Posts Tagged ‘hyperpigmentation’
There are countless skin care products available to treat skin discolorations known as “hyperpigmentation”, such as brown spots and melasma. There is also just as much confusion and misinformation, surrounding topical Hydroquinone and Non- Hydroquinone products. The fact is they are both necessary, as each have a place in correcting and maintaing pigment irregularities.
I am a proponent for Hydroquinone and for good reason, when used correctly it is arguably the most effective topical for treating hyperpigmentation. I am also a proponent for Non-Hydroquinone skin brighteners, because I do not support using Hydroquinone indefinitely without pulsing on and off.
If you understand how hyper pigmentation occurs, you are better able to understand how to treat it. The process of producing pigment (melanogenesis) is complex, with many process, so I am giving the short version. When the skin has hyperpigmentation, it means that, there are melanocytes that are over producing melanin (pigment) AND that those pigment cells are not being evenly distributed to the skin cells called keratinocytes.
Something must first, trigger the increase of tyrosinase activity, this can be sun exposure, hormones or inflammation. Tyrosinase is an enzyme in the skin that controls the production of melanin. One of the main goals in treating hyperpigmentation is to inhibit the tyrosinase, so that it will not trigger the overproduction of melanin (pigment). Products that aim to do this use ingredients that we call “tyrosinase inhibitors”. Hydroquinone is a strong tyrosinase inhibitor, however there are also non-hydroqinone tyrosinase inhibitors that are effective.
Hydroquinone is a strong tyrosinase inhibitors and very effective at treating hyper pigmentation. There is concern, however that with extended use the skin may become resistant to the effects. This is why it is important to use hydroquinone under professional guidance. The general idea is to maximize correction, before you build resistance. Many dermatologists and skincare professionals are now recommending pulsing on and off hydroquinone. If you are using or plan on using hydroquionone products, I recommend you read “Hydroquinone: What you need to know, to maximize it’s benefits and prevent resistance”.
When you are pulsing off hydroquinone, you may want to use a non-hydroquinone skin brighter. Look for a brightener with tyrosinase inhibitors. Ideally, non-hydroquinone skin brighteners should be formulated with a combination of ingredients that will have an effect on the various stages of melanogensis (the formation of pigments). Antioxidants and exfoliants play a role in melanogensis and should be part of a skin care regimen, along with a tyrosinase inhibitor. I am including a short list of some commonly used ingredients in Non-hydroquinone brighteners.
Non-Hydroquinone Lighting/ Brighting Ingredients
Arbutin (Bearberry Extract)
Licorice Root Extract
Hydroxyphenoxy Propionic Acid
For best results begin by preparing your skin to best absorb the topical products you are using, this is done by properly cleansing and toning skin. Topical antioxidants and a broad spectrum SPF, are a MUST, because they help block the effects of “triggers”. We also recommend some type of chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic or lactic acid. These help by exfoliating melanin filled skin cells from the surface, which accumulate and cause pigment to be more dense, making it look darker. Retinoids such as tretinoin (Retina-A) work by inhibiting the transfer of pigment to skin cells, this blends pigment for even skin tone. Retinoids also work as a tyrosinase inhibitor. Finally, if you are not seeing the results you want with topical products alone, consult with a skin care provider to discuss which treatment options are best for you. Typically, we recommend chemical peels or PhotoFacials (IPL or BBL), depending on skin type and conditions being treated.
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In the world of medical aesthetics, hydroquinone is often a necessary part of skin care. It is the gold standard for treating dark skin irregularities known as hyperpigmentation. As effective as it is, there is a rising concern regarding the number of people who are using hydroquinone incorrectly, without on going professional guidance. Many of those who are using hydroquinone do not understand the risk of hydroquinone resistance or how to properly use it, as to enhance efficacy. It is important to use hydroquinone in a way to maximize it’s benefit, before the skin builds a resistance and how to properly transition off, to reduce incidence of rebound hyper pigmentation. Always seek a professional guidance before starting or continuing hydroquinone use. It should be used only under the strict supervision of a professional.
