Which Facial Treatments Really Work? Part 2 - The Best From The Rest

This post is part two of my two-part post on facial treatments that really work. Read part one here, to read more about the supposed and actual benefits of treatments such as gold, diamond, snail mucus, bee venom and caviar.

This post at beautyeditor.ca discusses why spa facial treatments are not really good for your skin. This New York Times article also explains why dermatologists don't recommend facials for optimal skin health and beauty. This article quotes Professor of Dermatology, Doris Day, MD about spa facials: "I call it 'spa science' because there isn't a lot of science behind many of the claims." She further adds,"Think of a facial as a treat rather than a medical treatment." Good at-home daily facial care can preclude the need for costly facial treatments. 

Spa facial treatments will have any number of people who swear by them, regardless of what the science says, and this is attributable to the placebo effect. Just believing in the ability of the treatment to improve your skin will make you think you look much better or your skin feels better, even if this is not the case. Even if a treatment can improve the appearance of your skin, it is possible that it was only a transient result from the facial massage or stimulation, and possibly an effect that could have been achieved from less pricey treatments or creams. 

It is important to realize that no single treatment is a 'one size fits all', and if something is touted to be effective for all your beauty woes, chances are it won't live up to the hype. It's also important to realize that every individual has different challenges and needs, and what works for one skin type isn't necessarily the ideal solution for all others. When it comes to understanding the skin, expertise and experience is crucial in identifying the right treatment. The truth is, gold, diamond and caviar are examples of spa treatments that were probably designed to appeal to your sense of luxury and exclusivity more than to heal and rejuvenate your skin. 

If spa treatments with the luxe factor aren't really your skin's best friend, what facial procedures have been proven to really benefit your skin? 

For smooth & refreshed skin, try chemical facial peels 

Chemical peels, done right, can be a great way to keep your skin in its best condition, and prevent long-term problems such as sagging, wrinkling and pigmentation. Chemical peels are an effective form of essential exfoliation, and gentle enough for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin to use as part of a beauty maintenance regime. Other forms of exfoliation, such as microdermabrasion and facial scrubs can be too harsh on sensitive skin, besides not being the most efficient at pore and acne clearing. 

Chemical peels can work really well to smooth and brighten the skin, improving cell turnover, ensuring the skin surface is healthy and clearing pore blockages to prevent blemishes. The right chemical peel done on a regular (6-8 weeks) basis can improve collagen production, control excess oiliness, and improve skin clarity. 

Lower grade AHA peels (generally not more than 10% or 20% acidity) are good for rough/dry skin and enlarged pores, but if your concerns include fine lines, acne scars, pigmentation and deeper skin imperfections, you may need a medical grade peel. Deeper peels with higher acid concentrations are often only performed by a physician as they require a sterile environment, possible anesthesia, and must be properly calibrated, to avoid scarring or other problems. In untrained hands, some chemical peels can be as dangerous as a laser or injectable treatment.

While chemical peels are generally a good idea for overall skin health and appearance, everyone's skin condition is different, so be wary of those who use a 'one size fits all' approach in the treatment. There are many different kinds of chemical peels, from glycolic, salicylic, lactic, TCA or phenol peels, and not all are suitable for all skin types. Be sure to ask your practitioner for tips on choosing the peel thats best for your skin. 

For extra skin nutrition, galvanic treatments or iontophoresis can give your skin a boost.

Galvanic facials, also known as iontophoretic skin systems, involve the use of an electrical current to help open pores and allow the passage of skin beneficial products such as vitamin c, skin serums and moisturizers into the skin. 

Iontophoresis is often used in medical settings to help deliver drugs into the skin for treatment of conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and localized pain. The skin is a very sophisticated barrier that keeps out all but the finest particles from entering. The problem of skin absorption is why many creams and serums do not work; even if they contain very good ingredients, the ingredients cannot be delivered to where they can be useful. Iontophoresis can help specially designed products to penetrate into the skin, delivering nutritive ingredients deep into skin where it can be beneficial. Always ensure that the serums or lotions are designed to be used with the galvanic system; not all products have ingredients that are small enough to fit into pores, even when they are electrically widened. 

For glowing, even skin, Clear+Brilliant is the way to go.

Clear+Brilliant is a facial treatment designed to help modern, active women in their 20s and 30s reverse early signs of skin damage and prevent aging woes before they become a concern. Designed as a light, skin tone-corrective and collagen-rejuvenative treatment, Clear+Brilliant treatments can give you a fresh and healthy glow, addressing early signs of aging and maintaining the youthful appearance of the complexion over time. The treatment also enhances your skin's permeability, so skin beneficial ingredients such as Vitamin C can be infused deep into the dermis for better results. 

