cetaphil Restoraderm, which is specially formulated for eczema and atopic dermatitis. I figured if it doesn't irritate eczema it's a pretty safe bet. Between increasing ice and vinegar soaks and taking benadryl, I managed to get the itch down to a dull roar, and left the house briefly to walk the dogs after the sun set.

Yesterday (day 4), my skin looked much better -- all scabs gone and all whiteheads gone. Unfortunately, I still had about a half dozen large pimples that felt sore and gross. But I just look like one of those women with a ruddy, sunburned complexion.I needed to make a trip to the drugstore and get a few things, and I actually took my dogs to an empty playground to throw their ball. I didn't notice anyone staring at me or anything.

Today (day 5) my skin is looking better and better. I'm still very red and itchy (though not as bad as day 3). I still have little bits of peeling skin but most of my skin texture. Unfortunately, I still have big ugly pimples. I hope they don't scar. I am going to attach some pics from today --I'm sorry I didn't take pics throughout the process - I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I barely even wanted to look in the mirror. The pics aren't great but show some of my skin's condition. For those of you wondering when you can go back to work, if I really had to, I couldn't gone back on day 4, but I'm so glad I was able to take some time off/work from home. I'm not allowed to wear make-up and I just don't really want to go in with my glorious zits to my rather public job.

I will try to update this post as time goes by. I'm planning to do 2 more Fraxel treatments but I'll know better when I go in for my follow up in 4-6 weeks.

My results look great so far! I'm about 45 days...

My results look great so far! I'm about 45 days out, and I've healed up well. It continues to amaze me how my skin keeps looking better with time. The lines in my forehead are less noticeable, and I feel like the quality of the skin tone in general looks a lot better. I still have some fairly large pores here and there, and the acne and pox scars (mostly trough/depressions) are still there, but they are improved and less noticeable. My age spots/hyperpigmentation is better, though a couple bad areas remain. I definitely want to have a second and possibly third round. I will try to post some pics.
Name not provided

Through my primary care doc

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Comments (10)

I just had my 4th treatment of fraxel, started in December 2012. I see my skin's texture improved, but my melasma is about the same. I am not sure what level they use on me. they did not even tell me there are different levels. I use Hydroquinon for a long time, now I am taking a holiday from it and started on dermamelan fading cream. one thing I don't like is the coloring in the cream, like I am wearing make-up, it is also drying. Like toybox23, I am a man, I don't want to look rediculous, it is bad enough to have melasma pigment, now, I have to put on this cream. well, hopefully this will help. Fraxel is probably better for skin texture and wrinkles, but hyperpigmentation, not sure, but I bought the package, I have 2 more times to go, I am going to use LoveMede to discribe this, like a garden, eventually, it will grow into a beautiful one. will let you guys know about the effectiveness of this cream in few weeks.
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Hello I live in Tacoma WA also and would like to know where you got your procedure done at. Thanks
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MAMC- military and dependents only.
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I wrote this long response to your post and puff it was gone. Loved your comical descriptions of the procedure!!! I had my first Fraxel done yesterday and so far all completely tolerable. My face is just red and puffy this morning. No scabs. Icing and Aquaphor and taking Prednisone for a couple days.
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Don't you hate when your thoughtful, brilliant post just disappears like that! I'm assuming I must have gotten a more intense Fraxel, but how lame am I- I didn't even find out what kind of laser it was. I will definitely ask my doctor the next time I see him. I'm so happy for that you're not suffering! However, be careful with that prednisone! Hopefully it's a low dose. I've had to take it for asthma from time to time, and it makes me swell up like a water balloon. I'm still fighting to lose 5 pounds of the 10 pound weight gain prednisone seems to have caused in early December when I got bronchitis. Not to freak you out - just saying to eat carefully while you recover. :) Keep me posted on how it goes for you! I'm interested to see if people feel like it was worth it and it made a difference.
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Hey many many congratulations of having done it finally! Good to know that you are so far so good with it! I myself had a fraxel Re;store treatment last monday. I really dont know how the results are gonna be as it depends on person to person. One thing i would like to ask you that what advice did your doctor tell you about the sunscreen. I wear it in the morning,reapply after 5 hours and then wash it off after the sunset. Is it good enough? Or i am i need to apply it a little more frequently and till late? i am using Vichy's spf 50 microfluid sunscreen. Also,how much improvement did your doctor tell you for the acne scars and hyperpigmentation issues on your face? I got it done for the same reasons with me.Thanks.
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Thanks for commenting on my post! Re results: obviously I don't see a lot yet, though I'd swear my wrinkles are improved. I'm told full results won't be visible for weeks/months because the collagen production takes time. I view it like a garden. You aerate a garden and it looks worse for awhile. But weeks later, your plants are visibly improved and healthier. So I wait to see. My doc said that this will be great on fine wrinkles and superficial scars and I can expect improvement after just one session, but that for my hyper pigmentation and deeper scars, I'm going to probably need three treatments for a big improvement. Re sunblock, I haven't been out in the sun hardly at all so far. Dr said to avoid if possible for a week and definitely at least the first three days. When I go out, I'm to wear at least a 30 SPF. I plan on using Cerave AM. I think your plan sounds great! The climate here is not sunny so I'd probably be ok with one application! But I'm supposed to still do my soaks 4-6 times a day, so I suppose I will have to reapply after. :) hey, what moisturizer did you use right after the treatment? Have you switched back to your regular moisturizer? Are you using makeup and if so, how is that going and what are you using to remove it? Sorry for all the questions! Thanks for being my few FF (Fraxel friend)!
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Oh, and congrats on getting through your procedure! How is your skin doing?
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Lol..haha. yeah..so many questions! but i will be more than happy to answer! And i very much like your garden example. :) Yes,being a doctor myself(unfortunately not a dermatologist.lol) i know it does take time to build in collagen but as it was my first sitting,i am feeling anxious of the results. Re moisturizer, i have a way too oily skin so i did not really need an exclusive moisturizer for that as it could clog the pores and lead to more breakouts. But yes,as i am of Indian origin, i was given carofit ultra cream to be applied at night as it has kojic acid,arbutin and lactic acid.Kojic acid and Arbutin helps in preventing post inflammatory hyper pigmentation while Lactic acid has a mild moisturizing effect. But you can use cetaphil moisturizer. It really helps,you can google it and see for the reviews yourself. And as i am a male,using make up will make me look like a holloween. lol but you can use cetaphil face wash,it really helps to remove all the sunscreen,dirt and even make up. Hope it helps. Happy to meet you. If you have any more queries,do let me know! Keep us updated! All the best:)
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Thanks a lot.. though i have not seen much improvement yet. I will surely keep you updated. Please let me know of your Fraxel settings too. My settings were 60-4-8. I feel,the dermatologist kept it safe with me on the density level(which was 4 in my case),though i dont know the percentage of area covered with level 4 but i have seen people saying here that they were kept on density level of 7,8 etc in the very first sitting itself!.
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