Posts Tagged ‘cosmetic laser’

older and younger womenWhen I started  No-Nonsense Beauty Blog I expected  that most of the people who would be  would  be like me and over 40– way over 40.  I was  pretty surprised  when site analytics  showed that over 30%  of  No-Nonsense visitors were in their 20’s and 50% were under 40.  In fact   the majority of comments and questions  were sent in from smart resourceful  thirtysomething women. Its human  nature to  avoid issues  until they on top of us, but these bright young women are asking all the right questions  years before they  actually have to face them in the mirror. 

Different Answers for Different  Aging

Like everything else  in the body, skin changes naturally over time and its not surprising that anti-aging skin care differs over time.  Under  age 30 our skin is rich in estrogen and natural hydration.  The challenge is not to mess it up.   To prevent aging, women often use overly rich cleansers and night creams which  can provoke the reappearance  of teenage style acne.   Called acne cosmetica, its the trigger in over half of   adult acne problems.  Not only  are breakouts   just not necessary, acne scars  tend to become lines and wrinkles as  we get older.

Rather than drowning still  youthful skin in   heavy anti-aging products ,  good skin care starts with gentle  but through cleansing,  and regular exfolitation with microdermabrasion brush.  At night  use an oil free   glycolic acid or lactic acid lotion.  These ingredients  are like a baby step Retin A.  They shed dead dry skin, hydrate the surface and encourage  collagen and elastin growth. 

Its during the day that  thirtysomethings can take major  steps  to prevent aging. Up to age 60,  between 80-90% of skin aging is due to UV damage– but  using  effective sun protection  will short circuit environmental aging. 

After age 40, the good times and bad leave their mark on your  face. Sun filled vacation days  reappear years later as dark patches, red spots  and crows feet around the eyes. Work and family stress show-up as deepening  lines on  the  forehead  and along the sides of the mouth and chin. That’s the bad news.  The good news?  All of the signs of living can be reversed. But before buying a buffet of creams and serums with  a boatload of anti-aging claims, think about what you skin actually needs.    Before you  swipe your credit card at a store  or make an appointment at a doctor, identify what your skin issues.  Brown spots  and splotches?   IPL, Clear and Brilliant  and Fraxel lasers are different ytpes of lasers that quickly zap discolorations.  Lines around the eyes?  Botox will erase them in moments. Dull pale skin color and fine lines? Retin A will deal with both by reving up  circulation and  boosting   healthy collagen.  And when you’ve done with all the heavy lifting repairs, be sure to protect your investment  with a 30-50SPF sunscreen  to prevent new  UV damage.


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Darkened areas  on the cheeks, dark circles under the eyes, age spots, and  hyperpigmentation  are all basically  the same problem– excess melanin production in the skin.  It  can happen at any age, but as  we grow older  it becomes more of a problem.  While we often focus on lines and wrinkles as signs of aging, clearing  brown spots and splotches  can erase years from your skin. 

While there seems to be a boatload of options, there are basically two different approaches:

1.  Products that inhibit the skin cells from producting melanin.

2.  Procedures that actually remove darkened skin.

One of the  most powerful tools against hyperpigmentation  has been hydroquinone, but  many doctors use it cautiously.   There were reports of increased pigmentation and  allergic reactions  with hydroquinone and  but according to Dr Wendy Roberts  these problems were often due to contamination of hydroquinone products. Doctors found that it was the addtion of mercury to the hydroquinone in unregulated products from Asia and Mexico that was causing the problems.  Mercury is banned in the United States and is never part of skin lightening products made in the US. 

If you still feel uncomfortable about hydroquinone,   there is a  buffet  of new ingredients including azaleic acid, licorice and vitamin C  that have been demonstarted  some ability to remove pigmentation, but not as effectively as  hydroquinone.  However when the two or even three  are combined they can work better than when  used separately and  with  lower risk of side effects.

Lasers of different sorts  have been used to treat hyperpigmentation and  one of the best new  is intermitment  pulsed light or IPL.  This type of light literally explodes freckles and without affecting  normal  skin color.  Dr  Marmur treated my BFF Judith with IPL and the before and after pix  are impressive.

Often the best treatment plan is a combination of therapies.  A camera shy friend,  used IPL to remove post pregnancy  dark  patches near  her hairline and  made sure they stayed away with  a vitamin C  serum at night  to discourage melanin production.  I used a YAG lser  for my bigger lumpy sun spots,  nightly treatment with Retin A to gradually fade small freckles and IPL to even off  skin  color.   You can seem my results in the photo album on my facebook pages.  Just  click the Facebook button.

Curent wisdom seems to be that  there is no one single silver  bullet for unwanted pigmentation.  Best results usually  occur  when  different  products and tools are used in combintion.  And remember, whatever  you do, you must be diligent  using sunscreen every day.  Even a single sunny day can provoke their return.  I know this the hard way.

