Chemical Peels Vs. Fraxel Laser

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With so many types of cosmetic procedures available these days, it’s hard to choose which one is right for you. Two of the most popular for skin resurfacing are chemical peels and the new Fraxel lasers. Both of these non-invasive treatments provide younger-looking, healthier skin, but there are differences in procedure, benefits, side effects, recovery times and cost. No matter which procedure you choose, you should make sure that it is performed by a properly licensed and experienced practitioner.


There are three primary types of chemical peels, alphahydroxy acid, trichloroacetic acid and phenol, as well as three types of Fraxel laser treatments, Fraxel re:fine, Fraxel re:store and Fraxel re:pair. All three types of chemical peels will smooth out wrinkles, improve skin texture and color and remove acne blemishes, although phenol, the strongest formula, is also helpful for reducing blotches caused by aging and sun exposure and even removing some pre-cancerous growths. Of the Fraxel lasers, the Fraxel re:pair is the most intense and used on most highly-damaged skin.


Chemical peels use a solution on your face to dissolve cells in the outermost skin layer and leave the healthier layer of skin underneath. Fraxel lasers use laser beams to create tiny wounds deep in your skin that trigger healing by generating new skin cells and collagen. Chemical peels can vary from 20 minutes to two hours, whereas Fraxel treatments will probably only take a half hour. With Fraxel procedures, a topical anesthetic is applied to your face beforehand and your technician may also apply cold air to help improve comfort. Some doctors may choose to give you medication to help you relax, whereas a few others may even prefer to us anesthesia, since the procedure can be painful.


The full results of Fraxel treatments aren't visible until a few months after treatment, although even after one session, your skin will already be smoother, softer and have a more even skin tone and texture. A mild alphahydroxy acid chemical peel may show an instant healthier glow to your skin, whereas the deeper phenol peels will require a week or two to heal before you notice more dramatic results such as fewer fine wrinkles and blemishes that in some cases are still readily apparent up to 20 years following the procedure.

Side Effects and Recovery

Mild chemical peels can cause stinging, redness, irritation and crusting. In addition, with a trichloroacetic acid peel, you may experience swelling, be limited to a liquid diet and advised not to talk very much for several days. With deep peels, you may need to have petroleum jelly or adhesive tape on your face for several days, although the most potentially serious side effect of deep peels are permanent skin lightening and lines of demarcation. Fraxel treatments, on the other hand, have less downtown, leaving your skin pink and flaking for a few days. Whether you have a chemical peel or and laser skin resurfacing, you’ll kept on antibiotics with a mild pain medication initially and told avoid direct sun exposure or chlorinated water for extended periods. Some individuals have a tendency to form raised or thickened scars, but this is not always predictable. If your skin is prone to allergic reactions or if you have herpes, any skin resurfacing procedure can make these conditions worse.


According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the national average cost for a chemical peel is $870, whereas the Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery reports that the average Fraxel treatment ranges from $400 to $1,000 per session. These costs will vary widely from one region to another and according to the type and number of treatments you choose. In some cases, health insurance may cover the peel procedure, although insurance rarely covers the full cost of Fraxel.