Acne can affect teenagers and adults of all ages; impacting their health, wellbeing and self confidence. Isotretinoin, also known as 13-cis-retinoic acid and sold under the brand name Accutane or Roaccutane (among others), is commonly used to treat severe acne. Laser therapy isn’t recommended while patients are taking this medication, due to the skin sensitivities it causes.
After coming off acne medication, patients often still have pits, blemishes, red bumps, box-car scars or general unevenness in their complexion.
Fraxel Dual laser is a popular scar-reduction and skin-refining treatment for patients after they finish taking acne medication; not only does it refine residual scarring, but it also helps to regulate the skin and reduce pigmentation and congestion.
How soon after finishing acne medication can I have Fraxel laser?
Some studies show that laser treatment can be undertaken as early as one month afterwards, but in general, nonablative fractional laser therapy is deemed to be safest approximately 3 to 6 months after ceasing oral isotretinoin treatment.
What are the different types of acne scars?
The Sharp Clinic’s skin therapist Diane Lehto says there are two different types of acne scars: acne scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation.
“Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are dark spots where pimples used to be; hypopigmentation are light-coloured spots,” Diane says.
“They can make your skin look patchy and uneven, and can be difficult to cover up with makeup or concealer.
“The second type of acne scarring is a textural problem often referred to as ice pick scars, which look like small punctures or divots in the skin.”
This occurs when a sebaceous oil gland develops an infection large enough that it tears the skin layers apart, damaging the structure of the skin.
Over time, these scars can become less visible, but in some cases of severe acne scarring, they might always be evident. Laser and dermal fillers can often reduce their appearance.
How Fraxel helps
Diane explains that Fraxel uses light energy to create tiny micro-columns in the skin, so the body’s natural collagen response is stimulated, and collagen is produced. At the same time, the upper surface of the skin exfoliates off, removing pigmentation - so essentially the rejuvenation occurs on both the skin’s surface, and deeper below.
Fractional laser leaves a lot of the skin intact, meaning patients don’t lose healthy skin along with scar tissue. It also reduces the downtime associated with the treatment. Patients usually look like they have sunburn for a few days, and then experience flaking skin for up to a week on their face; or longer on other parts of the body that have less oil production.
How much does Fraxel cost?
Full face Fraxel treatments start from $990 and face and décolletage packages start at $1200. It is also suitable for the neck, back and other areas of the body that can be impacted by acne scarring. Some patients are satisfied with their results after just one treatment; others with very extensive acne scarring will need 2-3 treatments to achieve their final result. Spot treatments are also available.
Alternatives to Fraxel laser for acne scarring
Dermapen microneedling can be used to treat textural acne scars. Microneedling involves using a device that creates micro traumas to the skin, to kick start the production of collagen to repair the damage. Diane says that Dermapen can improve the texture of your skin over time to be flatter and smoother, with minimal downtime. It can also be combined with platelet rich plasma (or PRP) treatments, which use your own stem cells to help stimulate the skin’s natural healing response. Patients usually find their skin is a little red for 24 hours afterwards, and can feel slightly tight or dry for around seven days after the treatment. Each session costs from $250 for a standard full face Dermapen treatment, and 2 to 5 treatments are needed, depending on the severity of the scarring.