What's the Difference Between Fractional and Yag Laser?

I have ice pick acne scars. I went for a free consultation and they said I would receive Fractional laser therapy.

Later on I went to their website and noticed they are using the 1064nm ND: YAG laser. It does not mention anything about Fractional. I would like to know the difference between Fractional and the 1064nm ND: YAG laser or if it's the same thing. Also, how effective is Yag Laser for acne scars?

Doctor Answers 2

Fractional vs. 1064 Lasers

Hello Shei2i,

The question you are asking has to do with two different apsects of lasers. The first, the "fractional" technology has to do with the pattern of the laser beam. In fractional technology, the beam of light is split into thousands of microbeams. In this manner, the laser treatment typically does not effect the whole face, but rather a small %. The goal behind fractional technology was to create a resurfacing technique that had similar or like results as traditional CO2 and Erbium laser resurfacing without the redness, peeling and extended recovery. Whether the technology has accomplished this is open to debate, but essentially the Fraxel and others like it were developed for those patients with an appetite for traditional laser resurfacing but with less downtime.

The 1064 Nd:Yg laser is a particular type of laser, rather than a particular type of beam technology. The 1064 wavelength comes in two varieties we know of, q-switched and long pulsed. The Q-switched 1064 lasers are most often used for pigmented lesions such as tattoos, sun spots, freckles, etc. although some manufacturers do have an FDA approval for wrinkles & collagen stimulation. The other type of 1064 laser is a long pulsed 1064. Within this category there are several different laser manufacturers but this type of laser is most often used for leg veins and hair removal (dark skin types). But some of these machines do have FDA approved indications for wrinkles and collagen stimulation.

To sumamrize, the short answer to your question is that the fractional technology and the 1064 wavelength are different because one represents a beam splitting technology and the other represents a specific type of laser. Fractional technology is used for 1550, 2790, 2940 and 10,600 wavelengths, which are all different types of lasers and all different from the 1064. We do use our q-switched 1064 laser for acne scars but more often for dark acne scars (dark skin types) and for mild textured acne scars. If the scars are more severe (ice pick), you may want to consider fractional technology like the Fraxel or even Erbium or CO2 resurfacing.

Hope this helps.

Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Fractional vs YAG Laser

The word "fractional" in terms of laser simply means that the laser is applied in multiple beams of light energy directed in a small area so the laser "drill" columns of holes into the region leaving areas of healthy skin to help promote faster healing. Typically for moderate-severe, or severe acne scar resurfacing, you want "ablative" lasers to superficially smooth the surface irregularity so the skin appears more even.  To my knowledge, there are only two types of ablative laser for this purpose:  Fractional CO2 laser at 10600nm, and Fractional ERB:YAG, or erbium laser at 2940nm.  YAG lasers is a general term and includes ND:YAG, ERB:YAG, and others like the long pulse 1064nm ND:YAG which is mostly used for leg veins.  When you speak to your provider, make sure they know their laser in terms of nanometer (nm) because that is what truly dictates effectiveness.  ERB:YAG or erbium:YAG lasers at 2940nm can be applied in a fractional mode and achieve "ablation" which is what you want.  To be honest, 1064nm ND:YAG is not a true "ablation" laser and not used commonly for scar resurfacing.

Johnny Mao, MD, FACS
Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.