Anita Saluja, MD; Dermatologist, MIMA Dermatology, Melbourne, FL
In the dermatological field, modern technology has afforded us the ability to affect real change in a patient’s skin with just one in-office procedure. But the treatment doesn’t stop at the office. When patients expand the treatment protocol to include proper at-home care, they not only play a role in their overall outcome but can enhance their results, as well.
As I often tell my patients, it’s important to remember that cosmetic or anti-aging treatments are first and foremost medical procedures that require comprehensive at-home care and protective measures. If the full responsibility lies solely with me in the office, the results will not be as dramatic and may take longer to appear.
The necessity of extensive at-home care varies. While some cosmetic procedures (like neurotoxin injections) require very little maintenance, treatments that affect the deeper layers of the skin have longer healing times and call for diligent post-procedural care. The more invasive the treatment, the more disciplined the patient must be in adhering to these protocols.
Fractional laser resurfacing delivers drastic improvement in the skin; accordingly, this treatment requires extensive aftercare at home. My patients use the Sensitive Skin Cleanser and Restorative Ointment found in the SkinMedica® Post-Procedure System and apply frequent diluted vinegar soaks for the first three days post-treatment to clean and protect the skin and prevent infection. These soaks aid in the debridement of excess dry, dead skin cells that may remain after the procedure.
Certain procedures like laser resurfacing or intense pulsed light (IPL) also have the potential to activate or reactivate the herpes simplex virus. To prevent the occurrence of viral infection—which can travel over the entire face if undetected—I prescribe an antiviral medication following the procedure. Patients should contact their doctor immediately if they develop open skin sores or pain after any cosmetic procedure.
Because sun exposure remains the number one accelerant of skin aging, patients should use an SPF of 30 or higher daily, like SkinMedica Daily Physical Defense™ SPF 30+ Sunscreen. I tell my patients to adhere to the “everything in moderation” rule—they should be able to enjoy normal activities while still protecting their skin from the sun.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be a concern, especially in darker skin tones. Darker-skinned patients should use a hydroquinone cream and be steadfast in the use of sunscreen. After all, if a patient spends time and money to reverse the signs of aging, why undo these efforts by taking a lax approach to sun protection?
With any cosmetic procedure, pre-procedure care is also important. Sun protection is imperative in the weeks leading up to the procedure as a burn or tan may affect how aggressive I can be with the treatment. Unless the patient is targeting a specific concern or looking for a deeper peel, they should stop retinoid use five days prior to a chemical peel or laser treatment.
A consistent at-home regimen can make a world of difference in the health of the skin. In addition to consistent sun protection, regular use of a retinoid is still the gold standard in helping support collagen production and reducing the appearance of fine lines. If a patient is willing to commit to a multi-step regimen, I recommend topical antioxidants and growth factors, along with a hydroquinone product when pigmentation is an issue.
Lastly, communication is key. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor with any concerns after your procedure. Skin health requires a lifelong commitment, and we are here to help you stay on track.