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Does Fraxel Tighten Skin?


If you need to both improve skin discoloration and tighten skin, can you turn to fractional resurfacing alone?

Fraxel is a well known brand of fractional resurfacing devices. It's used to treat sun damaged skin, uneven pigmentation, and fine lines with a very short healing time. But many want to do more than just even out skin tone, they want to tighten their skin too. So can you do both with just fractional resurfacing?

Fraxel vs. Skin Tightening

Several physicians report that they've seen their patients experience some skin tightening with their Fraxel treatment, but it is not FDA approved, nor recommended for that purpose. Skin tightening and Fraxel work by using two different modalities. Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at NYU, says of a similar fractional resurfacing device, the SmartSkin laser from Cynosure, "I see considerable skin tightening. It would not be the treatment of choice for someone who has jowls, or tremendous laxity, but I think when you have this crinkled appearance, it can just give a smoothing out or a pressing that is quite extraordinary."

Fraxel re:store Dual Before After
Actual Before and After Results of Fraxel re:store Dual of Dr. Heidi Waldorf, After One Treatment (Note: Lower Lids)

Dr. Heidi Waldorf, Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, New York says that she likes the skin tightening she sees with Fraxel for the undereye area, "With this procedure, you can address some of the pigmentation that makes the under eye circles look dark, and you can tighten and tone that area to get rid of the crepeyness, so that then afterwards they can either go out without makeup or put just a little under cover makeup on and their eyes look refreshed and they can put off having a blepharoplasty."

Fraxel, and other light based fractional resurfacing devices, uses laser light fractionated into many columns. This laser light damages the skin, but leaves areas of undamaged skin for faster healing. As the new skin grows, the uneven pigmentation is resolved. There is some regrowth of collagen, but not as much as is seen with treatments that target this need.

Skin tightening on the other hand occurs with stimulation of the collagen beneath the skin. When new collagen grows, the skin tightens reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Devices work differently, some use radio frequency and some use ultrasound, but they both aim to work on the fiber collagen.

Because both of these are different, many offices have combination procedures. Fraxel is sometimes paired with the popular skin tightening device Thermage for maximum improvement in a treatment termed ThermaFrax. Other popular skin tightening devices include Reaction by Viora and Ulthera.

Talk with your aesthetic provider about which procedure is right for your skin type and desired results. Some patients may require only one treatment while others may need multiple.