Why do we need Hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is the single most effective topical ingredient for treating skin discolorations. Skin discolorations can include sun spots, Melasma and Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH), pigmented acne scars. When the skin is inflamed it can respond by over producing melanin, this inflammation can come from acne, injury, surgery or aesthetic procedures such as laser or chemical peels. UV exposure and hormones can also induce skin discolorations. In the world of medical aesthetics we are really dependent on the ability of hydroquinone to quickly correct hyper pigmentation. There are non-hydroquinone skin brighteners that are very good products, however they are not as effective as hydroquinone. That does not mean that botanical lighteners do not have a place, as you will learn, both hydroquinone and non-hydroquinone brighteners are important.
Resistance to Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone works by inhibiting tyrosinase, which is necessary for melanin production. It is believed that with extended hydroquinone use, the skin will compensate by increasing tyrosinase. This would causes the skin to become resistant to the effects of hydroquinone. When the skin becomes resistant to the effects of hydroquinone it will quit improving the hyper pigmentation. To prevent building resistance, it is not recommended to continue use for extended periods of time with out cycling off. It is usually recommended to cycle off hydroquinone after about 4-6 months. If needed, hydroquinone may be resumed after about 2 months. If you stop hydroquinone “cold turkey”, there is a risk of rebound pigmentation. To prevent rebound pigmentation, it is generally recommended to transition your skin off. While transitioning off and breaking from hydroquinone, continued stimulation with a retinoid is beneficial. When it is time to transition off your hydroquinone, you may begin to incorporate a non-hydroquinone skin brightener. There are several professional products that may be recommended. Exact regimens will vary individually, depending on skin condition and any skin treatments, such as laser treatments or chemical peels, that are planned. Do not attempt to cycle off hydroquinone without professional guidance!
Maximize Hydroquinone Effectiveness
When using hydroquinone to treat hyper pigmentation, the goal is to correct the condition before the skin builds resistance. In order to maximize effectiveness, we need to use a high quality hydroquinone product in the appropriate dosage, along with products that optimize penetration, assist in correction and protect from exacerbating factors.
We want to use enough of hydroquinone to reach correction, so a skin care professional needs to show you how to measure your hydroquinone and give you a time frame that you should expect to run out of product. Using hydroquinone every morning and night is a common protocol for treating facial skin.
We want the hydroquinone to have optimal ability to penetrate and work. Prepare the skin by cleansing with an appropriate cleanser. This would exclude anything that does not sufficiently clean the skin or leaves any occlusive film, this could inhibit product penetration. For this reason, I generally do not recommend cleansers like CeraVe or Cetaphil. Anything that is too harsh or active, should also be avoided, as we do not want to induce any unnecessary inflammation or irritation. After cleansing, an appropriate toner should be used, this will restore the skins PH balance after cleansing, preparing it for corrective skin care products. (astringent is not toner). Hydroquinone should be applied after toner, unless you have been instructed to use a Vitamin-C serum or other corrective serums. Always, confirm with your Esthetician or provider, the order your products should be applied.
When Hydroquinone is used with a mild exfoliant and Tretinoin (Retin-A), the pigment will be more evenly distributed. The goal is not just to suppress the production melanin (pigment), it is to have even distribution of the pigment. When the skin has hyper pigmentation, the melanocytes are not functioning properly. Not only is there an over production of melanin, but the pigment is not being evenly distributed to skin cells called keratinocytes. When Hydroquinone is used with Tretinoin, it works to evenly distribute the pigment. A mild chemical exfoliant will enhance the process by increasing the skin cell turnover. It is important that the exfoliant be appropriate to your skin type and personal skin care regimen, to reduce risk of any unnecessary inflammation. Here is the icing on the cake, tretinoin will also treat acne, increase collagen production in the dermis, as well as glycosaminoglycans such as Hyaluronic acid that bind to water and improve skin moisture. There is also evidence that tretinoin may positively effect gene expression in the skin. – Yes, please! I want all of that.
Sun protection is important for several reasons. 1) UV exposure stimulates the production of melanin, while hydroquinone is working to suppress it. It literally, defeats the purpose of using hydroquinone, if you do not have proper sun protection. 2) Hydroquinone, tretinoin and exfoliants can all cause photosensitivity of the skin. 3) Heat, including heat from the sun dilates capillaries in the skin and induces inflammation, which can exacerbated pigmentation problems. 4) UV exposure causes skin discolorations, free radical damage and breaks down collagen and elastin.5) UV rays damage DNA and causes skin cancer, and melanoma can be life threatening.
