I got Baby Fraxel and, for anyone also feeling like their skin needs to be zapped alive again, I documented my entire experience and the results.
I went to Diana Palmisano of Derm Duo at Tribeca Skin Solutions. Diana is a Physician Associate, co-founder of Tribeca Skin Solutions and Skin Solutions Collective and has been practicing Cosmetic and Medical Dermatology for nearly 18 years. She is a faculty member of Allergan Medical Institute where she is a national speaker and trainer as well as an active clinical preceptor. I’ve known Diana for years and I trust both her knowledge of all things skin as well as her skill with all skin tools, devices and treatments.
Prior to the appointment, I shared that I was getting the laser work on my Instagram story and IG people naturally had some questions. Namely…
What is Baby Fraxel???
To start, here is how the Fraxel website describes Fraxel itself. “The first non-ablative
fractional skin resurfacing treatment. Fraxel® treatment improves tone, texture and radiance for aging, sun-damaged or scarred skin.”
As for Baby Fraxel, Diana explains, “We termed Baby Fraxel ourselves… it is a modified Fraxel Dual where we lessen the intensity of a full Fraxel, which can be adjusted with settings and passes. It uses the actual Fraxel Dual Laser device. It’s a great progressive, stepping-stone resurfacing laser. It is great for overall skin rejuvenation – lines, large pores, texture, and amazing to treat sun damage.”
Who needs it / most benefits from it?
According to Diana, “There’s no perfect age for this but instead we consider what each person’s individual skin needs are. We do like it as a progressive stepping-stone laser. Generally for 20s, 30s, 40s – all based on what part of your skin care journey you are on. It can be used stand-alone or for maintenance.”
Is this Clear & Brilliant?
“Baby Fraxel is our take on a modified Fraxel where we lessen the intensity of a full Fraxel using the actual Fraxel Laser device. Clear & Brilliant is its own laser device also manufactured by the same company as Fraxel (SOLTA). Clear & Brilliant can be about 1/3 the intensity of Fraxel, less intense, less aggressive, with quicker recovery.” – Diana
Is this that “cool laser thing”?
“No, this is not the CoolPeel, which we also perform in our practice. The two are different. A CoolPeel® laser treatment uses the SmartXide Tetra CO2 laser from DEKA. It is a fractional ablative resurfacing treatment. Non-ablative fractional lasers like Fraxel heat and penetrate but do not actually vaporize the top layer of skin. In comparison ablative lasers like the DEKA Tetra, eliminate the top layer of skin. They can be more aggressive and a bit riskier. Patients must be very diligent with aftercare. Ablative lasers tend to provide great results with fine lines. Fraxel is a great option for addressing pigmentation, scar, pores. CoolPeel is a lower setting on the DEKA Tetra laser making it a bit safer. The CoolPeel still cannot be used on darker skin tones and both Fraxel and CoolPeel can not be used on tanned skin.” – Diana
What’s the aftermath? What should you expect after?
Based on conversations I had prior to and also on the day of my treatment with Diana and her medical assistant, here’s what I gathered. (Note: I’m obviously not a doctor or medical professional, just sharing what I learned.)
- In the first few days, skin may feel tingly, hot and tight.
- Most will be red or pink for a few days, but usually no longer than 7 days.
- Skin will likely be swollen and tender at first. Swelling goes down a lot in the first 24 hours.
- Dark/bronze patches and spots will soon appear and then flake off as the skin sheds over the week.
- For full results, which can include glowing, clearer skin with smaller pores and smoother texture, it generally takes 10 days.
What should I be doing the week leading up to the treatment?
“Avoid retinoids, retinols. Also avoid glycolic acids in products. Just keep it simple.” – Diana
What’s the aftercare for best results?
Diana and Laura of Derm Duo at Tribeca Skin Solutions recommend the following:
- Be super gentle with your face
- No picking, scrubbing, exfoliating or even rubbing your face in shower (this can lead to scabbing/scarring)
- 3-7 days of a clean skincare routine for the full face
- Stick to a twice-daily clean, simple, gentle skincare routine, such as Cetaphil or Cerave cleanser and Biafine cream moisturizer
- As an added step between cleanser and moisturizer, an anti-inflammatory topical corticosteroidal cream will help – layer on more in areas that are red or swollen
- Apply daily sunscreen in the mornings, avoid the sun, wear hats if sunny
- Stay moisturized and hydrate. Apply moisturizer throughout the day. (No such thing as over moisturizing)
- The first night after the treatment use a CO2Lift Carboxy Mask (which uses Carbon Dioxide to regenerate skin) for 45 mins to 1 hour
- No working out for the first 24 hours (or any excessive sweating)
- Ice as needed for the first 24 hours (but not with your brand new awesome ice roller or anything that can pull the skin)
- Prednisone (10mg or 20mg) can be taken up to 2x per day, for the first 3 days, this corticosteroid helps with inflammation (swelling)
Can you have a glass of wine after?
