Thin layers of skin can be removed with a laser. Most of this layer evaporates, while a small, dessiccated part covers the remaining skin. Extra collagen is produced in the healing process, which may tighten the skin.
The deeper this controlled destruction of skin, the greater the effect, but also the higher the risk of complications. The most important complications are irregular, excessive pigmentation, bleaching of skin colour, scar formation and an outbreak of herpes (cold sores).
The beam of a fractional laser does not reach the entire treated skin surface. Several hundreds of small dots, evenly distributed, are heated, while the rest of the surface remains untouched. In most treatments the dots make up about 20% of the skin surface while 80% is spared.
Healing after fractional laser therapy is much faster than when the entire surface of the skin has been treated. Side effects such as swelling, redness, oozing, sometimes crust formation, still occur but only for a few days to two weeks.
The dose of laser light that is the best compromise between the desired effect and side effects varies from person tot person and between different parts of the body. Fractional treatment is safer than conventional laser therapy removing skin, but the effect is less too. Thus, treatment usually consists of several sessions, beginning with a rather light dose of laser light. Depending on the result and the side effects the dose for the next session is adjusted.