Psst: update! I originally wrote this post after my first round of Fraxel. Well, I’ve now completed all THREE rounds of Fraxel, so I updated it! Scroll to the bottom for the more extreme before/after pics and my final review!
Hey friends! I had my first round of Fraxel on my face about 6 weeks ago, so my skin has now been able to heal from it. (In fact, it’s healed enough that I can now go into round 2! More on that in a minute.) Fraxel Dual Resurfacing is, by far, the biggest skin treatment I’ve ever done, so I figured it deserves a permanent spot on my blog.
Keep in mind that I’ve only done 1 of 3 treatments thus far. I’m really happy with the results, though! Can’t wait to see what my skin is looking like after the third and final treatment. Here’s a before/after picture after doing just one round of Fraxel:
What Is Fraxel?
Ok, I’m going to do my best to explain this. But in all honesty, I think it’s best to chat with a medical professional who can explain all the science-y stuff about it. (I had this done at Viva because they have liscensed medical professionals there. It just gives me peace of mind.)
Fraxel Dual is an innovative skin resurfacing treatment. Essentially, it’s a laser that goes deep into the skin and causes micro-injuries.
This is a good thing! It triggers your body’s natural healing process so your collagen production goes on turbo-drive, healing the skin from the inside out.
It’s a non-ablative laser, which means it heats up the underlying skin tissue but doesn’t damage the surface. So recovery is pretty minimal.
It’s FDA approved and helps repair fine lines and wrinkles, fade skin discoloration like skin spots and sun spots (my biggest concern), and reduce the appearance of stretch marks, surgical scars, and acne scars.
I went to Viva for a free consultation with their medical practitioner.
To be honest, I didn’t know which skin treatment I wanted or needed.
Over the past few years, my skin has shown a LOT of signs of aging. It’s partly due to entering a new decade of life (skin just ages, y’all!), and partly due to the past 4 years of pregnancy and breastfeeding (I couldn’t use my beloved retinol for several years – sob!).
Also, my melasma has been getting worse. It’s pretty stubborn and tricky to treat but I wanted to know about my options.
Anyway, I’m very glad I booked this consultation because I learned that two of the treatments I had been considering would actually most likely make my melanoma WORSE!
The medical practitioner at Viva laid out the best options for my skin concerns. I basically had two different treatments that could help with list of issues (redness from acne scaring, sun spots, fine lines, and melanoma.)
Of the two options, I decided to go with Fraxel.
What happens at a fraxel appointment?
It starts with a thorough questionnaire from the practitioner. The staff at Viva wants to make sure that they’re going to help your skin (not harm it!) and so they’re really thorough in making sure you did all the pre-op instructions, like not using retinol or getting peels for the prescribed length of time.
Then she took a few “before” pictures and applied numbing cream ^ on my face, neck, and chest.
*Side note: I love the private waiting area at Viva Day Spa! It smells lovely with essential oils filling the air, and there’s calming music playing. Staff members would stop by from time to time to check in on me and offer beverages. I read a book for an hour while I waited for the numbing cream to start working.
Once my face was fully numb, we started the actual Fraxel treatment. She did 3 passes on my face, neck, and chest.
What was the pain level? Not comfortable…but not unbearable. There was a time or two when I had to ask her to stop for a second because my face just felt too hot, but overall it wasn’t too bad.
You can see the giant laser machine behind me in the photo above. It’s pretty impressive! From my understanding, it’s a very premium product to purchase and use, which is why many day spas in Austin don’t offer Fraxel. Viva is one of the few.
Recovery from Fraxel
Immediately after finishing, my face was HOT and RED and SWOLLEN.
I was given some ice packs to keep on my face and the nurse told me to keep my head elevated with a few pillows that night when I slept.
When I got home from my evening Fraxel appointment, I immediately put on a calming face mask.
I also used my Skinceuticals B5 gel and drank a LOT of water to keep my skin hydrated.
Oof! I woke up and I was pretty puffy in morning. (Which I was warned would probably be the case.)
The redness was really bad, too! I looked like I got a bad sunburn, and it felt like that too.
The redness on the back of my hands hurt the most…probably because I kept forgetting about it, and then I hit my hand against something and it really hurt.
The nurse from Viva called in the afternoon to check in on me at the 24 hour mark and make sure I didn’t have any questions or weird symptoms. I really appreciated that!
Listen, I know these pics are not cute. But I’m just going to be real with you and share the whole process, ok?
Day 2 and my skin still looked/felt sunburned. The dark spots were also getting darker.
(Again, I was warned this would probably happen. Recovery from Fraxel is one of those “it gets worse before it gets better” situations.)
I asked the nurse to do fraxel on the backs of my hands, if she had the time. She was very kind and agreed to do a few passes with the laser over my hands (because somehow my hands look like grandma hands and have a million brown spots on them…)
Anyway, I snapped an up-close shot of the back of my hands on day 3:
See all those tiny dark spots? They were also covering my face and chest. From what I understand, it’s all the excess pigmentation in the skin coming up to the surface.
