If you’re savvy about anti-aging procedures, then you’ve probably heard of the Fraxel laser. On the market for over a decade, the Fraxel works by perforating skin with microscopic holes and injecting light therein. By using light energy to stimulate skin, as well as wounding superficial layers of the skin, the Fraxel stimulates new, healthy skin. Over time, the Fraxel – which can run $1100 and up for a single treatment – makes the skin tighter and more youthful (Beautiful Skin).
[Read More: Clear+Brilliant Laser Review: Is It Worth It?]
If you’re looking for less of a pinch on your skin and your wallet, look no further than Fraxel’s younger brother, the Clear+Brilliant. Starting at just $250/treatment, the Clear+Brilliant utilizes the same technology but penetrates the skin less. Typically used to treat acne, shrink pore size, and brighten skin, the Clear+Brilliant has been getting rave reviews from physicians and patients alike.
But do you really need a laser treatment to help your antioxidant serum work better? Or is this just a way to sell more products (and treatments)? The honest truth about lasers and Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.
L-ascorbic Acid Penetrates the Skin Well on Its Own
Though there is a new form of vitamin C every time you turn around these days, truth be told, there is more research substantiating the original L-ascorbic acid than any other. When introduced to skin in a formulation with an acidic pH, L-ascorbic acid penetrates the skin (Journal of Biochemistry, 1993), and demonstrates exfoliating action. Other forms of vitamin C, including magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl glucoside, and ascorbyl palmitate, have never been shown to penetrate the skin as deeply as L-ascorbic acid, at least not to the best of my knowledge. Given their less-than-acidic nature, these alternative forms of vitamin C typically are introduced to skin at a more neutral (and less exfoliating) pH, resulting in less exfoliation as well.
So if you are using a serum with vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid, like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, rest assured that your serum is already penetrating into your skin. Perhaps not as deeply as following a Clear+Brilliant or Perméa laser treatment, but deep enough to have been shown to stimulate collagen significantly after 3 months on its own (Archives of Otolaryngological Head and Neck Surgery, 1999). In fact, in this study, a 15% L-ascorbic acid serum was applied daily for a period of three months. After this time, there was a significant difference on the treated versus the untreated side. The mechanism of this action is not completely understood, but L-ascorbic acid is necessary for the activity of an collagen-producing enzyme, prolyl hydroxylase. Perhaps topical application of L-ascorbic acid is stimulating this collagen-producing enzyme. For now, we can’t say for sure, but we do know topical application of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is enough to induce changes in the skin within 90 days, laser or no laser.
The Serum Really Seems to Enhance the Laser Treatment, More than the Other Way Around
Like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, or Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, some relationships start out rocky before they generate dream-like results. The same goes for the skin and laser treatments; in the first few days, inflammation runs rampant. Those with sensitive skin may experience significant redness, tenderness, and even peeling or flaking. After a few days, the skin is rejuvenated as new collagen grows where the skin has been impacted. It’s like a healing process, “Sometimes inflammation can stimulate pigmentation and prolonged redness and swelling, so we’re always trying to figure out how far to go [with lasers],” says Dr. Anne Chapas, M.D., a New York City dermatologist who offers Clear+Brilliant and Permea.
To that end, antioxidant serums like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic may aid the Clear+Brilliant and Perméa technology. Some experts suggest that antioxidant serums might help to shorten healing time, as vitamins C and E in particular have been shown to reduce inflammation when applied topically to the skin (Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 1998).
However, for those with sensitive skin, the potent combination of Clear+Brilliant and/or Perméa with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic may prove to be too much. I have numerous friends who experienced irritation from Skinceuticals CE Ferulic alone, as the L-ascorbic acid has some exfoliating action. Add in lasers that enhance the penetration of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic into the skin, and you could be asking for trouble.
The best way to know? Use prudent judgment: If you have sensitive skin to begin with, start with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic the day after the procedure, and use every other day, gradually working up to nightly use. However, if your skin is as strong as an ox, you probably will get beautiful results from Clear+Brilliant and/or Perméa with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.
Truth be told, any laser or exfoliating treatment will enhance the depth with which antioxidant serums can penetrate the skin, and the 15% L-ascorbic acid in Skinceuticals CE Ferulic has been shown to penetrate the skin well anyway. The real plus of this combination, then, is the fact that Skinceuticals CE Ferulic may help to alleviate some of the redness and tenderness following laser treatments. Furthermore, the combination of Clear+Brilliant and/or Perméa with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is only recommended for those who do not have sensitive skin to begin with. So while this is a potent combination, I would only go near it if: a.) you don’t have particularly sensitive skin to begin with; or b.) if you do have sensitive skin, you start with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic the day after the procedure, and use it only every other day as skin tolerates it.