Plastic surgeons, cosmetic dermatologists, medical spas and patients will be hearing an increasing amount about fractional skin resurfacing technologies like ActiveFX, DeepFX, Starlux 1540, Starlux 2940, and Fraxel Repair.
A small bit of history surrounding fractional laser treatments and C02 laser ablation treatments provide a place to start when looking at what’s here in cosmetic medicine regarding fractional treatments, and what’s coming next.
Fractional Laser Skin Resurfacing History
Fraxel was the first non ablative fractional laser for the cosmetic medical market. From the beginning it’s been upgraded and has been improved on by a number of other competing fractional laser skin resurfacing technologies including the DeepFX and ActiveFX from Lumenis, the Starlux 1540, and Starlux 2940 from Palomar Medical.
Fractional skin resurfacing is new area of cosmetic medicine that intersects cosmetic dermatology and traditional plastic surgery. Advances in these types of cosmetic medical technologies are occurring frequently and are fueled by an aging population of patients. The benefit for these patients is a rapid increase in the effectiveness of fractional laser treatments and less down time and potential side effects.
Fractional laser technologies new applications are expanding into associated cosmetic areas like skin tightening where fractional treatments compete with radio frequency treatments like Thermage, and eventually into fat and cellulite treatments and removal.
The revolutionary cosmetic medical advance in 1995, full face CO2 Laser Resurfacing to treat wrinkles using the Ultra pulse CO2 laser, now relates poorly when faced with the new fractional laser technologies and although the wrinkle removal results for the time were fantastic, CO2 laser resurfacing created a very traumatic “burn wound” that literally vaporized the top layers of the skin that took many months of recovery in addition to the need for general anesthesia and the extra problem of the skin turning white with hypo pigmentation as the pigment cells were destroyed. Because of the side effects, few patients choose this procedure.
The Newest Fractional Skin Resurfacing & Rejuvenation Technologies
Now, cosmetic Fractional Skin Rejuvenation or Fractional Laser Skin Resurfacing has evolved and eliminated many of the previous technologies shortcomings. The new erbium lasers are ‘fractionated’ into tiny micro-lasers, treating only a small portion of the skin (think tiny pin pricks) and leaving surrounding skin completely intact, greatly improving healing times.
The ‘fractionated’ treatment areas called micro-treatment zones, cause enough injury to the skin to trigger new collagen production and is used to replace collagen damaged by aging and sun exposure. The new collagen that is produced ‘fills in’ or ‘plumps up’ the underlying tissue and smoothes out skin wrinkles. The untreated skin between the micro treatment zones speeds the healing process to a mere 3-4 days and leaves most of the pigment cells intact, preventing hypo pigmentation.
Starlux 1540: Palomars New Fractional Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing Technology
The Fraxel and Starlux 1540 are new non-ablative lasers (ablate means to “surgically remove) which means that the skin is not removed by the laser. Instead, the laser instantly heats the skin, causing new collagen growth.
Results for wrinkle removal and skin tightening are less dramatic than with ablative lasers, but the benefit of reduced recovery time and fewer side effects are mean that non ablative laser treatments are often the patients first choice.
Starlux 2940: Fractional Ablative Laser Resurfacings Future
New fractional ablative lasers have recently been developed that provide the benefits of fractional treatments (less down time and reduced complications) as well as the benefits of ablative skin resurfacing (better wrinkle removal and facial rejuvenation).
These newer fractional ablative lasers remove tissue in the micro treatment zone instead of just heating the dermis like the old Fraxel or Starlux 1540.
The benefit of this new form of fractional laser ablation is that more wrinkled, sun damaged skin is removed than with the older laser technologies, and a better cosmetic result is attained. There is some increase in recovery time with redness and pink skin for around 5-6 days. The Starlux fractional ablative lasers still require much less recovery time than the old non fractional erbium and CO2 ablative lasers which actually burned off the top layers of the dermis.
Starlux 2940: Competing Fractional Laser Technologies
The Sciton BBL IPL & Laser Platform
Reliant: (the company that makes Fraxel) CO2 fractional laser called Repair
Lumenis: CO2 fractional ablative lasers called ActiveFX & DeepFx
Palomar: Starlux 2940 Erbium fractional ablative skin resurfacing laser.
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