Your sunscreen should be an SPF 30 or higher and should have zinc oxide. Zinc Oxide can help by blocking some of the UV induced heat, that contributes to inflammation and exacerbates hyper pigmentation. Zinc also provides broad spectrum protection from UVA/UVB rays without the irritation occasionally seen with chemical sunscreens. Professional zinc products are more elegant and will look better on the skin. Using a moisturizer, BB Cream or cosmetic with an added SPF, is not enough. It is important to have an actual sunscreen, with high broad spectrum coverage. Sunscreen should go on after any moisturizer, it is the last thing you put on, but before makeup. Sunscreen needs to be used EVERY day!
Topical antioxidants are useful for many reasons, but in regards to skin discolorations we especially like topical Vitamin-C. First, Vitamin-C reduces oxidized dopaquinone, which helps further brighten the skin. Perhaps, more importantly, Vitamin C helps to reduce inflammation in the skin that can cause or exacerbate hyper pigmentation. Some antioxidants, including Vitamin-C also have photo-protectant ability, enhancing the effectiveness of sunscreen. They works by neutralizing the UV rays, rather than reflecting or absorbing UV rays like a sunscreen, so use them together to maximize your protection. We recommend using an l-ascorbic acid form of vitamin c, in serum form. A quality l-ascorbic acid, needs to be packaged in a glass bottle with a glass dropper, the bottle should be dark to reduce oxidation of the product.
Not all skin care products play well together and there are some skin care products that may be contraindicated to your personal skin care regimen. For example, you should not use any product that contains benzoyal peroxide with products that can oxidize, such as Hydroquinone and Vitamin-C Serums. Always inform your Esthetician or skin care provider of the products you are using, and do not add anything new without having it approved first.
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I have been getting a lot of messages from people all over the world, that have received burns from an aesthetic laser or IPL (photofacial) treatments. The question is almost always “What should I do to treat laser burns?” It’s important to understand that, nobody can diagnose or treat you over the internet. There is not anything on line that can replace direct medical attention. At best, this information may give you some talking points for you and your provider and help to explain possible reasons a burn may have occurred.
You should always follow up with your provider. All aesthetic treatments come with inherent risks, this includes burns. Your provider should be able to provide you with care, if you have followed with your provider and complied with treatment recommendations, and are not seeing correction in a realistic time frame, then see a qualified provider for a second opinion.
*The information here and any where on the internet does not replace replace personal treatment by a trained professional.
How to tell if you have been burned?
It is normal for skin to feel hot during laser and IPL treatments, but you should expect the skin to cool down quickly. Your laser technician can give you an idea how long you should expect the skin to feel hot. For example if you are having a laser hair removal treatment or a photofacial, your skin should cool down almost immediately. It typically feels like a hot rubber-band snap, without any lingering pain or heat. If it feels extremely hot and is not cooling down you should alert your technician as they are doing the treatment. This will allow the technician to adjust the treatment settings. The technician can also take immediate action to cool the skin and possibly prevent a burn, or reduce the severity. Usually, you will know almost immediately if you have a burn. In some cases however, the skin may feel hotter shortly after treatment. As soon as you suspect a burn, you should call and speak to the laser technician.
If you suspect that you have been burned, be sure to discuss it with your Laser Technician before you leave the office. Make sure you understand what to expect and how to treat your skin at home. Schedule an appointment for a post treatment follow-up, and never hesitate to call the office if you have questions or concerns. It is important to comply with post treatment instructions. Remember…. your friends, the girl at the cosmetic counter and strangers from online forums are not a replacement for a professional trained in your specific treatment.
If you are not satisfied or confidant with the post -treatment care you are receiving from the laser technician, ask to speak to the medical directer. Hopefully, there is a doctor is the office. If you have gone to a med-spa chain, there may be a medical directer for several locations. You should first make every attempt to work with the staff at the clinic where the laser treatment was provided. If you have followed up with your provider and complied with treatment recommendations and are still not satisfied with the level of care, then seek a second opinion. You want to get professional treatment as soon as possible. Information provided here or anywhere on the internet can not replace personal treatment by a skin professional.
