Fractional CO2 Laser: A Treatment for Acne Scars in Singapore

acne scar laser

What is Fractional CO2 Laser?

Fractional CO2 Laser, or fractionated carbon dioxide laser, is an ablative laser commonly used to treat depressed atrophic acne scars and uneven skin textures. It is also effective in rejuvenating aged skin, reducing the appearance of enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles.

Fractional CO2 Laser is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure performed in an outpatient setting. It is based on the original Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser.

Remove unsightly lumps, bumps, moles with our Spot-Guided CO2 Laser

How does Fractional CO2 Laser help treat Acne Scars?

wound skin skin damage and depressed acne scars

Acne is a fact of life; almost 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30 will have had acne at some point in their lives.

And with acne comes the risk of leaving acne scars behind. These acne scars can persist on a person’s skin (not to mention face) and affect the self-confidence of many patients. One common type of acne scar is the atrophic or depressed acne scar.

Want to know what type of acne scars you may have? Read more here

Fractional CO2 Laser is just one of many skin resurfacing procedures used to reduce acne scarring by levelling out the depression.

There are many other acne scar resurfacing treatments such as Subcision, TCA Cross, and more.

fractional laser skin resurfacing

In the case of the Fractional CO2 Laser, it delivers laser energy in a “fractionated” or “pixellated” manner – a grid of light is beamed into the deep layers of skin while at the same time leaving pockets of skin untouched.

You can expect a downtime of up to a week, sometimes more, depending on individual healing.

The light energy from the Fractional CO2 Laser creates tiny openings on your skin, reaching into the dermis level to break up fibrous tissue. In response, your skin then repairs these openings by pushing out damaged and uneven skin with healthier, even skin tone.

This pushing out of damaged skin is the resurfacing act in itself; this means you will experience skin flaking during the recovery process. Out with the old, in with the new.

This reparation process is helped even further by the laser. The residual heat from the laser stimulates your skin to produce new collagen, a building block of skin. This is called collagen remodelling. The result? Visibly even complexion.

laser treatment for acne scar Singapore

The Benefits of Fractional CO2 Laser

The Fractional CO2 Laser has been in the market for over 20 years and used extensively by aesthetic practitioners around the world, including at SL Aesthetic Clinic. When performed by our qualified doctor, you can expect to see:

  • Improvements in skin texture
  • Reduction in depressed, atrophic acne scars or surgical scars
  • Minimised and reduced pore size
  • Can be paired with other acne scar treatments such as Subcision, and TCA CROSS to treat varying types of acne scarring

What Fractional CO2 Laser Can’t Do

Fractional CO2 Laser does not treat skin redness such as dilated blood vessels or spider veins (telangectasias) and red discolourations on the chest or neck (poikiloderma). In fact, it can even worsen these problems.

But more importantly, acne scar removal cannot be achieved by Fractional CO2 Laser, or any other treatment available in the market. Why? SL Aesthetic Clinic’s Medical Director Dr Kelvin Chua shares his view here.

When Will I See Results with Fractional CO2 Laser?

Most patients see improvements after just 1 session. Of course, this is only an improvement. Just like how the body needs time to repair itself, skin resurfacing and collagen remodelling will likewise take time.

How soon you’ll see the full results with Fractional CO2 Laser will depend on many factors. Chief amongst them is the severity of the acne scar and your tolerance for downtime.

We recommend 3 sessions for mild acne scarring and up to 6 or more sessions for severe acne scarring. Each session should ideally be done on a monthly basis; but herein lies the issue. Bearing in mind the downtime of up to a week, not everyone can afford to have it done once a month.

With Fractional CO2 Laser, it is always a balancing act between resolving your acne scars and keeping downtime to a minimum. The power of the Fractional CO2 can be customised for a lower downtime. But this also means a higher frequency of treatment is required.

Hence, it’s important that you share as much information about your daily habits, medical history, and highlight your tolerance for downtime. This will help our doctor work out a treatment plan for you.

The frequency of treatments aside, whether the Fractional CO2 Laser is combined with other treatments will also influence the results.

Check out the below FAQ to know more about Fractional CO2 Laser treatment for acne scars at SL Aesthetic Clinic Singapore.


How Many Treatments of Fractional CO2 Laser Will I Need?

The number of sessions you need will depend on the extent of the acne scarring, your tolerance for downtime, and the expected results.

