Laser Treatments

What You Need to Know About Caring For Your Skin After Fraxel Laser

what can I put on my skin after fraxel

Meet Spotlyte columnist Cori Zeichner, a 38-year-old mother of two who is married to a dermatologist. As the DermWifeTM, she shares the skincare secrets she’s learned from living with him.

I consider myself to be very diligent in my skincare routine. For the past 10 years, I’ve never gone anywhere without sunscreen, I always use an antioxidant serum, and religiously apply my retinol. Despite all this, I still have spots on my face from the sun damage of my youth. Before marrying a dermatologist and reforming my ways, I was a wild child in the sun. While those unprotected beach days are fading from my memory, the sunspots are a constant reminder. My savior has been the Fraxel® Thulium laser, which I get every fall to get rid of those spots — it’s as close as it gets to a time machine to undo sun damage.

[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use. And, as always. talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.]

The laser works by creating microscopic damage to the skin, then letting it heal itself up prettier than when it started.  My husband explains to me that it is what is called a "nonablative" laser, which means that it leaves the top layer of the skin alone, and instead targets damage deeper in the skin. Having had three of these treatments, I know what to expect and how to care for your skin afterwards.  So here are my top five tips for you to follow after your Fraxel laser (or any resurfacing laser) appointment.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Immediately after the Fraxel laser treatment, your skin will look red and swollen — as if you had sat in the sun all afternoon with no sunscreen. Hydration is key to help protect your skin as it heals itself. Your doctor may recommend over the counter creams or give you a prescription, but I personally used Alastin Skincare® Regenerating Nectar ($195) afterwards (I also applied it for a week before to help prep my skin). It contains a peptide that helps the skin produce healthy collagen and elastin, and can also speed recovery after the laser. (You can only purchase it directly from your doctor or through Alastin’s website by selecting your doctor's name.)

On top of the Alastin twice daily, I applied La-Roche Posay® Cicaplast® Baume B5 ($15) to hydrate and calm the inflamed skin. Vitamin B5 has calming effects [when applied topically], so it is used in a lot of skin recovery creams.

Don’t peel or pick.

After about 24 hours, your red, swollen skin starts to settle and turn brown. Up close you can see thousands of tiny brown dots, but from a distance you just look like you have a dark tan. Over the next few days, the top of the skin gets very dry and starts to crumble off. As tempting as it is to help the peeling along, pulling off skin that isn't ready to come off can lead to infections or discoloration.


Sunscreen is more important than ever

Remember what brought you to get the Fraxel laser treatment to begin with — the sun. Sunlight causes your skin to make more pigment, so you have to be even more careful right after your appointment, when your skin is especially sensitive. My husband recommended I stick to a mineral sunscreen with only zinc oxide in it, because it protects the skin in more ways than one: it blocks UV rays and also can soothe the skin. (Remember that zinc oxide pastes are what we use on our babies' bottoms when to prevent them from getting a diaper rash). I personally like the Aveeno Baby® Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 50 ($9). Besides zinc oxide to protect against UVB and UVA rays, it has skin calming oat extract.

Hold off on your regularly scheduled skincare routine.

I stopped using retinol a week before my Fraxel laser appointment, and didn't start using it again until several weeks afterwards. Retinol can make the skin more sensitive and cause irritation so you should hold off until your skin heals. The same is true of your exfoliators. Whether it is glycolic acid or a scrub, exfoliating can harm the skin much more than help it as you are healing from your laser. Talk to your doctor about when you should resume using these formulas.

Do NOT wear your sunglasses!

I am never without a pair of sunglasses. They protect your eyes from the sun and prevent you from squinting which can ultimately cause wrinkles. (And of course, they look cute and your outfit is never complete without a pair.) However, I learned the hard way after my first Fraxel laser appointment that going incognito with your glasses can actually harm the skin on your nose. I tried to hide my face so I could go outside without anyone looking strangely at me and my sensitive skin, but the glasses rubbed against the side of my nose. That caused the skin there to get raw and irritated. I’ll never make that mistake again. Now, no sunglasses for me — that is, until I am healed a week later.

So there you have it: dermatologist-approved, DermWife-tested tips to make sure you protect your face properly after your Fraxel laser appointment.


DermWifeTM is a trademark of Cori Zeichner.

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