I had a fraxel re:pair treatment performed about...
I had a fraxel re:pair treatment performed about two weeks ago to treat severe acne scarring (primarily rolling type) by building up collagen under the skin. I am satisfied with the result as of today. For the first week, I was elated because the post-procedure swelling improved the texture of my skin a great deal. Much of that has settled by now, and the overall effect is improved compared with the appearance prior to the laser, but of course not as improved as it appeared during the post-procedure inflammation.
I've been through this before with several Fraxel Restore treatments (four, I think, between 2009 and 2012). The re:store treatments worked better than I had expected; however, I've been increasingly self-conscious as I'm aging because the skin texture has begun to decline again. It may also be important to note that I have Lyme disease and a coinfection called bartonella, which has caused skin problems all over my body. I decided to do this now as I am recovering in order to improve my confidence overall. (I did it with my doctor's blessing.)
Now to the point of this post: I had never read about what many claim to be serious long-term side effects of fraxel lasering until after I had the re:pair procedure done, and then as I was looking at more posts here, I discovered that dozens of people have complained about scarring and fat or collagen loss in their cheeks years after having had fraxel procedures done. That terrifies me. I am 37 years old and as can be seen in my "before" photo, my cheeks are my problem area and recently my cheeks have been lax and gaunt, and I have attributed this simply to the acne scarring. However, in retrospect, I don't know whether my cheeks were this severely damaged before the fraxel restore treatments. I don't have any old close-up photos from before those treatments to compare with. So now I am concerned that the more aggressive re:pair treatment may potentially do more damage in the long run than the short-term benefits are worth.
At the same time, I am very confused by these discussions. In every case here on realself in which people have stated that fraxel damaged their skin in the long run, multiple doctors have commented that that is impossible because of the superficial level of treatment. And I haven't found a single post in which people who say that they suffered significant facial fullness after years have included photos to back up their complaints. I've checked other sites and even YouTube, where there are plenty of fraxel testimonials, and I can't find any evidence. Still, the sheer number of complaints about fraxel "ruining lives" years after the procedures is compelling. If you are one of those people, please share photos to support your complaints. I've seen pictures of small pinprick scars from IPL lasers, but none of fat loss caused by fraxel.
Next question for anyone: worst-case scenario--the fraxel re:pair will cause my cheeks to improve temporarily for a year or two and then they will hollow out. (I'm really scared now.) Would any treatment at all be viable? I imagine it would take thousands of dollars of fillers to fill in entire cheek areas. Would a face lift even be a viable last resort? I'm a 37 year-old male and I did this to bring me back to life--I can't walk around with a mask or even a face full of makeup should this go wrong in the long run. I had no idea that people were claiming that fraxel caused cheek hollowness and now I feel like an idiot for not having done more research, even though I simply assumed that it is safe due to board-certified doctor recommendations, YouTube testimonials, before and after photos and even celebrities claiming they "do lasers." I thought that once the collagen has been stimulated, it would be there for good (subject to normal aging). I know that doctors will say it doesn't cause skin laxity or fat loss in the long run--that's a given based on what I've seen here--but for anyone who claims you have experienced otherwise, please post photos and show the damage you've suffered so that I can know what to expect.
I'm going to include a before and after photo of my worst cheek area in the worst light from the worst angle. It's bad. Note that this is several years after my last of several fraxel re:store treatments, and the "after" photo was taken a week after my recent fraxel re:pair. As I said, I'm content with the immediate result, but now I'm afraid of what may happen in the long run.
Six Months Later, HD Photos, Considering Dermal Fillers...
18 Feb 2016
6 months post
Hi, all. Thank you for your comments. I had no idea anyone had replied or else I would have followed up sooner. (I don't get notifications in my email when people reply, but I'll try to turn on that feature of it's available...)
I'll try to be briefish. My scarring has improved, although I do have some hypo pigmentation and little raised dots now, presumably because of the laser treatment. That's ok; my self-consciousness always has been my acne scarring, and any improvement in that respect makes me more confident.
HOWEVER, I just had to have new staff photos taken by a professional photographer for work, and through some great mystery of life, his photos make me look about ten years older and far bumpier than my own carefully orchestrated iPhone selfies, which I prefer to imagine I look like in real life. :) Seeing these ultra-HD pictures was a bit of a shock--admittedly partially because of how old I look (I'm almost 40; it happens. I don't care much, but not looking at myself objectively often, it's a shock to see "me" as "that aging guy.") and in large part because of the skin texture that makes me so self-conscious, even when illuminated in relatively flattering light.
So here's where I am now: last summer, my doctor recommended Fraxel Re:Pair followed by an injectable filler (Belotero, I think?) that she said will distribute evenly. I scheduled an appointment in late July to have the procedure done but came down with the flu and a 103.5 fever the day before, so I had to cancel. Now I have photos that I can offer up for public opinion.
Looking at this close-up, can anyone comment on whether fillers would be a good option to even out my skin texture? I have a mix of gravelly bumps on both cheeks and my chin and a big, lax skin fold on my right cheek. I know my face doesn't (always) scare small children, but I nevertheless feel like a monster on my most self-conscious days.
Two concerns about fillers: First is cosmetic. As I age, I'm noticing that I'm looking more and more like my older male relatives (duh), and my head is appearing overalls rounder and fuller (think Carroll O'Connor) than it used to. So if I inject volume into my face, I'm a little concerned I might end up like some reality television stars who to me look like their faces have been stung by a thousand bees and are chronically inflamed. Is my face too round (and chin too short) to make it even wider with fillers? I also have a very large forehead, with most of my features on the lower half of my face, which could lend to a pretty goofy outcome, or at least in my imagination.
My second concern is medical--so doctors, please weigh in if you can. I have Lyme disease, along with bartonella (a variant species of the one that causes "cat scratch fever," and which has left my skin marred all over) and babesia, a malaria-like parasite. These infections are very prevalent but not widely known or understood, and they cause immune system dysfunction with a lot of inflammation, hives, and too much to discuss here. The most common misconception is that Lyme can be easily cured with 28 days of doxycycline, but that's not true (or even close) in the case of late-stage persistent multi-systemic Lyme infections. So I'm wondering about the safety of injecting fillers...I think the natural acid should be OK (?), but I don't think I am willing to risk synthetic fillers. I doubt many cosmetic surgeons know much about Lyme--because why would they, beyond the basics?--but on the off chance, any input would be appreciated.
Trying Belotero Balance Dermal Filler
26 Feb 2016
6 months post
So I need to feel more confident and I decided to try out a dermal filler, finally. Here are before-and-after photos, in unflattering and slightly more flattering lighting.