August 21, 2019

My Fraxel Laser Treatment Experience + a Photo Diary

woman taking a selfie in the car showing fraxel laser treatment experienceTaken the other day. Months after Fraxel. Lipstick: Lipstories ‘Take a Bite #35’

The Back Story:

Before I jump into the Fraxel bit of this post, I wanted to share a little background info. Years ago, I  struggled with pretty bad, adult acne that came out of nowhere. I finally got it under control and wrote about it here. For a few years, my skin was in relatively good shape. I starting investing more time and money into taking care of it. I consider it to be an extremely worthy investment because when my skin looks good, I feel good.

It’s one of my favorite ways to take care of myself and I know that future Helena will thank me. I started getting light lasers and peels several times a year. I did get facials, but not as often as some do. Maybe every three months because I found that peels and lasers to do a bit more for my skin. Everyone is different!

Fast forward:

During pregnancy, my skin looked good, but everything took a turn for the worse a few months into having him. At this point, I think I started to wean from breastfeeding and my hormones went crazy. I started breaking out pretty badly and feeling the same way I did years ago. Not only did I have a new baby to take care of, a bad case of the blues, hair that was falling out, but now I was also struggling with new breakouts? Not the best feeling for a new mother. The below photo was taken during that time frame.woman showing her acne after her baby and before the fraxel laser treatmentA few months after having Nate. My skin went from looking good to breaking out on a daily basis. Once the breakouts would subside, I was left with ugly marks that left me feeling so down. Also, my pores were completely clogged and overall, my complexion just looked blah.

I was not in a good place at all.

woman showing her acne after her baby and before the fraxel laser treatmentBreakouts started to subside, but still very unhappy with my complexion. This was not the skin that I had a few months prior to giving birth.

After a month or two, my hormones started to even out, I got my period and my breakouts started to subside. My skin started to look better, but I was still left with little marks, a dull-like, uneven complexion and larger pores. Hormones really do crazy things to a woman and it made me feel pretty insecure to go without makeup.

Over the course of the next 18 months, with the help of a few peels, lasers and a very diligent at-home routine, my skin started to look pretty good, but I was ready to take it one step further. Please keep in mind that the above photos I shared and the post-Fraxel photos are not complete before and afters, but over the course of a few years. They are a result of an accumulation of in-office treatments and good products. I will list what products I swear by below, but a more in-depth skincare post is coming soon.

My Fraxel Laser Treatment Experience + a Photo Diary

My Fraxel Laser Experience + Diary:

A few months ago, I got a pretty intense laser on my face called Profractional Laser or better known as, Fraxel. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but I kept putting it off because a) I still wasn’t 100% that was the route for my skin and 2) it required almost a week of downtime, something not necessarily easy to come by.

But, I finally decided to go for it. I carved out some time and a few months later, I could not be happier. In fact, I cannot wait to get it again after pregnancy and whenever I am finished nursing.

What is a Fraxel Laser Treatment?

Fraxel is a device that performs a treatment known as fractional laser resurfacing in order to stimulate collagen and help resurface the skin. It is a a type of non-invasive laser treatment used to improve the skin’s texture, tone and clarity by encouraging it to repair itself. It is mainly used to help treat scarring, sun damage, fine lines, acne, freckles, skin tone and wrinkles.

Personally, I did Fraxel for pigmentation. I didn’t have any deep scarring or pitted marks and the fine lines I have (on my forehead), were corrected by a little botox. Granted, if I didn’t have botox, I knew that targeting the fine lines were just an added bonus.

Let me rewind to a few months back….

I was visiting the team at Center Aesthetics to get a Clear & Brilliant Laser.  I’ve had Clear & Brilliant several times and it’s great, but it’s what they call a “lunch time laser.” It’s non-invasive, there is no down time, but it’s still excellent at stimulating collagen, resulting in a slightly smoother texture and more even color. I started getting a series (prior to Center Aesthetics) of both Clear & Brilliant and Laser Genesis to target some marks that bothered me.

Light marks from old breakouts and sun-damage.

The results, at least in my experience, were never dramatic. If anything, it was on the more subtle side. I would find that after getting these lasers , my skin would look better (especially as time went on as the new cells turned over), but the marks that were irking at me and would never really go away. Don’t get me wrong, they’re wonderful lasers if you don’t have the time to look like a crazy person. BUT, they’re never going to be dramatic all in one shot.