I have a burn, now what?
The recommended treatment for burns, will depend on the degree of the burn. If you suspect that you have been burned severely and find the pain intolerable or if the burn covers a large portion of the body, you may want to go to the emergency room. In most cases, it is not necessary to make a trip to the emergency room, however in rare cases you may need immediate medical attention. Be sure to let the laser technician know as soon as possible. They should be aware so they can review the treatment settings used and asses if there is an issue with the equipment. They should have you return to the clinic as soon as posable, to assess the burned area, and give you post treatment instructions. You may also be scheduled to see the medical director (a doctor) or a nurse if necessary. It is the patients responsibility to communicate with the provider, return to the clinic for post treatment visits, and follow post treatment instructions.
What Your Provider Might Suggest:
Actual treatment will depend on the type of burn.
– Cool the skin as quickly as possible (within the first few hours). This is critical!
– While driving home after the treatment, aim the air conditioner toward the treated area if possible.
– Soak a washcloth or gauze in a bowl of ice water, ring out the excess water and apply the to the treated area. Switch out the cold cloths every couple minuets. When you feel gauze or cloth become warm, it is the time to switch it out.
– Do not apply ice directly to the skin, and do not leave cold packs on the skin for an extended period of time. On for ten minuets, off for ten minuets.
– Apply occlusive ointments such as aquaphor or vasoline if instructed, as it can trap in the heat. After the skin has had time to cool, and the skin begins to heal you may then be instructed to use an ointment to protect the skin. If the skin has been ablated or is “raw” you may be instructed to use an occlusive ointment immediately and apply cold packs over occlusive sheet or ointment.
– Do not open or pop blisters. Opening the blisters will make the area more vulnerable to infection
– You may be instructed to apply a topical steroid such as hydrocortisone cream
– You may be instructed to apply antibiotic cream or ointment to the burn.
– Watch the skin for signs of infection
After the burns have healed:
Once the burns have healed, the concern becomes how to treat and prevent scars. The most important thing you can do is protect the area from further injury, this includes avoiding sun exposure. Be sure to use a Physical SPF 35 or higher with Zinc Oxide. You may be instructed to use a4% Hydroquinone cream and Tretinoin (Retin-A) to reduce risk of or even treat hyper pigmentation ( dark skin discoloration). Topical Serums that contain Vitamin – C , and products with growth factors can aid in collagen production, improve skin healing and reduce inflammation. If the burn marks are old and have not responded to topical skin care, you may need something like a medium depth chemical peel, to treat the scars.
Medical skin care systems such as Obagi Nu-derm or ZO Medical incorporate the use of prescription strength Hydroquinone and Tretinoin, which even skin discolorations. These are prescription strength skin care lines, available at many dermatology and plastic surgery offices. The treatment protocol is patient specific and a skin care professional will determine the best way for you to use these products. If you have had a recent burn it may be suggested that you avoid products that contain AHA’s or any other exfoliants, until the skins epidermis has been restored. The strength of Tretinoin and frequency is something that needs to be determined after a personal consultation. Non-facial areas such as the neck, chest, hands and arms are treated differently than facial areas, this is another reason you need to be seen for a follow-up. Skin type and ethnicity are also considerations.
Skin Medica’s TNS Recovery Complex has a potent growth factor blend that strengthens the skin’s natural ability to regenerate itself. This product is not a drug and thus there is no medical claim. Although this product is not specifically indicated in treating burns, in my personal experience it seems to aid in healing. I was in a car accident, where the air bag left me with several abrasions and burns. The areas that I treated with TNS seemed to heal much quicker. I use this product any time I am trying to improve skin healing, and it never disappoints.
The top ingredient in TNS Recovery Complex is Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media (TNS®) → A physiologically balanced, naturally secreted and stabilized combination of multiple human growth factors, cytokines and natural proteins responsible for the production of collagen and other extracellular matrix proteins.