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Here is a pix of my neck ten days after removing the various bumps and splotches.  The scabs are gone and  the redness is slowly fading. To avoid awkward stares  questions,  I am still wearing scarves and chuncky necklaces to cover them up.  I found that powder mineral foundation does hide them,  but then rubs off and stains  my tees and blouses, soI’m sticking to camouflage rather than make-up.  Now that I’ve worked so hard to  polish up   my neck and chest  I want to protect it from new problems.  I had three types of spots:

Brown spots:   These are a combination of age and sunlight.  The former I can’t so anything about– the latter just needs a daily sunscreen.  Done.

Skin tags: These are also linked to age and to high blood sugar levels. Not surprising, since I have type II Diabetes. As a matter of fact, it was Park Avenue dermatologist Dr Lefkovits who saw them  15 years ago and told me  to get tested for diabetes.  If I keep my blood sugar under control,  they do  not reappear.

Red spots:  These are called cherry angiomas and result when a small group of tiny blood vessels clump together.  They are a genetic thing and there is nothing I can do to prevent them.  However  they can develop  little extensions which are known as spider angiomas.  Both sunlight and alcohol can provoke these to appear.  I’m a two glasses of wine a week kind of drinker, so that’s not a problem.  Remembering to apply aunscreen to  my neck and chest is  my  new summer routinue.

And I’ve noticed an extra bonus to  this round of freckle removal.  In the area where  I had laser treatment,  the neck skin  looks smoother and less bumpy.  This ability to  tighten skin is one of lasers best benefits and spot tightening is actually the principle behind the Fraxel Laser. Rather than  totally burning off the top layer with the ultimate C02 Laser, Fraxel  works on a grid to treat tiny areas. but leave adjacent skin untouched.  The result?  A  more natural looking tightening.  I had not been that interested  to do Fraxel, but now  that I see how the principle works, its something I will explore it a bit, especially  for my neck.

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I have often mentioned my reservations about retinols vs the more powerful retinoids like Retin A.  When applied to the skin, retinols have to convert themselves to  a true retinoid before they can be effective. Researchers estimate that a retinol is only 25% as effective as a Retin A.   For example, a .1% Retinol (  a very common concentration) is equal to a .025 Retin A–  which is actually the mildest Retin A on the market.  And then there is the problem that most retinol products don’t say how much of the power  stuff they actually contain.  You can’t know if a  product is to weak to be effective or too strong and irritating. 

I stayed away from retinol products until wandering in the exhibit hall  of a derm conference, I picked up  free samples of .5% Retinol from Skinceuticals. I was intrigued.  A .5% retinol is at least equal to my current .1% Retin A  Micro. ( I know  this is a lot of  math but  staywith  me– its worth it). And then there was the question of price.  .5% Retinol ( they need to work on the name) is just $50/ tube–  a lot better than the $300 price tag of my Retin A Micro.  But price  is not that important if it didn’t  deliver beauty benefits.  After just three days, I  had new respect for retinols.  I could put it on  shortly after washing my face without developing dryness or irritation–yet I could see a fresher, brighter skin.    What I  loved best about Retin A  is that relieved my pale, pasty skin tones and replaces them  with  pinker, happier looking skin. This retinol product delivered the same “pinking” but without the dryness.

To keep my skin from getting bored, I’ve been alternating between .5% Retinol and .1% Retin A  Micro.  I liked the results so much, that when I had finished my samples,  I paid retail for a full size tube.    Next I want to see if I can use  it before and after an office anti-aging procedure.  IPL and lasers  make my skin especially sensitive and I need to suspend Retin A for as much as a week.  Next time, I’m going to see if I can use .5%Retinol the next day to avoid a break in beauty routinue.  What has your experience been  with retinol products.? How did they compare to Retin A for you?  

For more information, I’ve written a   guide to Retin A.  Like my Facebook  Fan Page and you can download   the four page guide for  free.

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I finally got  my new Retin A this week and I’m lovin it.  To recap my Retin A adventures, I  had been using .04% Retin A  micro with wonderful results.  Its the lowest dose of  one of the gentlest forms  of tretinoin and I got good results  without too much discomfort. After about 10 months, I noticed that  I no longer could see  that characteristic yourthful glow you get with Retin A  and  realized  it was time to move up to the next level.  Dr Marmur gave me a prescription for.1%  Retin A– the  turbo powered one, not the micro-sphere stuff.  And here is where I went rogue.  In my local CVS, brand name Retin A was about $200.  I decided to order a generic version from Canada for $40.  I was so proud of all the money I saved.

