We’ve all seen the mall-based skin care establishments and spas selling what seem to be too-good-to-be-true packages for cosmetic procedures that promise to restore our lost youth or get rid of unsightly facial hair.
In fact, some of these same procedures are even being marketed for at-home use. But before you consider any of these cosmetic treatments, dermatologists caution consumers to weigh their benefits and potential risks.
“Knowing who not to treat is extremely important, and that is why consumers should remain highly skeptical of cosmetic procedures offered at local malls or venues where packages of treatments are sold,” says dermatologist Ranella J. Hirsch, MD, FAAD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine in Boston. “In these cases, there is no motivation to turn anyone away, and the consequences could be very serious. Unless you go to a dermatologist specially trained in cosmetic procedures, you cannot be sure you are receiving the highest-quality care.”
Today, new technology and products entering the growing market of cosmetic procedures are enhancing dermatologists’ ability to fine-tune treatments. For example, advances in the use of lasers, fillers and botulinum rejuvenation are allowing dermatologists to better refine treatments based on each patient’s specific cosmetic needs.
One of the newer laser technologies that gives dermatologists the option to safely treat patients with more extensive skin damage is fractional resurfacing. Dr. Hirsch notes that the main benefit of fractional resurfacing is increased collagen production that improves the appearance of skin texture and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and acne scars – with considerably less downtime than older invasive laser technologies.
In the filler category, a number of new fillers have been introduced in recent years to replace lost volume in the skin and to shape and sculpt areas that show signs of aging. Where once natural collagen was the only filler available, now the advent of synthetic collagens, several hyaluronic acids, Lpolylactic acid, and calcium hydroxyapatite allow dermatologists to correct signs of aging from sunken cheeks to fine lines around the eyes and lips.
However, for some consumers, the “do-it-yourself” cosmetic treatments that can be performed at home represent a viable alternative for those looking for a quick, albeit temporary, fix. Many of the at-home products such as microdermabrasion kits and chemical peel solutions can be safe when they have been thoroughly tested for this type of self-use. To ensure the highest level of safety, the concentration of the active ingredients in these products is much lower than that used by dermatologists.
Perhaps the most sought after new at-home cosmetic procedure is in the realm of laser hair removal devices. Unlike the laser hair removal procedures performed by dermatologists that offer a long-term solution to unwanted facial and body hair, laser hair removal performed at home is intentionally temporary. While most at-home treatments do not produce results as dramatic or longlasting as the cosmetic procedures performed in dermatologists’ offices, there are still safety concerns if these are used improperly of if any of the active ingredients cause an unforeseen skin reaction.
“It is important for people considering any at-home cosmetic treatments to first discuss these products with their dermatologist,” recommends Dr. Hirsch. “For example, a person using a retinoid could be at risk for an adverse skin reaction from a chemical in these at home products that should not be used simultaneously. Laser hair removal devices also can pose a safety concern for people who are tan or have darker skin since the improper use of a laser hair removal device on darker skin could result in scarring or hyperpigmentation of the skin.”
To ensure the highest level of safety and efficacy, Dr. Hirsch advises consumers to see their dermatologist for all their skin care needs. For more information on cosmetic procedures, visit www.aad.org.