Fraxel for Sensitive-Skinned Souls - Tacoma, WA
- updated 8 months ago
My Fraxel journey has had its challenges, and I'm...
- 25 Feb 2013
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...
- 4 Apr 2013
Through my primary care doc