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Fraxel versus thermage

Reviewed by Marta February 4, 2008 7 Comments

Ellen Barkin caught my eye in O (Oprah's magazine). As she would, given she's a rather handsome woman. She was being extremely candid about her beauty and anti-aging routine, admitting to having regular Thermage sessions that she didn't think were having much effect and that were really painful "like burning hot elastic bands snapping against my face". On the other hand, Barkin said, Fraxel doesn't hurt and it has made a huge difference.

I've always thought that Thermage is for the feeble-minded. Every time you see those before and after photos, the after ones look worse (you can see an example by clicking here). Even its advocates say that the results are subtle. The pain, however, is not.

I just came across a Dr Robert Mindall, commenting on a message board on a professional website for plastic surgeons. He said he was embarrassed by the amount of money he's taken from Thermage patients for such a pointless procedure. He has now thrown his Thermage machine away. Good on ya, doc. Would that all in your profession were so ethical.

Dr Mindall also had a strong point of view on Fraxel, but I shall come back to that. First of all what is it?

Fraxel is a kind of laser treatment that, instead of putting out a solid beam, it puts out lots of very tiny beams that punch microscopic holes in the skin. This approach means that damaged tissue can be targeted, leaving healthy tissue unscathed. Three to five sessions are required about two weeks apart.

Although marketed as an anti-aging treatment, Fraxel has better results at treating acne. Sufferers from acne generally give it very good reviews. Patients who want to rid themselves of wrinkles are often more disappointed. The big upside is that, unlike Thermage, the post-session downtime due to redness and swelling is, at most, a couple of days.

Even Fraxel's proponents say it cannot treat lines around the eyes or lips, anything beyond the mildest age lines, roacea or red capillaries, nor will it tighten the skin.

So what did Dr Millard say about Fraxal: "Expensive machine, multiple painful procedures. Can do a better job for a lot less $$."

Ultimately, I wouldn't waste my $$ on either Thermage or Fraxel.


  • September 30, 2016

    by tina

    I was thinking about doing either one of these treatments, if neither of these work, what else is there?

  • May 12, 2016

    by Gail

    I completed 4 treatments of Fraxel on face and neck. Each treatment 6 weeks apart . It is critical that your technician send you home with very potent skin repair cream and oils. Mine also included a prescription skin bleach. My skin turned out amazing. Smooth and clear and firmer. Less fine lines. This is not a lift. Just really enhances lovely skin. It's been a year now and still get comments on beautiful skin. I am 67.

  • December 20, 2014

    by Letty

    Hi, I am a 58 year old Hispanic female, and I had Fraxel done in hopes of getting rid of some of the wrinkles and tightening of the skin. At least that is what the procedure was suppose to do according to my Dr. However, the results are disappointing. I see no difference on my skin. I still have saggy skin and now I also have a dark line right along my jaw line that runs from ear to ear. It's pigmentation which developed after Fraxel. The Dr. gave me some bleaching gel to see if it will get rid of the dark pigmentation. I did a lot of research before having the procedure done, but refused to believe the problems some women had after the procedure. Now, I am included on the list of negative reviews when it comes to Fraxel. It's not worth it. If your like me, you are going to go ahead and have it done and later wish you hadn't. It's a shame that we have to learn things the hard way. I won't have it done again. I have 9 sisters and I tell them not to do it.

  • December 15, 2008

    by TuTuLaRoo

    I had 3 Fraxel treatments and spent over $3000 for them. I have light beige skin and I am prone to freckles. I have sun spots & Melasma. The Fraxel did help a bit, but it was not worth the money. It is very painful for the first couple days. I wouldn't do it again. I also tried Tri-Luma cream and didn't get any results. I'm 33 and have very damaged skin from sun bathing well into my late 20's. I didn't realize how bad it was for me until I hit 29. By then the damage was done. Wear your sunscreen ladies! :)

  • September 12, 2008

    by marta

    <p>A good resource MedSpa it is mostly used by professionals and they tend to be fairly candid. You can follow a recent discussion by copying and pasting this link into your browser:<br />
    <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></p>

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