Just a few decades ago, having a tan was a sign of good health, and no one thought twice about doing whatever necessary to get one.
From basting in baby oil to lying in the sun for hours, it’s the sad tale of a generation woefully unaware of the dangers of UV radiation until long after the damage was done.
Now many people are discovering that along with various dermatological cancers, the prolonged sun exposure of their youth has resulted in damage to their skin in the form of freckles, sun spots, wrinkles and premature aging.
The good news, however, is that a variety of treatments are available to correct some of that damage and to address other age-related skin conditions, helping to restore a more youthful appearance.
IPL or Photofacials
Laser treatments are one option for treating various skin conditions.
“Depending on the depth of a laser treatment, meaning how superficial or deep into the skin you truly want to penetrate with a laser, will be the amount of downtime you will have, as well as the outcome you will have,” says Anita Wolf, RN, who owns Face It Med Spa in West Hartford.
For superficial sun damage, red and brown spots, veins, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), also known as a photofacial, can be a good choice.
“The IPL, or photofacial, is in my opinion, one of the hands-down, best treatments there is, because someone’s who done a lot of damage in the sun, they can reverse that, they can correct it with very little down time,” says Bridget Coates, a clinical aesthetician with Aria Medical Aesthetics in Southington.
Technically not a laser, but rather intense pulses of light, the treatment penetrates layers of skin and typically targets red areas (rosacea or broken blood vessels) or brown spots (freckles or sun spots).
After being treated with IPL, the targeted spots will appear darker before dissipating or sloughing off within three to four weeks.
And while it’s referred to as a photo “facial,” it also can be used to treat the arms, neck and chest.
Ideal candidates for the treatment are people with lighter skin tones, Wolf says. “It’s only skin-type friendly on Fitzpatrick’s [skin type scale] one through three.”
She explains: “The reason behind that is lasers work on pigment and can’t distinguish between a darker-skinned person and/or a brown spot.”
Fortunately, darker-skinned individuals have other options, according to Wolf, including chemical peels, medical-grade topical creams or different depth lasers.
While not considered to be a painful procedure, Coates says the light pulses can produce the mild sensation of rubber bands snapping.
Starting anywhere from $250 to $300 per session, it’s possible that a single treatment can produce optimal results; however, most people require several session to achieve the ideal outcome.
Micro-Needling and PRP
Another skin treatment option is micro-needling, a procedure that does exactly what the name implies; pricks the skin with tiny needles in conjunction with applying a collagen-stimulating product (Vitamin C serum or Hyaluronic acid) to allow for better absorption.
“It creates these little, micro-injuries and in doing so, it gets the collagen activated, it gets the growth factors fired up, and it’s a great, overall rejuvenating treatment for the skin,” Coates says.
Good for acne scars, fine lines, wrinkles and improving overall skin texture, it isn’t painful, but it’s not exactly comfortable either, so a topical numbing cream is applied prior to the treatments, which last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.
Once complete, the face is usually red, tight and mildly swollen, which means one might want to plan ahead to take two to three days off afterward.
Increasing in popularity are the so-called “Vampire Facials,” which combine micro-needling with PRP, which stands for platelet-rich plasma.
Kimberly Boldon, APRN, at Middlesex Dermatology in Middletown, says the process involves first drawing your blood, which is then spun several times in a centrifuge to separate out the richest part, or as Boldon refers to it, “liquid gold.”
“Then we create tiny micro-cuts, little micro-channels in your skin with the micro-needling pen. Then we infuse back in the richest part of your blood and that has all the growth factors, so it helps with collagen production, elastin … people always say they feel like they got a facelift,” she says.
For roughly 48 hours after treatment, the skin will likely be pink or red, and the results aren’t immediate, but a gradual process over time.
“I’ve never had someone unhappy with the results after getting that treatment done,” Boldon says.
Several treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired result and are performed four to six weeks apart.
The average cost of PRP is $600 to 800 per treatment, and micro-needling ranges from $250 to $500, depending on the skin products used.
Beyond laser treatments and micro-needling, people seeking to regain a more youthful appearance have the option of using neuromodulators to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
“Neuromodulators are Dysport and Botox,” Boldon says. “And essentially all that [they do] is paralyze the muscle movements that cause exaggerated expressions, which ends up leaving us with lines in common areas such as your forehead, in between your eyebrows, your crow’s feet, the bunny lines on your nose, or possibly a gummy smile.”
While Botox and Dysport are similar, there are a few differences.
Dysport is often more affordable and when injected, it diffuses somewhat more widely than Botox, giving it a larger surface area coverage. It also begins working on about day four after the treatment.
Botox has a more targeted impact, making it a better choice for more intricate areas like the lower face, and begins to take effect about eight days after injected.
Both treatments typically last about three to four months.
“When it’s done correctly,” Boldon says, “it’s very natural, it’s very subtle, and it just softens up the whole face.”
The cost of Botox or Dysport starts at about $300 per area treated.
Know Before You Go
Regardless of the treatment you’re interested in having done, it’s important to first do some homework on both the procedure and the provider.
“Do your research,” says Coates. “Make sure that you go to a place where they are willing to meet and have a consultation with you before they just schedule some kind of treatment or procedure.”
Coates also says that when it comes to having work done on your face, don’t cut corners just to save a few bucks. She suggests that if you’re just starting out in the world of cosmetic treatments, begin by doing something small.
“If you go to a place to check it out, and you’re thinking of doing a serious laser treatment or something that might be a big investment, why not go in and start with a facial.”
She says spending $75 to $100 on a superficial treatment can be well worth the cost — to get a sense of the provider, how they operate, how attentive they are and if they address your concerns.
“And then if [you’re comfortable with that], have something a little more done.”