Medical Procedures Center, P.C.

“Treating people, not just problems” since 1989.


John L. Pfenninger, M.D.


4800 N. Saginaw Road

Midland, MI 48640

(989) 631-4545

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Patient Education regarding ActiveFX Laser Resurfacing



ActiveFX is a term applied to laser skin resurfacing using the Lumenis brand laser.  Laser treatments basically improve three things:  (1) skin irregularity, such as from acne scars and wrinkles, (2) skin tone, and (3) skin looseness.  The laser treatment increases the collagen deep within the skin, making the skin smoother, tighter, and more vibrant or youthful in appearance.


Active FX is unique and different than previous lasers in that healing time is markedly shortened.  This is accomplished by applying the laser energy in a different way.  Instead of one large circle of light energy, each pulse of the laser now delivers many tiny circles of light within the treated area.  This allows some skin to remain untreated and healthy so it “bridges across” and heals the treated areas much more quickly.  Thus, healing time is reduced.  Typically treatments will be done between Wednesday and Friday.  There will be mild to moderate redness remaining the following week, but most likely you’ll be able to return to work in five to six days.    


The ActiveFX treatment however does not go as deep as the older carbon dioxide laser treatments.  This represents a trade off.  Since the treatment is not as intensive, the recovery time is much quicker, but, the results compared to the old lasers will not be as dramatic.  Remember, many people still had oozing and scaling skin four to six weeks after laser resurfacing in the past.


For many cosmetic treatments, it is important to avoid sun exposure and tanning.  As is well known now, sun exposure does cause skin damage and skin cancer.  Sunburns are especially bad.  Tanning booths also markedly increase the risk of skin cancers, especially melanoma, and should always be avoided.  With hair removal and intense pulsed light treatments (IPL), it is important that a patient not be tan at the time of treatment.  With ActiveFX it is not as essential to avoid the sun prior to treatment.  However, for lasting benefit and results, minimize sun exposure and avoid all tanning booths, especially in the first four weeks following ActiveFX treatment.  Also, do not smoke.  It not only slows healing after treatment, but it will cause your skin problems to return sooner.  Following these practices will help your skin remain younger longer.


It is important for the person who is treating you to know whether you have used any recent skin peeling methods such as Retin-A, chemical peels, or other techniques.  Accutane usage can increase the effect of the laser, so it’s important that you let us know if you have used Accutane within the last 12 months.  Also, ActiveFX can bring out fever blisters even in those who have never experienced them before, so it will be necessary to put you on some anti-viral prevention medication prior to the laser treatment. 



When you come in for your treatment, the staff will apply some topical numbing medicine to make the procedure more comfortable.  This will need to be in place for at least an hour before the treatment begins.  You will also be offered Valium to help relax you during the procedure.  If you take Valium, you will need to have a driver with you to take you home.  If you choose to have extensive treatment of your eyelids, eye shields will be placed under your lids to prevent any damage from the laser therapy.


The treatment does not hurt but there is some discomfort.  It may feel like you’ve had a good sunburn when it is completed.  It is essential that you keep the skin moist after treatment for at least four to six days.  Aquaphor, Vaseline, or similar agents work well.  It’s OK to shower the next day.  When washing the face, a gentle cleanser such as Skin Medica Cleanser, pHisoderm, or Ivory soap should be used.  Do not scrub the face or use a washcloth, but rather, just gently wash it with your fingertips and then blot it dry afterwards.


The side effects from ActiveFX are generally few.  Unfortunately, as with any treatment, it can occasionally result in undesired side effects.  Everyone’s skin is different, so the response and results will vary significantly from person to person.  Sometimes the skin can blister or remain red for a longer period of time than expected.  After the skin is healed, it can be lighter, or, it can even be darker.  Minimal discomfort is common, but occasionally, the pain may be worse.  For those instances, acetaminophen can be used (two tabs, four times a day).  It is not unusual to see some swelling.  For those who do not heal well, some test spots may be tried just to be sure that the healing will be uncomplicated.  And of course, the treatment may not meet your expectations.  It is not meant to totally reverse all the effects of the sun, smoking, and aging.  Rather, the ActiveFX should provide a smoother texture to the skin, tighten it, and help reduce the wrinkling that is present.


It is extremely important that the newly treated skin be protected from the sun and from any other type of treatment for at least a month.  Tanning booths are absolutely forbidden.  Exposure to UV light could cause blistering of your skin, scarring, and excessive pigmentation.


Including the time needed for the anesthetic to take effect, the entire treatment time will be from an hour and a half to two hours if the entire face is treated.  If less area is treated, the time may be shorter.


No guarantees can ever be given, but in general, ActiveFX has been extremely well received and has provided a very practical, realistic, and effective approach to skin rejuvenation.  Combined with other available treatments, it can truly “roll back the years”. 


Copyright, 2011. John L.  Pfenninger, M.D                                                                                                                                                Jw 02/11