March 5, 2001 (Washington) -- Medicine has yet to find a way to turn back time, but a new procedure may make it easier to at least look younger in no time at all.
Called photo rejuvenation, it is one the hottest topics in the field of skin care. This is because the procedure can help improve the appearance of aging or sun-damaged skin through a series of six treatments lasting 30 to 45 minutes each -- that require practically no recovery time.
Jeffrey Dover, MD, a dermatologist and professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H., described the advantage to the technique Monday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology held here.
"Photo rejuvenation treatments are the ultimate 'low downtime' procedure," Dover said. "While patients undergoing traditional cosmetic procedures, such as laser resurfacing, need to allow time for recuperation, photo rejuvenation treatments are ideal for active people with early aging changes and sun damage who do not want to take time off from their business and social functions."
No recovery time is needed because the technique leaves the skin surface intact, Dover explained. Using a specially designed pulsing light, the physician simply damages the layer under the surface of the skin to promote a healing process, during which new collagen forms.
Collagen is the fibrous protein that helps make up skin, bones, and cartilage.
Patients may notice the results even after the first treatment, Dover said. "The skin will feel smoother and will have a more even tone," he said.
The technique also can be used following laser procedures, chemical treatments, facial scrubs, and facelifts to enhance the results, Dover said. "While laser resurfacing, chemical peeling, microdermabrasion, and facelift procedures are all effective treatments for aging skin, photo rejuvenation treatments are superior to these procedures in reducing redness, flushing, and dilated capillaries, as well as diminishing brown 'age spots.'"
By itself, the technique is especially effective at improving the appearance of the face, neck, and chest, Dover said. Photo rejuvenation, he said, also reduces the signs of aging and sun damage, including fine wrinkles and freckles.
Another benefit of this technique is its ability to treat rosacea, a chronic facial condition, and in effect allow some people to discontinue their drug therapy, Dover said. "This procedure reduces the overall redness, flushing, and dilated capillaries," he explained.
One big downside may be cost. Each treatment can cost up to $500, Dover tells WebMD. For optimal results, a patient would undergo six treatments, every three to four weeks, and two maintenance treatments yearly after that.
Besides cost, he says, the most common concerns are short-term redness around the treated area and the short-term darkening of some patients' age spots.
The upside is that the treatment appears to have a lasting effect, Dover says. Of course, the treated patients will continue to age and, therefore, may choose to repeat the procedure after a year or so, he notes. But the treatment itself has a permanent effect because of its ability to stimulate the formation of new collagen, he tells WebMD.
Still, this treatment may not be for everyone, Dover warns. For example, he says, the technique cannot aid patients with a lot of sagging skin, for which a facelift may be a better option.
Dover also cautions against having the procedure done outside a licensed facility. "I think I represent the academy by saying that we are not excited about nonphysicians, unsupervised, doing what we consider a medical procedure with potential risks. And so we feel very strongly that patients should go to a physician or board-certified dermatologist," he says.
As for the future of this technique, Dover points out that it still is a relatively new procedure. "But we will have a lot more to report next year."