Fractional photothermolysis, based on creating spatially precise microscopic thermal wounds, is performed using a 1550-nm erbium fiber laser that targets water-containing tissue to effect the photocoagulation of narrow, sharply defined columns of skin known as microscopic thermal zones.

Fraxel resurfacing has been shown to be both safe and effective for facial and nonfacial photodamage, atrophic acne scars, hypopigmented scars, and dyspigmentation. Because only a fraction of the skin is treated during a single session, a series (typically 3 to 6 treatments) of fractional resurfacing at 2- to 4-week intervals is required for the best clinical improvement.

Many physicians have reported that a series of Fraxel treatments can achieve a similar clinical result for atrophic scars compared with traditional ablative laser skin resurfacing with either CO2 or Er:YAG 2940-nm lasers. However, the improvement seen after a series of Fraxel treatments for perioral laxity and rhytides often falls short of the impressive results that can be achieved with ablative laser skin resurfacing.