Not gonna lie, this question was actually from me. I texted Diana after I poured myself a glass of wine the night of my treatment after realizing maybe it was a post-treatment no-no. But actually, she gave me the ok on a little vino.
Can you wear makeup after?
Diana advises no face makeup for the first 2 days (48 hrs), but you can use tinted moisturizer. She suggests mixing a bit into your moisturizer.
You can wear mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, any lip products. You can also apply Aquaphor around the mouth if needed or targeted areas (although something this occlusive should not be applied to the treated skin).
You can remove makeup with a cotton round and a gentle cleanser (this may naturally lift skin, be very gentle, but this is ok).
Who would not be a good candidate for Baby Fraxel or Fraxel in general?
According to the Derm Duo, anyone with recent sun exposure, a tan or sunburn, excessive keloidal prone skin – we always have a consultation and examination prior to treatment.
As a great candidate for Baby Fraxel, let’s move on to my…
I arrived at 9am and was given a numbing gel with lidocaine pre-treatment for 40 mins. Once I was numb, and my face was cleansed, the laser itself took about 20 minutes. There were two ‘passes.’ The first pass addresses fine lines and wrinkles, it’s a deeper pass and it felt like needles. The second pass address pigmentation, it’s a more shallow pass and it felt like electricity.
The pain level for me was about 6.5-7 out of 10. It was not torture, not at all, but I would say it was intense.
Immediately after the treatment, I was given ice packs to gently press over my face for 5 minutes.
Then FactorFive regenerative stem cell serum was applied.
After, I was put under red light and infrared therapy,10 mins of the red light to address redness and promote healing and 10 mins of the infrared to address swelling/inflammation.
I was given a Prednisone pill and both the aftercare steroid cream and Biafine moisturizer were applied.
I left the office looking super pink (not quite red) and feeling hot and tingly (but not uncomfortable).
I was also *definitely* starting to swell.
By 3pm, I was no longer tingly or hot, just tight and pink.
By 5pm, my face had a slightly sandpaper-y texture, which I was told would occur.
By 7pm, every bit of sun damage in my life felt like it rose to the top of my face appearing in dark brown and pink patches and specks. This was kind of cool looking though, a nod to 90s Bridget Hall. My totally swollen face, particularly the undereye area, actually looked super youthful, which I didn’t mind. There were tiny dry scales on a few spots but very minimal.
At 8:45pm, I took the 2nd prednisone pill and pulled out the Carboxy mask. I mixed the two packets to activate the mask and applied a super thick layer that I peeled off an hour later. I LOVED THE MASK. (Note: about a week later I saw Chrissy Teigan doing one on her Instagram story. Same same!) I rinsed my face and did the full skincare regimen.
That night I went to sleep with my head elevated on pillows, which Diana advised.
I woke up with my pink skin looking more brown, speckled, tan (and… I kind of liked it… sorry not sorry). My face was VERY swollen. My skin was like sandpaper.
The skin started lifting mostly from the center of my face, but tiny little skin cells in small clusters. Not the extreme peeling and flaking I’d seen in Fraxel photos online. The bridge of my nose and the sides of my face and jawline remained… very bronzed.
My chin felt like leather.
More skin lifted from the center of my face. On the still-dark outer areas, my skin now appeared almost pixelated, like you could see the actual print of the laser. Every little dot.
DAY 5, 6, 7
The pixelated, sandpaper skin was now more and more just around my jawline and hairline. And on the bridge of my nose. It never came off in a dramatic way, which I realized I kind of wanted. Just little tiny cells, a little at a time.
My face finally had all fresh new skin. It was still a little sensitive. I put makeup on for the first time in over a full week and I hardly needed a single complexion product. The application was also butter smooth.
Day 9 – 14
I stared at my skin in every mirror and reflective surface I passed. I looked at my before photos to now. All of the “before” skin issues weren’t gone. Not one was completely corrected. But yet, I was incredibly satisfied.
