As if the emotional toll that cystic acne exerts on its sufferers isn’t enough, scars left in its wake can serve as a daily reminder of days one would rather soon forget.This type of acne, which is characterized by painfully tender and large fluid-filled bumps that take weeks to months to heal and flatten, can leave behind pitted indents in the skin that last a lifetime.And while dermatologic technology has soared with all kinds of possibilities over the past couple of decades, indented scarring remains one of the most stubborn and difficult conditions to treat.
I had tried a laundry list of options for what dermatologists termed my mild case of acne scarring. It sure didn’t feel so “mild” when I applied layers of makeup in front of my magnifying mirror every morning in an attempt to spackle complexion potholes.
(Certainly I knew there are those struggling with more severe scarring cases, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it is to contend with; I’m sharing my experience in the hope that you, too, can benefit.)
There was “needling” to break up scar tissue in the hopes of triggering collagen creation, which left me looking like a car accident victim for a week; a plethora of promisingly named lasers like the Matrix; silicone droplet injections; chemical peels; and aggressive at-home skincare regimens.
I was hopeful and excited before trying each one, imagining the radiant and pillow-soft skin that could perhaps be mine after all. Yet little to no change occurred after any, unless you counted my wallet—which was rapidly whittling down like a Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers commercial.
But when it comes to beauty, I’m not one to throw in the moisturizer. I next decided to give Fraxel a try, after hearing about it from numerous dermatologists I had interviewed for stories.
There are two types of Fraxel lasers: the Repair and the Restore, the latter of which has been most recently updated to the Restore Dual to confuse you even more.
Fraxel Repair is more aggressive and requires at least a week of downtime. It’s still a tremendous improvement over the invasive lasers of yesterday, like the Erbium and CO2 that burned through skin and required weeks of healing time that really only aging Hollywood actresses and trophy wives could afford in both time and price.
Fraxel Restore, which I opted for, is the first non-ablative laser (no burning through skin) to have the same accumulated impact of the aforementioned lasers—but with just a couple days of downtime. Since you don’t wound the top layer of skin, you can apply makeup afterwards and continue on with your schedule—though many prefer to take a couple days at home. A series of five to seven sessions diligently spaced about a month apart is recommended to achieve the same results as more invasive lasers.
“Think of your face as a television screen. The Fraxel laser is like the micro pixels of light that go deep down through your pores and epidermis to directly stimulate collagen-making bundles that build your skin back up,” explains Montclair, NJ, dermatologist Dr. Jeanine B. Downie, M.D.