What is a fractional laser treatment?
A fractional laser peel is a non-invasive treatment that uses a fractionated laser to deliver precise microbeams of laser light into the lower layers of the skin, creating deep, narrow columns of tissue coagulation. Coagulated tissue in the treatment area stimulates a natural healing process that results in fast growth of healthy new tissue.
Fractional laser treatments have bridged the gap between the ablative and non-ablative laser techniques used to treat sun-damaged and ageing skin. While ablative laser treatments work mainly on the epidermis (surface skin cells) and non-ablative treatments work solely on dermal collagen (mid-layer of skin) only, fractional laser treatment works at both the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin.
What does a fractional laser treatment used to treat?
Fractional laser treatment is used for the treatment of:
- Facial lines and wrinkles (rhytides)
- Sun damage
- Skin pigmentation associated with photoageing
- Surgical and acne scarring.
Although fractional laser treatment has been advocated in the treatment of pigmentation disorders such as melasma, the treatment itself can lead to post inflammatory pigmentation.
Fractional laser treatment can be used on any part of the body but is particularly useful on the neck, chest and hands when compared to traditional ablative modalities.
Fractional laser treatment may also be of benefit for stretch marks.
Fractional laser treatment can be used in all skin types and patients, but techniques vary depending on patient age, skin type, sun exposure and body location. Fractional laser treatment can be combined with surgery and other skin treatments.
How does fractional laser treatment work?
To understand how fractional laser treatment works a basic understanding of skin structure is required. Briefly, skin consists of 3 layers, the epidermis (uppermost layer), dermis (mid-layer) and subcutis (lower fat layer). The epidermis contains pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for skin colouring. The dermis is made up of collagen and elastin fibres that provide skin with strength, toughness, elasticity and pliability (click here for detailed information on skin structure).
As the body ages, the appearance and characteristics of the skin alter. The epidermis becomes thinner, so blemishes become more visible, and collagen in the dermis is gradually lost which contributes to the formation of facial lines, sagging skin and wrinkles.
Fractional laser treatment works by targeting both the epidermis and dermis. It does this by delivering a laser beam that is divided into thousands of tiny but deep columns of treatment into the skin. These are called microthermal treatment zones (MTZs). Within each MTZ old epidermal pigmented cells are expelled, and the penetration of collagen in the dermis causes a reaction that leads to collagen remodelling and new collagen formation. By using MTZs, the laser targets and treats intensively within the zone while surrounding healthy tissue remain intact and unaffected and helps heal the wound. This fractional treatment results in a faster healing process than if all tissue in the treatment area was exposed to the laser.