Is Clinical Pro Heal is a vitamin serum with a 15% Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin A. It also has 0.5% kojic acid that evens skin pigmentation. It has soothing and healing properties and reduces inflammation. Pro Heal is recommended for treating sunburns, rosacea and insect bites.
Is Clinical Hydro-Cool Serum contains Hyaluronic Acid ,Vitamin B5, Kojic Acid and Menthol. It is a hydrating serum that calms cools and soothes irritated skin. You can use this product alone or add it to another product.
Why you may have got burned
There are several variables that can lead to laser and IPL burns. One of the most common reasons, is that the skin is tan at the time of treatment. It’s important to understand that IPL and all lasers are absorbed by a specific chromophor. In many cases the targeted chromophor is color. We want the energy to be absorbed by the color in hemoglobin to target blood vessels and the color in melanin when targeting unwanted hair or skin discolorations such as freckles. When your skin is tan at the time of treatment, the energy is not just absorbed by the intended target, it is also absorbed by the surrounding tissue as well. Tan or dark skin will absorb more energy (heat), resulting in a burn. This is also a concern for skin of color. People with darker skin tones need to be careful to go to a skin professional that understands how to treat their skin type. This is not to say that if you have dark skin you are not a candidate for laser, however there are some lasers that are more appropriate for dark skin. It may also be recommended to precondition skin in advance.
I don’t find machine malfunction to be the most common reason for laser burns, if the device is a real FDA approved device, however it does happen. Beware, there are many counterfeit and knock-off devices on the market and these have been linked to burns and complications.These counterfeit devices are not FDA approved and likely do not have the same safety mechanisms as the authentic devices. Often these fakes look similar to other popular device with similar logos and font that can be confusing. I recommend you look for the name of the laser on the device. Most lasers have the manufacture name in an area that is clearly visible. You should be able to look up a manufacture website and find the name of that device and often a list of approved providers. In my opinion some of the most severe burns are a result of a problem with the equipment. If the complication is unusual or thought to be an issue with the device, It should be reported to the device manufacture.
In some cases the problem is in the technique. Technician error is a growing cause of laser burns, simply because the industry is growing. There are a large volume of new laser technicians entering the industry. Some of these new technicians will be knowledgable and talented, unfortunately a some will not. A “good” laser technician needs to have a good understanding of laser technology and skin. This comes with experience and continued education. Not all lasers work exactly the same, so a laser technician needs training for each laser they work with. The more experience a technician has with lasers in general, as well as a specific laser will reduce the possibility that their clients will be burned. In addition to understanding the technology being used, the technician should understand how skin will react and determine if someone is a good candidate for treatment. They should also determine if someone needs to precondition their skin before treatment and what is a good post treatment protocol. Keep in mind that even the best laser technician can encounter an unexpected complication, and burns are an inherit risk of laser and IPL treatments.
I can not stress enough the importance of going to a qualified, experienced laser technician with a good reputation.
You Play A Role
I don’t think anyone deserves to have a burn or complication and I am sincerely sorry when it happens. However, everyone should except the role they play in their treatment. For example, you should not be tan when you have a laser treatment. It is the patients responsibility to inform the laser technician if they have had ANY sun exposure or even spray tan to the treated area. Patients are also expected to inform the laser technician of any medication or skin care products they are using. You also need to communicate with the laser technician during and after the treatment, and let them know what you are feeling. Be sure to follow all pre and post treatment instructions, such as avoiding heat and sun exposure. If you don’t follow the pre and post treatment instructions, you run the risk of a complication. You play an active part in your own treatment, and that begins with choosing a qualified and experienced laser technician. If you chose to go to a specific med-spa based on price or location, you should understand the risk involved. It is also your responsibility to follow-up with your provider if you have a complication, comply with treatment recommendation and return to the clinic for all recommended follow-up visits. Providers can not control your compliance.
Burns and other complications are an inherit risk of aesthetic and laser treatments, you should understand and except all risks before you consent to treatment. You should also understand that additional products or treatment may be needed at an additional cost to you. It is important that you communicate with your laser technician and return to the clinic for follow-up visits.
