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Buyer Beware!

December 21st, 2009

There are some products or procedures I cannot sell or should I say, my patients will not buy once the have received all the important information.   We have all seen the commercials for medication that list all the horrible side effects.   I often wonder who would consider taking this medication when fully aware of the possible problems.  One of these procedures is skin resurfacing, which is plagued with complications.

Skin resurfacing is the process where the outer layer of the skin is removed and allowed to heal.   The outer layer of the skin can be removed with a sanding wheel (dermabrasion), strong organic acid (phenol peel), or coherent light beam (laser resurfacing).   When it is done properly, the procedure dramatically reduces wrinkles, removes age spots, and reduces pre-cancerous lesions form the skin.  For the procedure to be effective, the necessary depth of the treatment may result in a change in the pigment producing and/or storing cells in the skin.   Depending on the depth, this pigmentation irregularity can look unsightly and usually causes a bleaching of the skin.

Recently in the news, Sammy Sosa has been observed sporting a significantly lighter facial skin color than when he was playing baseball.  There has been much media speculation about this.  His explanation attributes the change to bright lights and facial cream (most likely hydroquinone).   I believe his lighter facial skin color may also be explained as the result of facial resurfacing and perhaps combined with his decreased sun exposure in retirement.

It has been my observation that virtually all patients who receive an effective treatment, experience some degree bleaching of the skin, once healing is complete.   Bleaching refers to the permanent lightening of skin color in the areas of treatment.   For instance, a patient who has had skin resurfacing for upper lip lines will end up with lips that are lighter than their surrounding facial skin.   Some women feel that wearing makeup to camouflage the difference in skin color is a reasonable trade-off.   It is my experience that once my patients learn about the side affects, they usually do not choose skin resurfacing, due to skin lightening.   There are several other options that are available for patients to consider.   I will discuss those options later this week, so please check back.

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