Why Fraxel Laser?

When I went to chat with Center Aesthetics about my concerns, I explained to Nurse Lynn and Doctor Karcher, that while the lasers I’ve gotten in the past were keeping my skin looking good, I was not seeing the stubborn little marks fading as quickly as I was hoping. There were a few light ones, but then I had a bigger one (circled below) that would not go away, no matter what I tried. Even after several rounds of various lighter lasers and applying several creams on that specific spot, it still lingered.

At that point they were very honest and explained that if I wanted bigger and quicker results, I would need something that went deeper than the “lunchtime lasers” I was getting and Fraxel was my best bet. The other, lighter lasers are wonderful if you don’t have a lot of downtime. Or simply, for just maintaining the skin, but if there’s downtime to spare:

A fraxel laser treatment is way more aggressive, but also way more effective.

I was told that it would remove or fade a large portion of my marks, on top of so many other things like a smoother pores and a more even tone. I made an appointment and was scheduled to come back in a week.  Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Cheryl Karcher, would be performing the treatment.

collage of images of fraxel laser treatment experience diary and progress of a woman

Day 1

Day of Treatment: from top left, counter clockwise: Applying the numbing cream; Chatting with Dr. Karcher about the process; Right after my treatment I was a little red, but nothing too bad; Later that night, after I applied a thick layer of balm. The circled stain that I really wanted to target got a little darker as the day went on. 

The Treatment Process:

I was instructed to come into the office about an hour beforehand so the numbing cream could be applied. Since I came in wearing sunblock, I washed my face and then a thick, pasty cream was applied. After about an hour, it was time to start the process. Center Aesthetic also offers a happy gas and asked me if I’d be interested in using it to help with the pain and I enthusiastically signed on. (I forget the exact name, but it’s very common in a lot of practices and 100% safe)

They went over each area of the face 5-6x and the first two rounds barely hurt. By the 4th time, I’m not going to lie, it stung and was definitely a bit painful, but not intolerable.

The entire process was so quick that after about 5-7 minutes, I was completely done. After, I was given icepacks to apply to my face, which I hung out with for about 15 minutes before heading home.

The Recovery Process:

closeup image recovery process of a woman's face after fraxel laser treatmentDay After Treatment, Day 2

The morning after treatment I was definitely starting to look red and my face started to really swell up. Face started to get increasingly dry and rough as the day went on.

woman's face after fraxel laser treatmentDay 3 

Swelling has started to go down, but skin is looking even crazier. Dry and rough to the touch (like sand paper) and  I cannot moisturize enough! My skin just soaks it up.

two images of the face of a woman after fraxel laser treatment experienceDay 4

Whoa! Skin still feels like sand paper (all normal) but starting to slowly peel off.  Still moisturizing like crazy. Trying to stay inside as much as possible so I don’t scare the neighbors.

woman's face after treatmentDay 5

After taking a shower on the morning of day 5, I very gently used a face cloth and so much of the dead skin came off. I’m really starting to see beautiful, new baby skin underneath. I can easily cover up most of the redness with makeup, but I just roll with it. The spot that I was initially so focused on (as shown  in my day 1 photo), already looks lighter. I remind myself that everything will only improve as the weeks and months go on. 

woman's face clearing up after fraxel laser results

Day 6

My skin is starting to look severely less traumatized, although the redness is still lingering. Again, this could easily be covered up with makeup.

the face of a woman clearing up after skin treatment experience

Day 7 

After taking a shower and slathering on some face oil, my skin is starting to glow. My pores are looking considerably smaller. There’s mild swelling still lingering, but only something I would notice on my own face.  I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and getting pretty excited about it.

my skin after a treatment

Day 9

Forgot to document my skin on day 8, but with each day, redness goes down and skin just looks better and better. Pores are small, pigment is starting to look more even and that little mark I was so fixated on is starting to get lighter. 

How Long Does it Take to See Results?

After about 5-7 days of downtime and the “shedding” process, I started to see the initial stages of baby soft skin. Realistically,  the real results get better as the weeks go on. My skin looked way better at week 4 and 6 than it did at week 2. The skin takes time to heal and for the cells to properly turnover. As time went on, even two months later, my skin continued to look better and better. It’s super important to note that because most would expect immediate gratification, but that’s not how Fraxel works. Yes, the skin definitely looks better after a week, but I assure you, it only continues to improve.

the final result of the laserThis photo was taken 8 weeks after Fraxel. I have a bit of concealer on, but no other skin makeup.  Also, I rarely wear foundation these days. I like how my skin looks better without it.

