Skin Surface Treatments
The face is the most exposed part of the body, vulnerable to the harsh rays of the sun. The face is also subject to acne, rashes, allergic reactions, and injuries that may leave permanent scars. A number of non-surgical “refinishing” treatments are available for individuals who want to eliminate or soften imperfections on their facial skin and achieve a clearer, fresher look. These treatments include glycolic acids (sometimes called “fruity acids”), which are natural fruit substances blended into facial preparations and are used to eliminate rough or dried surface skin, and Retin-A®, a vitamin A-enriched cream that changes the cellular metabolism of the skin’s surface and is used to combat fine facial wrinkles and blotches from sun damage.
Each of these treatments can be used alone, or are frequently prescribed in conjunction with an aesthetic surgery procedure, such as a facelift or a chemical peel.
In general, Retin-A® is most effective in older patients who have some fine facial wrinkles, or blotchy pigmented areas caused by sun damage. However, Retin-A® is often prescribed to younger, active individuals who want to combat the aging effects of sun exposure. Patients who are planning to have a chemical peel treatment are often instructed to use Retin-A® as a preparation treatment; Retin-A® thins the skin’s outer layer, allowing the acid solution used in a peel treatment to penetrate more deeply and evenly.
Your initial application of Retin-A® will include a lesson on how to continue your skin-care routine at home. After your face has been washed thoroughly, a small amount of Retin-A®, in either cream or gel form, is rubbed over your face and nose. It is likely that a very gentle formula will be used at the beginning, especially if you are younger or have a fair complexion. You may be switched to a stronger formula after your skin becomes accustomed to treatment.
Only a very small amount of Retin-A® is needed to cover the entire face. You will be instructed to apply Retin-A® every night before you go to bed. Because Retin-A® is drying to the skin, Dr. Fisher may also recommend that you apply a moisturizer once or twice a day. This routine is usually continued for about eight months to a year, after which you will be switched to a less frequent schedule of maintenance, with Retin-A® applications only two or three times per week.
After treatment, it is normal to experience some redness, irritation, itching, stinging, or skin dryness once you begin to use Retin-A®. However, you can expect these symptoms to gradually disappear as the skin becomes acclimated to the treatment.
Caring for your new skin. Because Retin-A® thins out the skin’s outer layer, you will need to consistently use a sun-block to protect yourself from ultraviolet light, and you may have to discontinue using certain products or cosmetics on your face.
Though the degree of change varies from person to person, with continued use of Retin-A®, you will begin to see subtle improvements in the texture and tone of your skin. Retin-A® users notice a rosy glow during the beginning months of use, followed by the disappearance of fine lines and the shrinking of large pores. After about six months, many Retin-A® users report that wrinkles are barely visible and that age spots have faded.
Glycolic acid treatments
Glycolic or “fruity acid” treatments can offer smoother skin to people of all ages. This type of treatment seems to work best on patients who have rough, sun-damaged skin. Glycolic acids are sometimes formulated with bleaching chemicals to correct areas of uneven pigmentation.
Your initial application of glycolic acid cream will include a lesson on how to continue your skin-care routine at home. The way in which glycolic acid is applied to the face depends upon what form it is in.
Two common forms are cream or facial wash. Both forms contain about 12 percent glycolic acid, which helps slough away dry, sun-damaged skin on the face’s surface. Each also contains a special moisturizer and, if needed, a bleaching agent. In most cases, the acid is applied to the face twice daily, either by smoothing on the cream or using the facial wash. Dr. Fisher may adjust the strength of the acid formulation or the frequency of its use after evaluating your skin’s condition in follow-up visits.
After treatment, it is normal to experience some redness, irritation, itching, stinging, or skin dryness once you begin to use glycolic acid. However, you can expect these symptoms to gradually disappear as the skin adjusts to the treatment.
Because glycolic acid thins the skin’s outer layer, you will need to consistently use a sun-block to protect yourself from ultraviolet light, and you may have to discontinue using certain products or cosmetics on your face.
Though the degree of change varies from person to person, with continued use of glycolic acid preparations, you will begin to see subtle improvements in the texture and tone of your skin. In most cases, glycolic acid users notice an overall freshness and smoothness. After time, pigmented blotches fade or disappear as the bleaching effect begins to work. The time necessary for visible results depends on the degree of pigmentation and individual circumstances. Some patients see results in as little as six weeks.
Most people find that maintaining their new look is easier than expected. Using the cream or facial wash will become a natural part of your morning or evening routine and the difference you will see will be worth the extra effort.