Manhattan’s Chicest Derm Dr. Julie Russak On Why Fraxel Will Change Your Skin For Good

by Freya Drohan

We’re not in the business of guarding secrets from you. In fact, we’re an open book! And so, we couldn’t keep the game-changing wizardry of Dr. Julie Russak and Fraxel laser to ourselves. The widely-known laser treatment, a renowned anti-aging and regenerative procedure, doesn’t come without a (shall we say!) healthy dose of pain and some downtime while your skin heals itself. Alas, here’s what you really came here for: the tea on whether it works or not. I had my procedure back in spring—meaning I was extra thankful that we were still wearing masks and the blistering hot weather hadn’t yet arrived. My skin has always been somewhat “fine”—but no serums or expensive facials ever came close to giving it that elusive lit from within glow. Until Fraxel, that is, which has truly changed the texture and appearance in a myriad of ways. And because I could never be that b*tch who says “I just drink water!” when you ask what I’ve done differently, here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering trying it for yourself. 

What type of client is Fraxel perfect for?
Fraxel is perfect for a wide range of patients because it can address a wide range of concerns. Fraxel can be helpful for somebody in their 20s who’s concerned with acne scars, someone in their 30s or 40s who’s noticing the first signs of fine lines and wrinkles, or for older patients who are trying to erase some of their fine lines and wrinkles. Fraxel is great for
all of these concerns because it is a collagen stimulating procedure. It works especially well when patients are at the age when their metabolic rate is still active and they can still respond well to that stimulation. It’s a great pre-aging procedure to do for someone with a lot of sun and environmental damage on the skin because Fraxel can help to regenerate newer, healthier cells.

What other types of skin complaints does Fraxel notably help with?
It helps with acne scars, irregularities in the skin, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and saggy, crepey skin.

Glow getter! Dr. Julie Russak

Does Fraxel have anti-aging benefits? Would someone be better off trying Fraxel before pursuing Botox or fillers?
Fraxel really improves skin in terms of the amount of tightness and elasticity. It’s an anti-aging collagen inducing procedure. It also helps with anti-aging of the surface of the skin, in regards to brown spots and fine lines. So you can’t really say that it’s a substitute for Botox and fillers, since each one of these treatments help dermatologists to achieve patients’ ultimate goals in different ways. Botox, fillers and lasers are all tools in my armamentarium to provide patients with a natural looking restored appearance.

When is the optimal time to have Fraxel? 
It depends on your goals to determine how many times you need it. For someone who’s younger and just trying to use Fraxel as a pre-aging, preventative measure then sometimes once a year is enough. Someone who is trying to improve the appearance of old acne scars might need three-four treatments. Someone who is using Fraxel as a tool to help with collagen induction to help with fine lines and wrinkles, three treatments are usually recommended one month apart to start the process, and then maintenance treatments—depending on the severity—at about six months to 1 year.

How would you describe the pain? 
We do a lot in our practice to mitigate the pain sensations of Fraxel. From topical numbing to pronox (a gas that really helps with decreasing the sensation of pain and anxiety). Post care is another very important step in decreasing the pain sensation while the skin is healing. We follow precise after care steps to make our patients comfortable and help the skin heal. I won’t say the treatment is painless…but we definitely make it tolerable!

Dr. Russak’s Manhattan practice

Are there any misconceptions out there about Fraxel, or laser facials in general? 
The biggest misconception is that your face will come off and you won’t be able to go outside for 10 days to 2 weeks. Depending on your social life we can vary the strength of the treatment. We can do an intense Fraxel where you will see a good amount of swelling and will want to spend a couple of days indoors, to a much lighter version where you can have only 1-2 days of downtime. In general our patients put aside about one week of not having big events after. Fraxel makes your sin very sun sensitive, so it’s definitely not a procedure you want to do before a sunny vacation.

I’ve barely had a zit since my Fraxel procedure, when I had struggled with persistent breakouts for years! Why is that?
Fraxel is a procedure that regenerates the skin. Healthier skin is able to withstands the attacks of inflammation much better, which very often account for breakouts on our skin. Healther skin behaves in a more healthy way, which is why it also improves acne breakouts.

How does Fraxel help with sun damage? 
Mechanistically-wise, and simply put, Fraxel creates tiny channels through the surface of the skin and then going deeper, which stimulate healthier cells from the bottom of the skin (cells that haven’t been exposed to external damage) to come from the inside and repopulate the surface of the skin. So the cells on the surface that have been sun damaged and exposed to environmental insults get replaced by healthier, fresher skin.

[Ps! If Dr. Russak’s name sounds familiar, you might remember that she teamed up with supermodel Emily DiDonato and Christina Uribe to create the skincare line, Covey.]

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