How Many Treatments Do You Need To See Results?

One major thing to note is that not everyone will see major results after one visit. It really depends on an individual’s skincare concerns, which should be discussed prior to your appointment. For example, because my skin was in relatively good shape, they were confident that I’d see nice results after one session. However, if you’re someone with a ton of dark marks or pitted areas, you’ll see some results after one session, but you’ll probably need a few sessions to really see a BIG difference.

The Cost:

I only have NYC as a guideline, but it can cost anywhere between $1200-$2000 per session. Center Aesthetics, where I went, charge $1,500.

Favorite Products for Recovery: 

I used Skinceuticals Hydra Balm and Epidermal Repair, both ideal and made for post procedure skin. If you don’t want to spend that much, I know a lot of people who swear by good ol’ Aquaphor! Obviously, see what your term recommends or ideally, can provide samples of from their office.

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat! In the early above photos that I share, again, I know that my skin did not dramatically improve with JUST Fraxel. Important for me to stress that so everyone has realistic expectations! As you all may know, I have a very diligent at-home routine and the lasers and peels have also contributed to my skin gradually getting better overtime.

Remember, cell turnover is a real thing!

Results don’t happen overnight. However, I know that the Fraxel played a HUGE factor in taking it to the next level. It improved the integrity of my skin, the clarity, the spots faded more than ever before and I’ve never been so confident wearing zero to little face makeup, like I am now.

Also,  I am posting this MONTHS after I had the treatment and currently, 7 months pregnant with baby #2. When I was pregnant with Nate the first time around, I remember looking at my face and thinking “holy crap! I cannot wait to get botox and a peel once this is all over…”  I felt haggard and old and ready to give myself some much needed TLC.

This time around, it’s different. Don’t get me wrong,  I am definitely due for a little refresher in the forehead department, but it’s nowhere how it was when I was pregnant the first time. I know it’s because of the Fraxel, a great at-home routine and the overall condition of my skin going into this pregnancy.

I do have some new spots that are a result of pregnancy hormones and summer.

But I do plan on getting another Fraxel treatment once I am done nursing. Ideally, if I could keep it up once a year, I know my skin will be in great shape. It’s definitely an expense, but for me, a worthwhile one. In between the Fraxel treatments, I’ll probably get a few smaller lasers like Clear & Brilliant to maintain. It sounds like a lot, but again, my skin is one thing I’m really willing to invest in. All in all, it was 100% worth it and I’m eager to give it another go once I can.

Currently, I’m really happy with my skin, even despite the hormonal marks and freckles I’ve gotten over the last few months. We’ll see what happens once the baby comes, but at least I know there’s a way to whip it back into shape. I also know that the products I use at home are a huge factor in keeping my skin looking great.

Holy Grail Products:

While I do rotate a ton, if I was forced to narrow down: a good double cleanse, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50, Augustinus Bader Rich Cream, Vitamin C Serum (Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is one of my favs), retinol (when I’m not pregnant or nursing) and Vintner’s Daughter.

This was a long, super detailed post, but I wanted to give as much information as possible! If you still have questions, please leave them below.



  • ZiA Bangladesh

    Nice article, Thanks for for the information.

  • Sel

    Hello Helena, I am a bit nervous posting this comment – my views do not come from a place of envy or malice, but genuine concern. You are a young woman, please be careful of the use of injectibles/fillers. Women are constantly bombarded with alluring images of youthful, plumped up faces and lips – the message being put out is that injectibles preserve a youthful appearance. My concern, however, stems from the fact that everytime one injects a substance into their face or lips, you are slightly stretching your skin. Yes, dermatologists do say that once a filler is absorbed by the body that the skin will recover and revert back to it’s initial pre-injectible state. As a person ages, however, the ability of the body to regenerate and repair slows down. So it is plausible that a person may actually be left with greater skin sag after the injectible has worn off than prior to having it done. And then it becomes a vicious cycle. More filler is needed to fill out the sag leading to even greater sag when the filler has worn off. Please be careful with the use of injectibles.

