Imagine the carefree feeling of being beach-ready all year. With the information I shared last year on laser therapy and the information I’m about to share here on summer skin, that carefree feeling is definitely possible for you to achieve this year! Last November I wrote the second in a series of posts on laser therapy. The beginning of summertime and warmer weather provides the perfect opportunity to wrap up the series on laser therapy and at the same time introduce a new series of posts I call Summer Skin Fitness.
For this laser therapy installment, I had planned to cover the newest laser technologies. It just so happens that the latest and greatest in lasers is also a huge advancement in summer skin fitness. This advancement refers to colorblind laser treatments. These are treatments that are perfectly safe in the summer whether your baseline skin pigmentation is light or dark and even if you have a dark tan. The same setting that I would use on Nicole Kidman would also be safe for Michael Jordan.
Let’s start by reviewing more traditional laser treatments. Most lasers target the normal pigment found in our skin and in hair follicles. Laser hair removal, for example, targets only pigment, so if your skin tone is dark, it is more difficult for the laser to identify the target. Generally speaking, the lighter your skin tone, the more aggressive I can make the setting for hair removal. When treating darker or tanned skin, I have to turn down the setting to minimize the risk of burning while pushing hard enough to maintain the effectiveness of the laser. Although it is safe to perform laser hair reduction throughout the entire summer, it is not recommended for everyone, and it is important to select a very experienced dermatologist / laser surgeon.
Laser therapies that treat birthmarks, rosacea, and broken blood vessels target not just pigment but blood as well. The wavelengths that target blood and pigment are very close. So, again, darker pigmentation of the skin, whether artificial (like a tan) or natural, “confuses” the laser. As a result, I don’t recommend many laser therapy treatments for my patients during the summer because that is when their skin pigmentation is most likely to be the darkest.
However, there are colorblind lasers that are safe to use year-round, including during the summertime. Pigmentation has absolutely no influence on the settings and overall effectiveness of this new breed of lasers. These colorblind lasers are designed to tighten and lift the skin.
Over time, cheeks sag and the creases that connect your nose to your mouth become more prominent. These creases are the lines that appear below the apple of the cheek when you smile and – as you age – even when you’re not smiling. It’s like having a permanent smile line. We also develop sagging skin around the jaw line which gives the appearance of looking sad. Basically, everything heads south and melds together!
In my practice I’ve observed that, as the average person notices these changes, surgery isn’t the solution that comes to mind. I believe this is due to a few reasons. First, we lead busier lives in our generation, so we simply don’t have the time to hide out while healing from surgery. Second, surgery is not only painful but carries the risk of side effects from the anesthesia as well as the actual procedure. Third, the pulled-and-tight look can create an undesirable and unnatural appearance.
So what are your other options?
1. You can have a laser treatment that provides a non-surgical facelift. There is no bruising or bleeding, or wounds that require attention. And there is no risk of scarring. I treat my patients right in the office. The results are not as dramatic as a traditional facelift but they are noticeable immediately and become more dramatic over time, with each treatment. After their treatments, my patients look like younger, fresher versions of themselves. My patients describe their results as having their skin on the outside reflect the youth they feel on the inside.
Most skin-tightening laser devices work under the premise of sending a blind pulse through the top layer of skin to the deep part of the skin, or dermis, where collagen is produced. Collagen is the target because it is keeps our skin elastic and strong. There is a long list of environmental factors that damage collagen on a daily basis (eg, smoking, UV light, and environmental pollutants), and our bodies stop making it when we are in our mid-30s. This degradation of collagen leads to wrinkles.
The key to firm, tight, wrinkle-free skin is to increase collagen production. All skin-tightening devices keep your skin’s collagen factory working full force by irritating it. Collagen’s reaction to an irritation is to reinforce itself. For the purpose of tightening and lifting the skin, the technology sends a pulse that is hot enough to break apart your skin’s collagen. That irritation tells collagen it’s “under attack.” In response, collagen production increases. When the collagen re-forms it’s thicker.
2. In the world of non-surgical facelifts, there is also a non-laser option. The big name emerging today is Ulthera®. Ulthera is a little different – it’s an ultrasound treatment, not a laser. Ultrasound creates an image of the skin, which is something lasers cannot do.
Ulthera’s best features include the fact that it’s:
- Colorblind – It’s as safe and effective to use in July as it is in January.
- Ultrasound – By reading the ultrasound, I know exactly where I am in treating the skin and have complete control over where I’m sending the pulse (whereas lasers send pulses blindly through the skin).
- Effective – Science has refined our ability to heat the dermis to get collagen replication without damage, and Ulthera has taken this science of pushing the envelope to very safe boundaries.
If what I’ve described here sounds appealing to you, there are a few other facts you should know. Most skin-tightening/lifting lasers need 6 to 12 treatments. With Ulthera you only need 1 or 2 treatments. Uthera will cost a few thousand dollars, but you will get the latest science without the risk or the downtime needed for surgery. Although Ulthera is expensive, it’s one-quarter the price of traditional, invasive facelift surgery. I can say with confidence that my patients have been very happy with their Ulthera results.
3. Laser genesis is also an excellent treatment. It’s similar to hair removal but keeps your skin from getting mottled or leathery and gives your skin a nice even hue. In the second post of my laser therapy series, I discussed laser genesis as a treatment that can help reduce fine hair while reducing scarring, fine wrinkling, and unwanted skin discoloration. Not only is it safe to do year-round, but in the middle of summer laser genesis will give you a nice glow.
To conclude, some therapies in the right hands are safe year-round. We’re still at a point that if you want to treat red veins and rosacea, you ought to wait until autumn or winter. For hair removal, it is possible to have effective laser treatment on any skin tone, but the darker your skin, the more important it is that you see an experienced provider who has the right laser. Again, whether you have a naturally dark or light skin tone, if you have any degree of tan you should avoid laser hair removal.
Imagine the carefree feeling of being beach-ready and hair free. With colorblind lasers, Ulthera, and laser genesis you can enjoy this feeling and be beach-ready…all year. In my next installment of my Summer Skin Fitness series, I’ll address skin conditions and diseases that get worse in the summer and what you can do about it.
Related Articles: Summer Skin Fitness - Part II • Laser Hair Removal