Actually, my chest and backs of hands literally felt like sandpaper. No joke.
Also, I’ll be honest with you: my face looked AWFUL on day 3. I’d be lying if I didn’t have a moment of regret and think “what have I done?!”
Don’t worry, it gets better!!
(Haha, but it doesn’t get better on day 4…)
First off, let’s just take a moment and appreciate how hard it is to take a selfie without makeup or smiling. Ha! I cackled to myself when I saw these pics, but they’re the best way for you to see the Fraxel healing process.
By 4 days after the Fraxel appointment my skin was rough! Those dark little bumps were everywhere. And while the sunburned look had faded, the darkness had increased. All of my melasma just kept looking worse.
I had Fraxel done on a Friday, and by the following Wednesday my skin was still looking rough.
Recovery was a bit slower than I thought it might be. You’re told “48 with no workouts/sweating” so I thought 48 hours would be the worst, but it really was a full week of my face looking kind of rough. Just fyi.
Ahh! Finally, a week after the Fraxel laser appointment, those dark spots starting sloughing off.
It was hard to not use an abrasive scrub and just GET. THEM. OFF! But I was clearly told to let everything happen naturally and only wash my face with a gentle cleanser, so that’s what I did.
By day 10 all those pesky black dots and sloughed off. (Not on my chest and backs of hands though…they still felt like sandpaper and took another full week to heal!)
My skin felt and looked a little pink and raw, but in a good, fresh way.
I’m really happy with the progress thus far! Like I said, I still have two more Fraxel treatments to go. We’re doing them 6 weeks apart, and I’ll update this blog post after each treatment.
^ That’s a pretty good reduction in dark spots and melasma for being only 1/3 of the way through this process.
I have a lot of thoughts to share about the cost vs benefit, the recovery downtime, and the overall value of Fraxel. I want to make this Fraxel review as thorough as possible.
But I’m going to wait until I’ve completed all 3 sessions before I share my final opinions because I still have a ways to go. Fraxel is a pretty big investment, so it’s definitely worth knowing as many details as possible about it before diving in.
Update: I've Done 3 rounds of Fraxel now
Ok, just like I promised, I’m going to share a final update of Fraxel now that I’ve completed all three rounds.
The second round, to be totally honest, was brutally painful. I actually had to ask her to stop a few times so I could handle it. She increased the intensity on the laser a bit, and it got reeeeally spicy on my cheeks and forehead.
Haha. Here’s a picture of all the ice cold masks that I had to put on my skin after that second round:
Not super cute, but I was like “YES put all the ice cold wraps on me, please!” It pretty much felt like the most intense sunburn of my life.
Round three wasn’t quite as bad…and I’m not sure why. I know that hormones and cycles have a lot to do with the pain that we experience, so that could have had something to do with it? Or maybe the esthetician went down a notch on the intensity. Either way, I was very nervous for that third session, and it wasn’t all the bad.
And the best part? The results after that 3rd and final Fraxel treatment were AMAZING!!!
Will Fraxel Make My skin perfect?
It will improve it a ton, but it 100% will not make your skin absolutely flawless.
(I personally think that the people with flawless skin are the ones who were lucky enough to be born with skin that doesn’t blemish…or the people who you only ever see wearing a full face of makeup.)
If you look at my final picture below, you can see the there are still plenty of little brown spots on my skin.
But the improvement is pretty insane! I am sooooo so happy with the results. I mean, just look…
…at that reduction in dark spots!
Viva really pushed for all three rounds of Fraxel, saying, “yes, it actually typically does take all 3 rounds to see a significant change.”
And they weren’t lying! After the first two rounds, I saw some improvement, but it wasn’t as extreme as I was hoping after a treatment of this magnitude. After all, Fraxel isn’t cheap or comfortable!
And then after that third round, I was astonished with the results. It was the final round that did it for me!
Is Fraxel Worth It?
I think you probably know my answer by now. 😉 Yes, it costs several thousand dollars to do all three rounds of treatments. And the treatment itself is a bit uncomfortable. The down time is about 1 week each time when you have to avoid the sun and your skin looks kind of crazy.
And YES. It’s all worth it! The results are that good!!
I already mentioned this, but I’ll say it again: if you’re in the Austin area, take advantage of that complimentary consultation at Viva. I was initially thinking of doing some sort of IPL treatment, and I found out through my consultation that IPL (also called photo facial) could actually make my melasma worse!
And finally, as with any beauty treatments, remember: it’s whatever makes you feel best. There are a whole bunch of outside opinions saying how we should look. The ultimate truth is however you want to look and feel.
My mantra with all vanity/beauty treatments is this: the answer is always yes – I’ll say yes to any flaws and blemishes and extra “personality” on my body, or say yes to taking steps to change them. But either way, I’ll say yes instead of fighting. (< I’m pretty sure I got that from Shonda Rhimes “Year of Yes” book that I read a long time ago, fyi!)
Ok friends, I hope that was helpful to read! Lmk of any other questions!