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Fractional Skin Resurfacing - A Better Way to Remove Scars?

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Fractional Skin Resurfacing - A Better Way to Remove Scars?

December 03, 2009

By Lisa Merolla for Body1

Technology to improve the appearance of unsightly scars is constantly evolving. The options range from dermabrasion to chemical peels to laser removal – but the most effective procedures often require more recovery time.

Fractional skin resurfacing, one emerging laser method, might help change that. It effectively minimizes the appearance of skin conditions such as scars, warts and wrinkles, and it does so in a way that requires less downtime time than traditional laser technologies.

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Help with Scars:
  • Your best option is to stop scars before the form. Treat cuts with Neosporin and keep them covered until new skin begins to grow.
  • Once new skin has grown, massage the area to break down forming collagen bonds. Also be sure to protect the area from sun exposure.
  • If you’re looking to remove an old scar, the first step is to speak with a dermatologist. There are many treatment options and the most effective will vary depending on your case.
  • While treatments can greatly improve the appearance of a scar,  be aware that all scars may not be completely erased.
  • Before the development of fractional resurfacing, lasers affected an entire area of skin. The treatments were either ablative or non-ablative. Ablative treatments use an intense laser beam to completely vaporize the top layer of skin. Both the epidermis and dermis tissue is removed, allowing new, healthy skin to take its place. While effective, the method requires a long recovery period; a patient’s skin can stay red and swollen for weeks or months.

    In contrast, non-ablative treatments do not remove any tissue. These lasers instead coagulate the epidermal and dermal layers, stimulating the body’s natural healing process to remove the original tissue and replace it with healthy skin. Non-ablative treatments allow for a quick recovery, but their effectiveness is limited. Patients often need four or five treatments to get the desired results.  

    Fractional skin resurfacing combines effectiveness with short recovery times. The key difference is that fractional laser treatment does not affect the entire skin surface. The lasers are delivered in a pattern of narrow columns, leaving regions of undamaged skin between the treated areas. Less skin needs to be re-grown, so recovery times are quick. Ablative fractional treatments require about four days recovery time, while non-ablative fractional treatments typically require none.  

    In addition to the shortened downtime, fractional skin resurfacing seems less risky to potential patients. Only small columns of skin must be re-grown (re-epithelialized), which makes the healing process much quicker. This minimizes the risk of infection or additional scarring. Fractional laser procedures are also less painful than traditional ones because less skin is being damaged. Costs of the procedure vary widely, from several hundred dollars to several thousand, and they are typically not covered by insurance.

    Although fractional skin resurfacing significantly reduces their recovery time, patients should be aware that their skin will still be red and swollen immediately after the procedure. It should subside as healthy tissue replaces the laser-treated skin.

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