Following the laser to smoother skin

I've been known to take a risk or two. I once went shipwreck diving in the Caribbean. I've even worn white after Labor Day. But when it comes to my face, I prefer not to take chances. • Which is why, when I decided to review fractional laser resurfacing (typically $900 to $1,200 per treatment), I did what any smart woman does before agreeing to have any part of her body laser-treated — research. Eight weeks after my journey began, from research to treatment to recovery, here's the scoop on one of the "hottest" skin rejuvenation treatments on the market.

Fractional laser resurfacing is a type of skin rejuvenation that targets small areas of the skin, leaving other areas of the skin untouched. The laser beam is fractionated, or broken up, hence the name.

Fraxel, one of the leading brands in fractional laser resurfacing, was approved by the FDA in 2007 for ablation, coagulation and skin resurfacing.

Areas of the skin, typically the face, are treated in microzones while tiny adjoining areas are untreated, allowing for more rapid recovery. The parts of the skin that are treated experience a laser injury that promotes new collagen production and all-over skin rejuvenation.

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After I arrived at the medical spa, my appointment began with a digital evaluation of my skin, including an analysis of sun damage, wrinkles and beyond. After spending my childhood on the sunny shores of Miami and the Bahamas, I wasn't surprised by the sun damage. And that's exactly what I intended to correct.

After some questions and answers about the procedures, including possible side effects — think redness and swelling — we got started. Fractional laser resurfacing typically begins with a numbing treatment, and some clients report that the procedure is still painful even after numbing. I was told to expect discomfort, but I found it quite bearable. It's certainly uncomfortable at points, especially after repeated "passes" with the laser on specific treatment areas, but I wanted results and I expected a little discomfort on the road to better skin.

The treatment was quick; my entire face was done in about 40 minutes. After one side of my face was treated, I was given a cool roller to ease the hot sensation — akin to a sunburn — that is typically experienced post-treatment. And after leaving the medical spa, I picked up some ibuprofen and aloe vera gel.

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Immediately after my treatment I was quite uncomfortable, but a few hours and a couple of Advil later, I was back to normal. And while the pain subsided quickly, the redness and swelling hung around for a few days, although I was able to cover it up easily with a generous coverage concealer and foundation. (I recommend Smart Cover, about $30 at smartcover.com.)

Post-treatment, it's imperative to use SPF daily to protect your new skin. That's a habit you'll want to stick to for life. I also used PrescribedSolutions, a line of skin care with specific offerings for pre- and post-laser treatments such as Don't Be So Sensitive Post Procedure Cleanser and Control Tactics, a post-procedure soothing gel.

Six weeks later, I can see improved skin clarity with the promise of improved firmness, thanks to new collagen formation, over the next six months.

Carolyn Brundage is the founder of TampaBay.PrettyCity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet up with Carolyn on Twitter @tampabaypretty.

Following the laser to smoother skin 12/31/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 3:30am]

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