What Are The Side Effects Of Fraxel?

Fraxel is a fractional laser treatment, and, per the Fraxel website, it can be used to resurface your skin without the need for surgical treatment or the use of needles. Given that its website notes that it is the only treatment of its kind, as of the time of publication, Fraxel has received a lot of attention in the beauty world. For instance, dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum raved to ELLE about Fraxel, saying, "My best patients are the acne scarring patients who can't believe that something has given them such a rush of self esteem. And the photo damage patients getting their skin to a neutral tone instead of being speckled is really satisfying to them. People are really happy with it."


Before you undergo any beauty treatment or medical procedure, however, it's important to know what side effects you might experience during and afterward. For Fraxel, notes the New Jersey-based Ethos Spa, there are quite a few. In this piece, we've laid out some of the more common side effects that you can expect when receiving fractional laser resurfacing with Fraxel, though we would suggest seeking the advice of a medical professional if you have any concerns beyond those we've mentioned.

Your skin will be red

The first side effect of which to be aware is that your skin will be red following a Fraxel session. Dr. Marnie Nussbaum gave a better idea of what to expect to ELLE, saying, "I always tell my patients there will be three to five days of downtime. You won't look like raw meat but you're going to be red, peeling, and scaley."


If you're scheduling a Fraxel session, you might want to do it when you know that you won't have big plans coming up. Per Ethos Spa, you should know that this redness is likely to stick around for a longer duration than you might expect, and it could last for over six months. To see an example, in an Instagram video of one patient who received fractional laser treatment to treat acne scarring, the patient's face is still visibly red nine days following the treatment, even though the scaling had gone away.

Your skin could swell

In addition to the redness you will experience following Fraxel treatment, it is likely that you will have some swelling in the area in which you have received treatment. The blog of Dr. Justin Boey, an aesthetic doctor based in Singapore, mentions that it is common for patients' faces to swell afterward and not a reason to be concerned unless it's the result of an allergic reaction. According to Dr. Boey's blog, this swelling will last for about a week, though it's noted that it should not affect your ability to return to work following Fraxel.


Likewise, Ethos Spa supports that the swelling resulting from Fraxel is likely to last only up to a week, though it also mentions that there could be some bruising involved. You can reduce your risk of post-Fraxel swelling to some extent, though, since Dr. Boey, Ethos Spa, and Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique all recommend that patients keep from laying their heads down flat to reduce the chances of facial swelling.

Your skin may feel tight

Another side effect of Fraxel, according to Ethos Spa, is that your skin may feel tight where you have received your treatment. Supriya Aesthetic Dermatology writes that this particular side effect will begin the day after your Fraxel session, rather than directly after it. However, patients are advised not to itch or peel the area to avoid causing any damage to their just-lasered skin.


Like the other side effects of Fraxel we've discussed so far, we have a little bit of bad news: You might want to prepare yourself for the long haul ahead of time. Ethos Spa adds that the feeling of tightness could continue well after you receive your Fraxel session, even getting worse in the weeks that follow. It isn't all doom and perpetual skin tightness, though. A patient testimonial from Pacific Derm mentions that using moisturizer helped that patient's sensation of tightness, so this could be of benefit when it comes to remaining comfortable.

You could develop cysts

Finally, we have one last side effect of Fraxel to note here, and that's the development of cysts. Per Ethos Spa, this one is specific to anyone who is receiving the treatment on or near their eyelids, but Fraxel — although it can be used to treat milia or other cysts — also can lead to them. According to the clinic of Ian Rubinstein, MD, it is not the Fraxel laser itself that causes milia or acne; instead it is the result of clogged pores after a patient has received Fraxel. Ethos Spa writes that one possible cause of milia or other cysts is if a patient has used a healing ointment for longer than 10 days following Fraxel treatment.


While Cleveland Clinic mentions that milia do not need to be treated, it lists a number of alternatives for treating milia, all of which can be provided by a dermatologist. Importantly, Cleveland Clinic adds that because milia are not acne, you should not attempt to remove them yourself.