The future of skin care
Over time, skin tone can appear uneven, thanks to sun or liver spots (lentigines), freckling (ephilides), dark patches (melasma) or rosacea, all of which can be intensified by sun exposure. While many of us may worry about wrinkles as a sign of age, Dr. Renier van Aardt, a family physician who practises cosmetic medicine in Truro, N.S., says female patients bring up skin tone more than they used to. “There’s more awareness of it now,” he says.
That’s where laser and other treatments by medical specialists come in. When it comes to patchy skin pigmentation, there’s a limit to what improvements we can get from products containing vitamin C or A, peptides, or the bleaching ingredient hydroquinone. Same with home-use laser devices, says Vancouver dermatologist Dr. Jason Rivers, who is also a clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the University of British Columbia. “They will help in terms of fine lines, but not so much for brown spots.” Today there are non-invasive breakthrough procedures available at the doctor’s office that can help to even out your complexion-with less time spent hiding at home with a swollen, red face than you might expect.
Paradoxical as it sounds, most of these improvements work on the principle of damaging your skin: “If you can wound the skin in a controlled way, for most people it will respond by increasing blood flow and skin turnover, and regenerating collagen,” says Dr. Anthony Lockwood, a plastic surgeon in Winnipeg. This healing process often reduces pigmentation from sun damage or age.
But before you go for it, get an explanation for your skin pigmentation from a medical doctor. Changes to skin tone don’t all have the same cause or occur at the same depth. And they can’t all be dealt with in the same way. In fact, your skin can react to inappropriate treatment with even deeper colouring, called hyperpigmentation. Another reason to be assessed properly? “Sometimes people will go for laser treatment, and what they thought was an innocuous brown spot turns out to be melanoma,” Rivers says.