Saturday, October 4, 2008

Can Skin Stop Aging?

As the urge to look good and young increases, the number of cosmetic treatments available are also shooting up. Numerous advertisements appear that promise the moon but often end up misleading the public

Cosmetic skin problems and aging skin changes are only beauty problems and can be treated by beauticians and other paramedical health providers

The role of beauticians is important in providing general skin care and beautification, but not for treatment of specific skin problems. Another much misunderstood term is the so-called ‘Trichologist ‘ for hair-related problems.

Trichological society and Institute of Trichology have been established in the UK to provide basic training and certificates to any person interested in learning about basics of hair science, which is however not a medical degree. Hence Trichologists are not necessarily medically qualified and therefore cannot issue prescription drugs. As per the International Trichology association, trichologists can perform counselling, provide advice and refer to dermatologists/ physicians for further treatment. Management of aging skin and hair problems often needs detailed investigations such as biopsy, blood investigations etc. Further, use of lasers, treatments such as fillers and botox, surgeries such as hair transplantation all need specific training. Hence dermatologists with necessary training in cosmetic dermatology should be consulted for treatment of such problems.

Cosmetic treatments are complicated and need healing time

The present trend is to complete all treatments in the clinic itself and send the patient home. In fact most cosmetic and anti-aging treatments such as treatment of wrinkles( Botox, peels and fillers), lifting of loose, sagging skin (thermal lift, threadlift), baldness (follicular unit hair transplantation), fat extraction (tumescent liposuction) can all be treated under local anaesthesia — thus minimising cost of hospitalisation and avoiding the side effects of general anaesthesia. Often the patient can return to work the same day (lunch time cosmetology) or after the weekend (weekend cosmetology).

Surgery is needed to correct cosmetic defects and wrinkles.

No. With the current technologies available, surgery is not needed for many of the treatments for facial rejuvenation. Wrinkles can be treated with Botox; defects and depressions can be treated by filler injections; sagging of face, neck, eyebrow can be treated by thread lift; pigmentation changes can be treated by chemical peels; lasers can be used for scars, wrinkles and pigmentation. With these new techniques, even treatments like facelifts, eyebrow lift, changing the shape of nose, lips, chins, cheeks etc can all be treated in a simple out-patient procedure.

Surgery is needed only for certain types of scars and very advanced aging changes. Hence early treatments will minimise the need for surgery.

Cosmetic treatments can provide permanent improvement for aging skin problems

No. Except in some cases, aging changes need repetitive treatments. Aging changes are dynamic and occur due to effect of intrinsic aging, sunlight etc. These are not corrected by drugs and hence there is need for continuous care of skin.

Avoiding ultraviolet light by use of sunscreens, proper diet, avoiding stress are all helpful. Use of certain creams containing vitamin C, vitamin E and tablet containing antioxidants may help in prevention of aging changes, but conclusive proof is lacking. Hence any antiaging treatment, with the current techniques, is likely to be temporary.

However, the scenario is changing fast and new technologies such as Fillers which can last up to 5- 8 years are now available. The threads used in threadlift for loose sagging skin also can last for several years.

Expensive creams are more effective in preventing aging

No. Basic preventive measures for prevention of aging skin include regular use of sunscreens, moisturizers, and preparations containing vitamin A, C, and E. Expensive medications with unproven medications have not been shown to be superior to these simple preparations. A typical example is that of a sunscreen; the higher the SPF (sun protection factor), the more expensive the sunscreen. However SPF 15 is adequate for Indian skin as the Indian skin has melanin — a natural sunscreen.

Laser can cure everything

Laser is a type of light with single wavelength and specific effect. It is highly effective for different skin treatments but is not a solution for every problem. There are different lasers for rejuvenation, hair removal, tattoo removal etc. One laser cannot take care of all problems. Recent techniques such as fractional photothermolysis, non-ablative rejuvenation have minimised the risk of side effects and enhanced the efficiency and safety of these machines. New technologies such as intense pulse light and radiofrequency waves have also emerged.

Laser can be harmful and can cause cancer

No, laser cannot cause cancer. This fear emanates from the fact that people have a fear of radiation; while certain radiations such as X rays and certain type of ultraviolet ( such as UV-C) can lead to skin cancer, many other radiations such as radiowaves, laser and ultraviolet B rays can be highly useful.

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