I have seen a huge improvement in the look of my acne scars, but getting there hasn’t been easy.

By Brooke Schuldt
Updated April 04, 2019
Credit: dardespot/Getty Images

As someone who has suffered from adult cystic acne for the past three years, I have tried just about every trick in the book to clear up my skin and make it bright and smooth again. Treatments, creams, doctors, pills—you name it, I’ve tried it. Overall, the only thing that really seemed to work for my acne was regular exercise and a diet change (goodbye dairy and sugar!), but even with my new, smoother skin, I have still struggled to reduce the appearance of my acne scars.

Anyone with scarring or hyperpigmentation will tell you that while makeup can help to camouflage the redness, it doesn’t compare to waking up with clear skin. I want to wash the makeup off my face, look in the mirror, and see no red blotches or divots. I’ve tried everything to clear this up, like serums and retinols, chemical peels, laser facials, and consulting various dermatologists. With these options, I’ve seen temporary healing, but none have really transformed my skin.

When I was offered a chance to try the Fractora treatment, I was extremely skeptical. What about this treatment was different than the dozens of other options I’ve tried to clear up my scarring? But, ever determined to be rid of my redness and achieve a smoother texture once and for all, I decided to give it a try.

Fractora uses a radiofrequency microneedling device to make microscopic punctures in the skin while sending radiofrequency below the skin’s surface. “Fractora is appropriate for anyone hoping to address tone and texture concerns,” says Dr. Adam Kolker, whose practice I went to for the treatment. “It promotes improvement in skin laxity, skin texture, and skin tone, treating fine lines and moderate to deep wrinkles of the body, face, crow’s feet and around the eyes while reducing the skin discoloration that accompanies sun damage. It also can be used to address hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), scarring, and active acne.”

This what my skin looked like before my Fractora facial. (The lighting wasn't ideal in the office bathroom where I took this photo, but you can see a lot of red spots, deep divots, and some smaller breakouts.)

This is what my skin looked like before Fractora.
| Credit: Brooke Schuldt

After talking with Nina, an aesthetician from Dr. Kolker’s office, I was informed of a few things. First, Fractora typically requires at least three to four sessions for you to see maximum results. Second, Fractora treatments can be painful or uncomfortable since your skin is being pierced by several needles, but the anesthetic cream applied to your face before the procedure should help make this tolerable. Third, the recovery time is usually a few weeks, and I was told to expect my skin to look really raw at first and maybe even break out a bit. As skin heals, though, there should be a visible difference.

The aftermath effects gave me pause, for sure, because the last thing I wanted was to walk around with scaly facial skin for weeks. I decided to be brave and give it a try because, at the end of the day, I would do anything to get results.

I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced anything like a Fractora treatment before. The minute Nina stuck the handheld device full of needles into my face and turned on the radiofrequency, I felt a pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. Nina told me it wasn’t uncommon and offered to stop the procedure, but I decided to keep going. Judge me if you want, but I really wanted my scarring to be gone.

Why did it hurt so much, and is this normal? After the procedure, Dr. Kolker told me that it's common to feel uncomfortable during the process (though I’d classify what I felt as a few notches above uncomfortable) as the procedure requires going deep into the skin. “Whereas superficial aesthetic microneedling can be more comfortable for many individuals, Fractora penetrates much more deeply, delivers radiofrequency that produces a controlled increase in temperature, and makes significant changes to skin tone and texture. This combination can be uncomfortable for some.”

After Nina went over the entire lower half of my face three times, I was sent home to recover. Overall, the procedure took about 75 minutes, and Dr. Kolker says treatments can last for at long as 90 minutes (including how long you have to wait for the numbing cream to take effect). When I first saw myself in the mirror–red and swollen with little puncture marks all over my face–I was sure I had just done major damage to my skin. When I woke up the next morning, I was a little less red and had some small needle point marks on my face. Though I couldn’t see any improvements just yet, I thought maybe this could actually work after all.

This is what my face looked like during my Fractora recovery.
| Credit: Brooke Schuldt

I didn’t really start to see improvements in my skin until a month later. The recovery period was rough. The first week, I had small breakouts, needle point scarring, and a lot of redness. I didn’t really apply anything to my face except for the special moisturizer samples Nina gave me during my appointment, and I didn’t go to work until my face was healed enough to apply makeup about three to four days post treatment. Weeks two and three were mostly redness and scars, but as the tiny needle marks started to heal and the redness faded away, I began to realize that some of the deep divots in my cheeks were either heeled or smaller, and some of the red surface scars from cysts past were lightened or completely gone. I couldn’t believe it.

The Fractora treatment didn’t fix every scar on my face, and I still break out from time to time now, a year later, but I’d say that my skin has greatly improved post-procedure. I declined any more treatments because, quite frankly, even though they would probably work better, I didn’t really want to endure the pain again. If you do end up going in for further treatments, you can expect the recovery process to be fairly similar each time, but you may grow more comfortable with the process overtime since you'll know what to expect, according to Dr. Kolker.

I’ve had friends ask me if I would recommend the facial, and I always say yes, but I let them know about the pain I experienced. Sure, it’s normal, and yes, if you are someone who deals with acne scarring or stubborn wrinkles, you may be willing to put up with that to see results. That’s certainly what I did. But that’s a determination for everyone to make on their own, with all of the information at their disposal, including possible discomfort or pain.

This is a photo of what my skin looked like after Fractora.
| Credit: Brooke Schuldt

The change to the texture and the redness of my skin changed my life. I wear less makeup now, I go out without makeup more often, and I feel more confident. I still have some stubborn scars that need attending to, but a routine of applying retinol nightly seems to be doing the trick for now. Would I do Fractora again? Maybe not. But would I recommend it a friend? Absolutely, if you think you’re up for everything it entails.