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Treating sun damage at the spa

Sun-damaged skin accounts for the majority of skin conditions treated at medical spas. Education and prevention of sun damage is a primary role of the skincare therapist. Sunscreens, sun avoidance, and appropriate skincare products are most important in prevention. To treat existing sun damage, the severity of sun damage along with the skin type being treated must be carefully considered in selecting an appropriate medi spa treatment.

What is Sun Damage and How Does it Occur?
Short-term sun damage is seen as sunburn or a suntan. Long-term sun exposure causes gradual damage to the skin called photo-aging, producing fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation (sunspots), redness, thinned skin, sagging skin, and potentially skin cancer.
Pigmentation or sun spots are caused by an increased production of melanin. Through a process called melanization, the pigment is passed along to the keratinocytes during cell division and the skin becomes a darker colour. Melanin can cluster together in deposits, becoming visible as brown spots.

Medi Spa Treatments for Sun Damage

To protect and maintain optimal skin condition, it is important to use products that are appropriate, effective and beneficial to particular skin needs. A thorough consultation and customization of at-home skincare products is the key to effective treatment.

There are a variety of medical-grade products to prevent and treat sun-damaged skin. The active ingredients must be carefully chosen for specific skin types and should be introduced with careful consultation. The quality of skin can be improved with active ingredients such as: vitamin A, C, and E, Collagen, kojic acid, hyaluronic acids, glycolic or lactic acid, just to name a few.

In terms of medi spa treatments, one of the most common methods of treating sun-damaged skin is exfoliation, either mechanical or chemical. Exfoliation removes the dead cells on the surface of the skin and stimulates the skin’s natural cellular turnover and growth processes, leading to increased collagen stimulation.Treatments,

Exfoliation can be done mechanically such as with microdermabrasion or various other devices which have a roughened surface to gently remove the old, dead surface skin. Mechanical exfoliation yields immediate results but care must be taken to avoid breaking small capillaries which may lead to residual redness. Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, works to break down and remove dead skin with varying intensities of active solutions such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, TCA, or a combination of ingredients. Results of chemical peels may not be immediate and there may be mild flaking or peeling which can occur for a few days following the treatment. All skin types can be treated with peels, as long as the peel is properly selected, customized, and applied by an experienced therapist.

One of the most effective medi spa treatments for removing sun spots and treating sun damage is IPL (Intense Pulsed Light). Through thermal heating with IPL or lasers, the melanin deposits are disrupted and slough off in about seven days, usually with no downtime, scarring, or much discomfort. IPL photorejuvenation addresses brown spots, redness, uneven skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles, and stimulates collagen as well. Not all skin types are appropriate for IPL/lasers and these medical skin treatments should not be performed on tanned skin.

There are innovative, new skin treatments, such as VoluDerm, that combine several existing technologies into one machine and one treatment to achieve fractionated skin resurfacing and skin rejuvenation, at both a superficial and deeper level. It combines (1) micro-needling, (2) radiofrequency (thermal energy), and (3) galvanic (Electric Energy) all into one treatment and the synergistic effects are much greater than each treatment on its own.

The energy is delivered using sophisticated micro-needles which create invisible micro wounds in the mid dermal layer while minimizing the effects on the superficial epidermal layer. The VoluDerm treatment results in softer, smoother, tighter skin with a volumizing effect overall. It can be used anywhere on the face or body. It can also be used for those harder to treat areas such as under the eyes. Thus it can be used to treat lines and wrinkles, and other textural skin changes related to sun damage or aging.

Liquid nitrogen, referred to by patients as a “cold freeze” is also commonly utilized in medical clinics to remove pigmentation and/or pre-cancerous lesions. A thorough consultation is required by a trained skincare professional when considering medical skincare treatments.

For clients who have severe sun damage or roughened textured skin, the option of more invasive treatments can produce more effective and rapid results. Very strong chemical peels that penetrate deeper into the dermal layers can be applied. Alternatively, laser treatments that utilize erbium, CO2, or thallium lasers can resurface the superficial skin in just one treatment. Downtime is required as a result of the peeling, redness, irritation, swelling, and discomfort. Fractionated laser resurfacing is better tolerated with less downtime than traditional lasers, however, risks and precautions must be emphasized in the consultation. Not all skin types are appropriate for laser treatments and sun exposure must be avoided before and after the treatments. Possible side effects such as infection, hyper or hypo-pigmentation, scarring, and pain may occur. Results, however, are impressive and longlasting.

Exfoliation treatments, IPL and lasers are amongst the wide variety of effective skincare treatments available at medical spas. A thorough consultation is always required and risks versus benefits must be carefully considered in making the proper selection for each individual client.

Dr. Diane Wong

Dr. Wong, MD, is the owner and founder of Glow Medi Spa, with three convenient and luxurious locations in the Greater Toronto Area: Yorkville (downtown Toronto), Aurora and Markham, Ontario. Glow Medi Spa was voted as the Top Medi Spa in Canada for the past two consecutive years and Top 25 Spa in Canada for the past three consecutive years. Glow Medi Spa also received the Business of the Year Award in 2018.

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