When my bargain Retin A arrived, I was a  concerned that  it was yellow, not white, but I had faith in the label.  Concerned that  it would be too irritating, I used   a dab every other day for a week.  Nothing happened.  Then I used it every night.  Nothing.  I used two dabs.  Nothing.  I used it for a  month and while I didn’t get irritated, I didn’t see the lovely “pinking”   that I developed with  Retin A  Micro.   I even tried it under my eye.  Nothing.  I did everything but spread it on toast and eat it.  I don’t know what is in this yellow goo, but its not an effective Retin-A.

For my holiday present, I bought myself  .1% Retin A micro.  At $269 at my pharmacy, it was a commitment.  It turned out to be the right choice.  Within a week, I’ve got a little glow again.  I’m still using it every other day without flaking and redness.  My skin feels tight after washing — a signal to keep taking things easy– but I’m back in a good Retin A routinue. 

I’ve used  so many anti-aging tools, I’m running out of body parts.  Its going to get difficult   see  what procedure or product is  responsible  for changes.   That’s why I am so excited that a good friend  has volunteered to join me on this anti-aging exploration.  First  treatment, IPL for the brown spots on her hands.  I used  lasers and we can see  what a different approach can do.   Have a wonderful New Year!

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 Last week I went to the annual Mount Sinai Advances in Dermatology Conference in NYC.  Begun over a decade ago as a local meeting, doctors now come from all over the world to hear  state of the art developments from the best and brightest in dermatology.  It is the creation of  Park Avenue dermatologist Albert Lefkovits– who by the way  has taken care of my daughters since they were teenagers.  He is such a good derm that I actually got flowers from a co-worker to thank me for recommending him.

By the end of the three day  meeting, I finally understood the difference between Sculptra, Radiesse, and Juvaderm, learned about the new sunscreen guidelines, and heard about  ways to deal with adult acne that  improves both breakouts  and skin aging.  Awesome!

I even found out about two new FDA approved  therapies  that hadn’t even been on my radar.  The first, Photodynamic Therapy, the skin is  pretreated with medication and then exposed to red and blue lights of varying wavelengths.  It is used for aging, acne  and brown age spots.  It sounds great, but I wonder if anyone  has  used it.  I’d love to hear about your experiences.

The second new anti-aging techique goes by the  tongue-numbing name of Sub-Ablative Radio Frequency.  It is a laser that does not affect the surface of the skin, but makes improvements in the lower architecture.  I was so impressed with the results, I made an appointment to get  it done. I’ve always been hesitant to use lasers since the skin looks raw and red for at least a week.  When I  lasered the freckles on my face, a three year old pointed a finger at me and  said ” Clownie?  When I lasered the  brown spots on my hand, a  women asked if they were bed bug bits.    With this new laser, all the effects are below the skin’s surface, so you look better, not redder.

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IPL laser treatments are one of the fastest growing anti-aging  office proceedures.  When I  had IPL and posted the before, healing and after  photos, I received more questions than on any other topic.   IPL is often described as the “lunchtime laser”, but its really a bigger deal than say,  a manicure.   What I learned from the experience should  give you the tools to get the beautiful results  you want

1.  Can I have IPL while pregnant?

It’s not recommended.  IPL has never been tested during pregnancy and few if any dermatologists would do the procedure during these critical nine months. If anyone says they will do  it at this time,  run.

2.  Can I have IPL on my hands?

Yes, it works beautifully  on the hands and probably heals faster than the YAG laser I used on my hands last month.  However IPL is more expensive than the traditional laser treatment on the same area.

3. Is it true that you can get  even more dark patches from IPL?

Women whose skin is rich in pigment (   eg Hispanic, Asian, Indian and African American) should avoid IPL!!  This device “grabs”  onto melanin and can produce  splotchy, irregular  skin color.  In fact, even the  naturally palest skin, if suntanned, can get disappointing results with IPL.

4.  Any  special skin care care tips  for  IPL?

My favorite question!  Two days before the procedure, take a  Retin A holiday, and  wait 5-7 days before  resuming regular Retin A use.  For the healing week, use a very mild cleanser  (eg Cetaphil) and avoid exfoliating scrubs and glycolic acid products.  To soothe and protect the skin use a very plain moisturizer ( eg Aquaphor)  and avoid  ingredients like retinoids, vitamin C  and Alpha Hydroxy Acids. During  the day use a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide ( eg Neutrogena for Sensitive Skin).  Standard  chemical sunscreens  are potentially more irritating on just  treated skin,  but you never need a sunblock more than after  any  type of laser treatment.

5. How many IPl treatments should I have?

Most dermatologists recommend a series of two-three treatments over  a three to six month period.  I was  very happy with one treatment, but I had already my biggest, baddest  freckles removed with a YAG laser, before I was introduced to IPL.  I think it would be  wonderful to have a yearly IPL to refresh skin color and tone.   It’s a great birthday  present to a 50 plus wife and Mom  who, trust me, does not need another fruit bowl or bracelet.

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