Which leads me to…
- Skin Tone – I saw a very visible improvement with my skin tone. My complexion was really even after day 7. The Fraxel erased a lot of sun damage, and I’ve got decades of sun worship under my belt (Ban de Soleil summers, miami girls trips, tan lines, base tans). I still have sun spots on my face and small areas with more pigmentation but they’re either much lighter or smaller. Nothing a few taps of light to medium coverage concealer couldn’t spot conceal.
- Luminosity – I also saw a very visible improvement with luminosity. Without any skincare, my face was way less dull, even in the dead of winter. It actually had a soft glow. With skincare, the glow was truly beyond.
- Fine Lines and Wrinkles – I saw a very visible improvement with lines, especially around my eyes and on my forehead. Many became pretty much undetectable. I was in awe of this and kept checking if I could see them.
- Pores – I saw a visible improvement in pore size in areas with enlarged pores. Mostly the skin adjacent to my nose and also my chin. I still have visible pores, but they are more refined. And with (very light) makeup pressed into the skin, nearly invisible. (You can use your fingers or a damp sponge to achieve this in a few seconds.)
- Scars – I saw a visible improvement with two small scars I have on my face. This was a nice bonus.
- Skin Quality – I added this catch-all category because I didn’t know where these results fit: (1) My skin overall feels smoother, softer. As an added benefit to that, it feels very therapeutic to glide the skincare and sunscreen over it. I spend more time on my face regimen because the process feels good. I’m giving my face some much deserved and overdue love. It’s no spa weekend or overpriced NYC luxe spa treatment, but it does remind me of the kind of self-care synonymous with pre-pandemic and pre-mom life. (2) Bounce. My skin has more bounce to it, particularly around my eyes. This is after all the swelling went down. I kept waiting for it to go away and it continues to excited me that it hasn’t. (3) Fresh skin. Now that the top layer of my skin has been resurfaced, I feel my products can better penetrate. Retinol, glycolic, my vitamin C serum, even my argan oil and Weleda Skin Food. I feel like it’s all sinking in, doing its job.
The fact that every single photo in this post is unfiltered, the skin unretouched, and I have not a stitch of makeup on in any of them speaks for itself. Not that I think I look amazing. Far from it. I know these images are giving new meaning to RAW files. But I’m happy to show and share the process and my results in a fully candid, very naked way.
This treatment was not comped, I paid for this baby face ;)
For Baby Fraxel, the cost at Tribeca Skin Solutions is $850. I had a 20% friends and family discount, so my treatment ended up being $680.
You will not have perfect skin after Baby Fraxel. Well maybe you will. I don’t. So I think expectations matter. I wanted improvements to some things I was noticing that I didn’t love, a little reversal of age and damage. And I definitely saw visible improvements in all those areas. So much so that I would definitely do it again, and probably will, to further address the remaining spots and fines lines and pores, knowing there is likely no “perfect” outcome. (As a 40-something mom of two little ones running a growing brand and business, I gave up on perfect a while ago!) Fraxel claims it “improves tone, texture and radiance for aging, sun-damaged or scarred skin” and in my experience, it does all that.
Cost is also something to consider. Baby Fraxel isn’t cheap. I think of these types of things as self-investments, not only in the self-care aspect, but also in that the cost of skincare and facials and products that address sun damage, dry and dull skin, pores and so on, all add up. Using more makeup adds up. Not that I’m tossing all my favorites, but they’re likely going to last me a lot longer. Cost is a personal thing but cost to me versus my results was worth it.
So I think if you’re interested in Baby Fraxel, you should consider your expectations and the cost against the benefits and the value.
The true bottom line for me, though, was when a certain unnamed, verrrrry candid, very close friend of mine (who worked with me for years in beauty and whose name now appears among the top of the InStyle masthead) came over to dinner at my house on Day 10. I had no complexion makeup on. After playing with my kids in the living room, we all sat down to dinner in a well lit kitchen. He stared at my skin and immediately asked me about the treatment, which he knew I was getting. He stared and stared and then pored over all my before, during and after pics on my phone, zooming in and reacting in his amazing dramatic fashion. His last words, “Ok, I want to get it.”
NOTE: This post is not sponsored. All thoughts are unbiased and my own. All photos and content are property of Lauren Cosenza Beauty LLC.
Lauren Cosenza consults for top brands, websites, and magazines, and serves as a trusted beauty/fashion/mom expert, a brand ambassador, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a creative director, a published editorial contributor and writer, the creator and owner of DIVAlicious®, the creator and owner of BEAUTYfull®, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan, Shape and Bustle/BDG brands. She currently runs Señor Lechuga Hot Sauce with her husband (and two little humans) as the Co-Founder + Head of Brand.
Find Lauren on Instagram.