The essential non-surgical procedures for flawless skin
Flawless skin is perhaps the most sought-after beauty must-have by women around the world, with many of us clamouring as much for the luminous complexions models parade down the runway as the clothes they are draped in.
Indeed, nothing radiates confidence in quite the same way as an impeccable skin tone.
Yet not all of us are blessed with the faultless looks of internationally renowned models – in fact, even supermodels struggle to maintain their superior skin, with Kendell Jenner recently admitting her struggle with acne and the effect it had on her self-esteem.
With acne, dehydration, pigmentation, eczema, rosacea, fine lines and wrinkles all on hand to wreak havoc with our looks, it can be hard to love the skin we’re in.
Today, however, we’re blessed with an armoury of weapons designed to help reduce pore size, perfect skintone, even blemishes and leave a long-lasting glow.
From laser resurfacing to microdermabrasion and active cosmeceuticals, we run down the skincare essentials you’ll need to fast track your way to flawlessness.
Laser & light based therapies
Today’s lasers can significantly diminish and even reverse many of the areas that cause unease in patients, from lines, uneven pigmentation and broken capillaries to deep wrinkles and severe sun damage. They can reach much deeper levels and affect far more significant changes then would be possible with most other common modalities of treatment, and without needing to invest significant money. Moreover, a procedure can often be performed in less than an hour and may require little or no downtime.
One of the most influential advances in aesthetic laser technology only became available for consumer use in 2006. Fractional laser resurfacing (ablative and non-ablative) can achieve skin rejuvenation results that approximate conventional ablative laser but with less aggressive treatment protocols and, so, fewer potential side effects.
With traditional ablative laser (selective photothermolysis), the whole of a selected target area is damaged – in effect burnt – usually requiring significant downtime and prolonged redness or pinkness of the treatment area for up to three months, and even more.
Fractional laser (fractional photothermolysis), on the other hand, seeks to only damage certain zones. The laser beam is fractionated into thousands of tiny little shafts of light. These penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, causing tiny injuries to the skin, whilst leaving the surrounding skin perfectly intact.
The skin then repairs those tiny shafts by pushing out the old, damaged skin and replacing it with new skin.
The targeted heat damage also helps to shrink existing collagen for an immediate firming effect. This process only causes fractional damage and allows the skin to heal much faster than if the whole area was treated. It causes no visible wounds and requires less downtime than traditional ablative lasers.
With light therapies such as intense pulsed light (IPL) also available to help rejuvenate your skin, there is a dizzying array of choice – and much potential confusion for the consumer. It’s always best, therefore, to seek the advice of a doctor or clinician who is fully qualified and experienced in using laser and light devices and who will be able to advise which treatment is best for you.
Preventative Ageing therapy
Packed full of growth factors, platelet-rich-plasma (Preventative Ageing therapy) is fast becoming one of the most popular tools for those looking to restore tone, texture and firmness to their skin.
Drawing on the body’s own healing capabilities, Preventative Ageing therapy uses a patient’s own cells to regenerate and rejuvenate the skin, helping to improve the appearance of sagging skin, fill lines and wrinkles and plump areas that have lost volume over time. Preventative Ageing therapy therapy targets the growth factors found in the patient’s blood, which are then injected back into the patient to stimulate the body into producing new collagen and hyaluronic acid.
During a typical treatment, blood is collected and then spun in a centrifuge in order to concentrate the blood plasma. The platelet rich plasma is then injected into the treatment area. Depending on the areas being treated, different amounts of plasma will need to be collected.
Because the raw material is taken from the patient’s own body, Preventative Ageing therapy is considered a non-allergenic, ‘body’s own’ physiological product as opposed to animal derived or human donor products, synthetic fillers or neurotoxins.
When being used aesthetically to invigorate the appearance of the skin, patients may benefit from a number of treatments, spaced several weeks apart.
During the procedure, numbing cream or local anaesthetic is applied in order to numb the area before injection, and patients should expect to experience slight
bruising, swelling and redness after the procedure. Any side effects tend to settle over the course of 24 hours.
Patients typically see some results two to three weeks after their first treatment, but for optimum results a course of three or four treatments is required, spaced a minimum of eight weeks apart. Results will continue to improve over the course of a few months.
With age, the rate at which our skin sloughs off dead cells slows down dramatically, which leads to a build-up of hardened cells on the top layer of the skin. Microdermabrasion removes the outer layer of the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin) to aid this process, improving the appearance of fine lines, sun damage and scars, and creates a more even tone and texture on the skin.
There are a number of different types of microdermabrasion. Most commonly, however, an exfoliating material is used to buff away the top layer of the skin whilst a handpiece vacuums the stripping agent and skin particles from the treatment area.
The treatment is generally well tolerated and can be adjusted according on the sensitivity of the skin and the individual complaint.
After treatment, the skin can feel hot and appear slightly red but this usually settles over a few hours. It’s generally recommended that a course of six treatments is carried out to improve problems such as age spots, but it can also be effective to treat blocked pores and blemishes with two to three treatments.
Peels are solutions applied to the surface of the skin to strip away the outermost layers, revealing fresh new skin beneath. Used to treat a variety of conditions, peels can improve problems ranging from lines and wrinkles to dryness or dullness, acne, rosacea and pigmentation.