Melasma (chloasma) is hyperpigmentation or dark, irregular patches commonly found on the upper cheeks, nose, upper lip, and forehead. The patches can develop gradually over time or during pregnancy. Melasma can also develop when taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy medications. Melasma is thought to be stimulated by hormones, however exactly which hormones are involved has yet to be determined. The most important factor in the development of melasma is sun exposure,and without the strict avoidance of sun exposure, treatments for melasma are likely to be unsuccessful. Melasma can be permanent or disappear and reappear with each pregnancy.
Hyperpigmentation is the term used to describe any type of abnormal dark area of the skin, this includes melasma, freckles and sun spots. When we treat hyperpigmentation in the skin, it is important to understand that the melanocyte is not functioning properly, so it overproduces melanosomes and the excess melanin can not be evenly distributed among the keratinocytys. As the cells rise to the surface of the skin they cause over pigmented or dark spots. When the skin is exfoliated with AHA’s, chemical peels or microdermabrasion, the hyperpigmentation will appear lighter because some of the top layers of skin have been removed and the pigment is less dense (temporarily). The pigment is still there, it is just appears lighter and the melanocyte is still not functioning properlly, so in a few weeks as the top skin layers are replaced the pigment will appear dark again. Tanning will also further stimulate the melanocyte causing darker pigmentation to develop and Melasma will become worse. Hydroquinone works to suppress the melanocyte and is an excellent way to treat the pregnancy mask. For best results Hydroquinone can be used in conjunction with exfoliating treatments. I understand this description may be a little difficult to understand, so if I have lost you, you can come in for a consultation and I will use visual aids to better explain the cause and treatment for hyperpigmentation.
Melasma: My Personal Story
I have Melasma myself, on my upper cheeks and forehead. I first developed Melasma patches on my upper cheeks in my late twenties and later after giving birth to my second child I developed another large patch in the center of my forehead. I have successfully treated my Melasma, but I need to continue to maintain my skin so that it doesn’t come back. As a Medical Esthetician, I obviously have access to the best skin care products and treatments available. I can share both my professional and personal experience with treating Melasma. Using hydroquinone, and broad spectrum sunblock is absolutely necessary for treating and controlling Melasma. Even after successful correction of Melasma, the hyperpigmentation can reappear especially after sun exposure.
My Personal Skin Regimen
My personal skin regimen includes using the Obagi Nu-Derm system, with a 1/2 gram of Clear (4% hydroquinone) AM and PM. Initially I used a 1/2 gram of a .1% tretinoin ( Retin-A) every night, however I am now on a maintenance protocol and only use tretinoin occasionally. I also use a topical vitamin C and a broad spectrum sunblock containing Zinc oxide. I top it off with Jane Iredale mineral makeup SPF 20.
Professional Skin Treatments
I have had an Obagi Blue Peel, and Fraxel treatments. I personally felt I had better results with the Blue Peel. Fractional laser resurfacing and Blue Peels are ideal when treating deep or resistant Melasma.
Although I have corrected my Melasma, I still need to continue to maintain my skin to keep the Melasma under control. In addition to the topical products I previously mentioned, I try to have a light chemical peel every 4-6 weeks. The chemical peel I have found that gives me the best results treating pigmentation, is a custom chemical peel.
Obagi Nu-Derm System
This is correction after using the Obagi Nu-Derm System. This is a prescription strength skin system and is only available at medical skin clinics. Treatment protocols vary depending on skin type and condition.
Obagi Blue Peel
This is an example of deeply pigmented Melasma.
After treatment with Obagi Nu- Derm & Obagi Blue Peel
It is important to precondition with the Obagi Nu-Derm System and Retin-A before having a Blue Peel. I recommend preconditioning for a minimum of 6 weeks or longer depending on how aggressively Tretinoin is used. Patients that are better preconditioned get a better result. It is also necessary to continue to use the creams after peel to prevent Hyperpigmentation & to maintain healthy skin.
Custom Chemical Peel for Melasma
The Custom Chemical Peel I use is a light peel that can be repeated as often as every 4-6 weeks, compared to the Obagi Blue Peel which is a deeper peel necessary for treating deeper pigmentation. I have decided to not include details of my protocol for this custom peel. It is proprietary information that I don’t wish to share with others in the industry. If you would like to learn more, you can schedule a private consultation. I can tell you that with this peel, I will usually get light peeling for 2-3 days. The peeling is minimal and I would not consider there to be any “down-time”, you can still go about your regular routine. You just don’t want to schedule a peel less than a week before any major event like a wedding. I make it a point to work with my clients and their social calendar, so that they look their best for any events.