Here are some useful guides in determining the number of sessions you’ll require:

  • The more severe the acne scarring, the more sessions you’ll require
  • The less tolerant you are to downtime, the more sessions you’ll require
  • If you’re looking to achieve drastic results at the end of the treatment, the more sessions you’ll require

What’s more, your tolerance to downtime is directly affected by your work schedule, daily obligations, as well as how dark your complexion is.

Melanin pigments absorb light energy. Hence, darker skinned patients who naturally have high levels of melanin in their skin will have a likewise, increased risk of laser burns. To minimise this, we perform Fractional CO2 Laser treatments at a lower power level for this group of patients, but with increased frequency to achieve the desired results.

How Does it Differ From Other Lasers?

Fractional laser differs from other lasers in its mode of delivery. While conventional lasers use a laser as a moving beam so that the surface of the skin is ablated through, Fractional CO2 laser uses a grid-like technology where lathe ser is delivered as a multi-pointed laser. This leaves a significant amount of the outer skin largely intact.

This means a patient can experience less sensitivity from external environmental factors such as the sun. And the patient’s skin healing is optimised. Because of continuous advancements in fractional technology, the adverse effects of other conventional CO2 lasers can be avoided, yet retaining beneficial results and minimised downtime. As with any procedure or treatment, results and downtime can vary by the individual.

What Can Fractional CO2 Laser Do?

Because of its skin resurfacing properties Fractional CO2 Laser can be used to:

  • Reduce the appearance of acne scars and other types atrophic scars
  • Minimise pore size
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Smoothen and improve skin texture

How Is It Done?

A fractionated beam of laser is fired onto the treatment area, which creates a grid of tiny openings.

Your skin then repairs these openings by pushing out the damaged and uneven skin. This is then replaced with younger, healthier skin. Some of the heat generated from the laser also stimulates your skin’s collagen production, thereby further improving your skin’s repair process.

Over time, with multiple sessions if necessary, your acne scar will be visibly reduced; your complexion will feel smoother to the touch.

How Many Treatments are Required?

Depending on the severity and complexity of your acne scars, most patients require between 3 to 6 sessions of Fractional CO2 Laser to see a good improvement.

Moreover, other acne scar reduction treatments may be paired together to tackle your acne scars. This is because not all acne scars are made the same, which will require a combination of several treatments to achieve a good result.

The Recovery

Fractional CO2 Laser is an ablative resurfacing treatment. This means your skin will peel. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days, and up to 14 days for a full recovery. Your skin may appear pinkish at first, before turning brown and scaling. Eventually, the resurfaced skin will peel off, revealing healthier skin.

We recommend patients to follow these post-treatment instructions during the recovery period:

  • Increase your water intake to 8 glasses a day
  • Wash your face with cool water only
  • Moisturise your skin
  • Avoid prolonged sun exposure. If unavoidable, protect your skin with liberal sun protection such as SPF creams and protective sun hats
  • Avoid the use of products containing AHAs, BHAs, retinols, exfoliants, scrubs, and sonic cleansing brushes
  • Avoid strenuous exercises, dry saunas, and steam rooms for at least the first 3 days
  • Limit consumption of alcohol and sugary food.
[10 Jan 2021] Written by Dr. Wei Xiang

Dr Ko Wei Xiang

Dr Wei Xiang – The Artist
MBBS, Singapore; MRCS, Edinburgh

Dr Wei Xiang has been heavily involved in the arts throughout his life. During his formative school years, he studied fine arts under the prestigious Art Elective Programme, where he developed his artistic talent and creative expression across various media, including painting, charcoal, digital media and photography.

After graduating from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in 2014, Wei Xiang pursued postgraduate surgical training in a residency programme, where he honed his surgical skills over the years. His artistic side remained strong, and he constantly yearned to express a greater aesthetic element in his work. In 2019, he left his surgical career in search of his calling.

A fateful encounter with Dr Kelvin Chua brought Wei Xiang into the world of Aesthetic Medicine. It was in Aesthetic Medicine where Wei Xiang found his “ikigai” of sorts. Under Kelvin’s mentorship, Wei Xiang grew steadily and became adept at a wide range of aesthetic procedures including Botox, fillers, lasers, HIFU, Thermage, Ultherapy and PicoCare Laser. His keen eye for beauty, coupled with his steady hands, allows him to bring out the best in his patients.

Wei Xiang occasionally still creates artwork in his free time, when he is not spending time with his wife and daughter, or jamming and making music.

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