Ingredients range from naturally-occurring chemicals and herbal extracts to synthetic chemicals, and their effects range from mildly brightening to aggressive resurfacing. Depending on the strength, peels can be administered by dermatologists, cosmetic practitioners and skincare professionals, and in most cases are recommended as a course of treatments.
Natural peels are relatively mild and only affect the superficial layers of the dermis. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels are the mildest option, available in salon treatments and can be used on most skin types. They use lactic, fruit or glycolic acids to treat dryness and improve skin texture.
Beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peels use salicylic acid to speed the skin cell shedding process and improve blemished skin.
Chemical peels are higher strength solutions that use different grades of acid to strip the skin of dead skin cells and promote the production of collagen and elastin in the skin.
Chemicals ranging from alpha hydroxy, kojic and salicylic acids to extremely potent trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol also vary in their depth of penetration, causing them to directly target specific concerns.
Typically, the stronger the peel the deeper the penetration and the more severe the post-treatment side effects.
The treatments typically cause stinging during application and various degrees of flaking after treatment – from fine flaking to sheeting – as the new layers of skin start to form.
Chemical peels can be quite aggressive, so skin analysis during consultation is required to find out which peel is most suitable, and whether any allergic reactions will occur.
Dryness, redness and peeling can be expected for up to a week after most peels, which feels similar to sunburn. It is imperative the peeling skin is not picked at or rubbed as it may cause scarring.
Of course, the results of any skin treatment need to be backed up with a skincare regime that will maintain and enhance your results. Rather than heading for the skincare aisle in your local supermarket, it’s best to discuss your specific skincare needs with a specialist, who will not only prescribe a skincare range suited to you and your needs, but who will also lean towards a range packed with active ingredients.
Also known as cosmeceutical or clinical skincare, active skincare is often prescription based thanks to the high percentage of active ingredients contained in the products.
As well as more traditional creams, active ranges typically centre around a number of different serums, each designed to address a specific concern.
Packed with potent ingredients such as retinol, topical vitamin C and AHAs, it’s best to introduce these ranges slowly to your skincare regime, and under guidance, to ensure against any reaction. With time and guidance, however, there’s no doubt your skin will benefit from your investment in actives.
See the light
It’s easy to get confused over which laser or light based treatment is good for your skincare needs. Here’s a run down of the most popular procedures
Non-ablative laser is good for younger patients (approximately aged between 30 and 50 years) who have early wrinkles or for those who truly can’t take
any time off from family or work commitments to have traditional ablative laser.
There is minimal or no downtime involved. A series of treatments (three to six) may be necessary to see the desired results.l. While not a laser, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) penetrates deeper into the skin than a non-ablative laser. It does not injure the surface, so there is usually no downtime. It can improve skin texture and colour as well as reduce pore size. IPL can effectively treat
some types of hyperpigmentation, including age spots and freckles.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a two-step procedure and is commonly used to treat skin complaints such as acne and acne scarring. First, a solution that makes the skin more sensitive to light is applied to the treatment area and left on for 30 minutes or longer. Next, a light source is beamed onto the treatment area.
This process can improve the appearance of redness, age spots and freckles
and improves the overall texture and appearance of the skin. It’s important to look after the skin posttreatment, protecting it from the sun and other sources of bright light. Sun exposure after PDT can be painful and may result in sunburn and blistering.
Ablative fractional laser offers deeper rejuvenation. It is best for improving the appearance of age spots, wrinkles and skin discolourations.
It can be used on the delicate skin around the eyes and mouth. It is also effective for treating precancerous growths (actinic keratoses). Recovery time is generally between one and three days.
Traditional ablative laser heats the skin to cause a visible wound, which means up to 14 days’ downtime. While invasive and performed only by doctors, with a longer and more uncomfortable recovery process, the results of traditional ‘flat beam’ laser are still regarded by many professionals as the gold standard for improving deeper wrinkles, severe sun damage and crepiness around the eyes
and on the neck. It is best for patients who are in their late 40s to 70s.
During the recovery period the treated area will be red and swollen, and may then scab and ooze before healing. There will be a period of between four and six weeks when the skin may appear red or pink.
5 steps to healthier skin
Of course, there are a number of freem easy steps everyone can take to safeguard their skin and maintain a flawless complexion.
1. Protect yourself from the sun
From wrinkles and pigmentation to skin cancer, over-exposure to the sun is to blame, so cover up with a quality SPF and stay in the shade between 10am and 4pm.
2. Stub it out
If you want to fast forward your way to damaged skin, light up a cigarette. Smoking decreases blood flow to the skin and damages collagen and elastin. The result? Damaged and early loss of collagen and laxity.
3. Be gentle
Daily cleansing, shaving and baths can all take their toll on the skin. Be kind – choose a mild cleanser, use warm, not hot, water and pat your skin dry rather than rubbing it.
4. Eat a healthy diet
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins will all help you look (and feel) your best.
5. Stress less
Stress isn’t just bad for your health, it’s bad for your skin, too, so take steps today to manage your stress. Try regular meditation or yoga and scale back if you feel you have too much on.