Get Professional Treatment For Melasma
If you have Melasma call to schedule a free consultation at
Paradise Valley Skin Klinic.
Cosmetic Laser Warning!
What you need to know before choosing to do a cosmetic procedure.
On one complaint website, there were 1,437 complaints regarding laser treatments and over 600 for one specific laser center. If you decide to go to a laser center based on their social media following or because you are looking for a low cost, you are taking a gamble. Some clinics hire inexperienced, even unqualified technicians to do treatment and rarely have a Doctor on site. A clinic may have a “medical director” on staff whom acts as a medical director for several locations. A med spa with a medical director on staff does not mean it is the medical practice of that person, in fact the medical director may never actually be in the clinic. I have even heard of cases where the “medical directer” was in another state. Med Spas often set sales quota’s for employees, so technicians are pressured to rush treatments. I call this type of practice ” turn em’ & burn em’ “. I don’t blame the technicians, it’s just a poor way to do business. These types of laser centers usually have a very high employee turn over rate and many unhappy customers.
Increasing popularity for Laser, IPL and RF treatments has lead to an increase of treatment complications. A poorly done laser treatment can lead to burns, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, ocular injury, scars and a simple lack of results. Most complications are preventable and all are manageable. The increase in complications is primarily due to lack of training, experience, and medical supervision. It is important to know that it is not just the technology, it is also the technique that determines the result of a treatment. Cosmetic and laser treatments can be complicated and are best done by an experienced technician. Laser and IPL treatments all come with some inherent risk, which you should understand and except before you consent to treatment. Burns and other side effects can result even when treatment is performed by the best and most experienced laser technicians.
With all the new products and technology available today it is easy to be confused, when choosing a treatment. Laser, IPL, LED, Infrared, Radiofrequency and fractional resurfacing are all energy based technologies and each have different indications. A knowledgeable esthetician / laser technician can educate you on energy based treatments in addition to other treatment options. In some cases a chemical peel, Botox, or a cosmetic filler may be a better option than laser. A consultation with an experienced esthetician can help you to make an educated decision on treatment.
It’s easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.
Patients play an active role in their treatment.
Tanning is a contraindication to most laser and IPL treatments, it is the patients responsibility to use proper protection from UV rays and inform technician of any possible sun exposure. Follow all pre and post treatment instructions, including keeping skin cool. Patients that are noncompliant may be responsible for treatment complications. Anyone with dark skin is at increased risk for complications, and should look for an experienced technician that specialize in treating dark skin.
When choosing to do a cosmetic procedure always look for someone who is experienced with proper training and a successful reputation. Do not base decisions regarding laser treatments, solely on price. A poorly done treatment will cost you more in the long run. Laser clinics should not operate the same as a tanning salon or health club. Laser treatments are serious and should be treated as such.
Are they telling you what you want to hear?
Regardless of the technology, laser hair removal usually requires a minimum of 12 treatments on the face and 8 treatments on non-facial areas. In most cases periodic treatments are needed to maintain results. Laser technicians that tell you that you will only need 5 treatments are not necessarily lying to you intentionally, this is often what they are told by the companies that manufacture lasers. Same applies to claims of safely treating tan skin or effectively treating light hair, although it may be possible don’t count on it.
Questions to ask:
Are you a licensed esthetician and certified laser technician in this state?
Is there a Doctor on location?
How long have you been doing laser treatments?
How long have you worked with this laser or device?
How long have you been in this clinic?
Have you treated my skin type before?
If you have been burned
Most complications are manageable, and can often be completely resolved. Treatment protocol will depend on severity of burn. In some cases the “burns” are not as severe as they look. If it is just superficial redness with speckles of dark, you may even get a nice result. Unfortunately some burns may need medical attention and can lead to scarring. If you have been burned, return to the laser clinic immediately for follow up care. Proper treatment of the skin post treatment can make all the difference.