This clinical paper, published in 2012, involved 20 patients who underwent six treatments at two week intervals. 95% of the patients reported visible improvement in pore appearance, and 100% of the patients reported improvement in skin texture and overall appearance. Read more about Clear+Brilliant treatments here, or in my previous post about laser facials. 

For anti-aging and rejuvenation, look to Platelet-Rich Plasma 

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatments, also known in popular media as vampire facials, involve harvesting regenerative platelets from your blood, then injecting them into the facial areas. Regular PRP treatments will help your skin to fight signs of aging, and boost collagen and skin health, and is useful for the face, practically any region of the body. 

Kim Kardashian has spoken openly about her 'vampire facial' experience. 
Platelets are the blood's 'first aid' components, helping to repair damaged cells in the body. They contain growth factors to activate and rejuvenate cellular damage. The PRP process concentrates the platelets available in the blood to address skin care problems such as volume loss, impaired collagen and damaged dermal structures. The skin's wound healing and collagen renewal mechanisms are activated with the mechanical action of the needle, and the growth factors then get to work to accelerate and boost renewal of the skin. The PRP can also be used as a natural filler and volumizer in areas needing additional volume. 

These photos are from an Italian study on the effects of PRP treatments on the appearance of the skin. 

Close up of cheek skin before and after PRP treatments, showing improvement in fine wrinkles and skin texture.
Close up of scar on forehead, post treatment the scar is no longer visible. 
Read more about the PRP treatment procedure in my previous blog post. Another great treatment to help hold back the ravages of time is BBL therapy. Read about BBL's Forever Young treatment here

For smooth, wrinkle-free skin, Fraxel gives you great results.

Fraxel skin resurfacing was developed to deal with concerns such as wrinkling, poor skin tone, hyperpigmentation, and scars, but it is also a great way to get even, younger-looking skin. Unlike earlier skin resurfacing modules that ablate (cut away) the entire surface of the skin, Fraxel is a fractionated skin resurfacing system, and only creates small pinprick wounds over a fraction of the skin surface (see diagram below). Fractional resurfacing technology means that there is more skin surrounding the wounded areas, allowing less downtime and quicker healing.  With fractional resurfacing, the laser is also able to penetrate deeper into the dermis to stimulate collagen, tighten the skin, and destroy pigmented lesions. 

The difference between traditional ablative resurfacing and fractional resurfacing 

As seen in these pictures, Fraxel is a great way to give yourself the smooth, blemish-free skin that you can't get from lotions and serums. 

Depending on the skin concerns you are looking to address, other treatment modules to consider include phototherapy - for acne, hyperpigmentation and enlarged pores, skin tightening therapies like Ultherapy and Thermage, or Q-Switch Nd:Yag lasers that work by polishing and brightening the skin with no downtime. 

To find out more about the ins and outs of laser treatments, read this previous blog post. 

For a refreshed, harmonious look, you can't beat neurotoxins & dermal fillers.

There's a reason why the neurotoxin brand-named Botox is the catchphrase of the 21st century, and that's because it is a reliable, almost instantaneous, low-commitment treatment that really works. Although horror stories abound about celebrities who have over-done Botox, today's trends and techniques are very subtle and sophisticated, so you are more likely to look refreshed rather than frozen. In fact, the outcome that both doctors and patients desire is one where you look happier and less stressed, and very few people will realize that any treatment has been done unless you tell them. So many people have done Botox and done it well enough that no one can tell they have had it done; it is the number one cosmetic treatment done worldwide.  

Neurotoxins and dermal fillers work very well together because they are designed for different purposes: neurotoxins work by blocking the signals from the nervous system that tell a muscle to tighten or move, so they can be relaxed, whereas dermal fillers work by plumping up the skin to fill in wrinkles and add volume where it is needed. If you have frown lines and lines around the eyes, neurotoxins can relax those muscles, so you look more rested and happier. Dermal fillers have to be used in very deep muscles or static wrinkles, where muscle motion isn't the only cause of a line or wrinkle. 

For more information about how neurotoxins and dermal fillers can benefit you, please read this previous post.

Spa beauty treatments will always have their place for those who want the experience of pampering, but you should realize they won't necessarily promote better skin. However, the value of spa treatments may not be in skin improvement, but their ability to improve your sense of inner well-being is arguably just as important. Just be aware that if your goal is to improve, rejuvenate or prevent aging of your skin, you have to do your research and look out for the treatments that really can and do benefit the skin.  

--- Cosmetic Medicine, MD

Dr. Liow Tiong Sin is an aesthetic practitioner who practices in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, Malaysia. He has more than 12 years of expertise with non-surgical cosmetic treatments, and conducts training courses for other doctors from all around Asia. 
To connect with Dr. Liow, Like Cosmedmd's Facebook page, visit Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre's website at http://www.beverlywilshiremedical.com or drop him an email at cosmedmd@gmail.com


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