    • Helena

      Hi Sel,

      I do appreciate the concern and your comments, as always. I am extremely careful and conservative and even when the small amount of botox has completely worn off (as it has with both pregnancies), I never feel the need to get more and more. I’ve spoken to countless professionals and done a lot of research on the topic and feel comfortable with my decision. However, I agree with you that many women get extremely carried away, to the point that it’s scary. I would rather be very conservative, while still allowing the aging process to happen. For me, prevention is key rather than fully masking something.


  • Steven

    Thank you so much for sharing this useful information , I was searching this from last one month. I found this article really helpful.. And if you are in need of any Blinds for your Office or Homes in Beaconsfield, Berwick, Pakenham, Officer, Frankston? Call BLUE RIVER BLINDS on 0402128165.

    • Alyson

      Curious: why would Helena need blinds from Australia? Eagerly awaiting your reply!

  • docdivatraveller

    Your face looks absolutely fabulous! Even I am having breakouts after having my baby. Seems I need to get this done!

  • fashion and fraPPes

    This is such a timely post because I was just about to tell that you skin has been looking even more amazing than usual on your Instagram/ stories!

    I had two questions: are the marks age spots or due to the sun or something specific? Basically wanted to understand if this laser is most suitable only for those kind of spots or for all kind? Also wanted to ask what are the peels and things you otherwise do – have you written about this on the blog before?

    • Helena

      Most of my spots were a combination of some light sun spots and marks from leftover breakouts. Fraxel is really suitable for all types of concerns like spots (whether from sun or acne marks), wrinkles, texture, etc.

      For peels, I was getting mild (to sometimes stronger) chemical peels in conjunction with lasers. I never wrote a post but my good friend, Keiko has:

  • Janine

    Wow, the results are amazing! I have not heard about this laser treatment before and I always like to educate myself on skincare and treatments and thoroughly enjoyed reading about your journey and your experiences in detail.
    Your skin looks absolutely perfect now!
    Thanks for sharing!
    xx Janine

  • Mireia

    This sounds so interesting!

    Mireia from TGL

  • amy goslee

    Is this the same as the C02 laser in terms of results?

    • Priti S

      A CO2 laser would be much more intense, but would come with more dramatic results, too. Healing time would be at least a few weeks. It is usually recommended for more mature skin, or sun damaged skin, things like that. The important thing is to look for fractionated (or “fractional”) CO2 treatments, and not ablative treatments. They are also not to be confused with Er:Yag (or, Erbium Yag) treatments. CO2 is the strongest laser treatment out there. It is skin resurfacing as opposed to Fraxel, which is more of a skin rejuvenation. Fraxel would take multiple treatments to see the results that a single CO2 treatment can provide.

  • KristiNa

    This was SUCH a helpful review! Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed assessment of the process including pictures! I’ve been on the fence for awhile, but after reading this and seeing your gorgeous skin, I think I will talk to my derm to see if I’m a good candidate. First I found P50 through you (OMG thank you!) and now this- thank you, my skin whisperer ✨

  • Anna

    Hi Helena,
    When did you start your regular skin care routine after the fraxel treatment? How long did you wait with retinol as it is a bit hardh on he skin… Did you do anything different in your skin routine except being even more careful with the sun (tbt mom vacation with the boys as darth vader on the veach 😁😘)?

    Kind regards

    • Helena

      Hi Anna,
      a mild version of my skincare routine started about 7 days after treatment. I didn’t use any acid toners for a few weeks and retinol for about 4-6. I felt I didn’t need retinol for awhile and didn’t want to aggravate my skin. During that time frame, I focused on serums and good moisturizers. And crazy with SPF and in the sun! Hats during the day and Darth Vader masks on vacation!

  • cJ

    Nice review of Fraxel – I have had Fraxel 3 or 4 times and is awesome. But yes, expensive and 1 week of downtime. I really appreciate your photos, gives an honest idea of what to expect. It is a lot to go through but if you want dramatic results (that take time to really show up) it is the only thing that really makes a big difference.

    • Helena


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  • Christine

    Hi Helena,

    I am looking in to lasers for pitted marks and definitely appreciate this post!!

  • Vita

    My only concern is large pores, especially on my nose. Did the fraxel truly make a big difference? I am self conscious not wearing makeup bc of the ugly pores on my nose!

  • Rita

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Did you get the Fraxel repair or Fraxel restore? Thank you

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