You might think that having the “protection” of a little more pigment in your skin is a good thing. Well, on one level it is, but when it comes to many of the newer skin improving technologies, it means you have to do some homework!
Ethnic Skin – and by this we mean skin with a gene pool that includes Middle Eastern, Asian, African, Southern European, South American or Native
American Indian – is sensitive skin.
It may not seem so, since many people get a tan quickly or simply don’t seem to burn in the sun…but the very same capability to tan in a day or two equates to the same genetic component that makes your skin more sensitive to certain technology.
Why would some technology be more risky for me?
Lasers for resurfacing, reducing acne scars and removing hair all work by inducing heat. Laser beams are absorbed by pigment (red or brown) or water in the skin. This absorption results in heat. Heat does a lot of things that are good – it stimulates a collagen building response, coagulates and shrinks small veins and disables hair follicles.
But, when this heat has to pass through skin that has high pigment-making potential, the risks of turning on pigment reactions are increased dramatically. The possible “side effect” that no one wants? Post inflammatory hyper pigmentation – also termed PIH.
It’s THIS reason (and potential surface burns) that your selection of treatment be carefully decided upon.
Some” for instances” to consider:
Laser hair removal
We use a hair removal laser platform that lets us choose different filtering and energies. White skin with no or low pigment can be treated at fairly high energy levels since that low pigment reservoir on the surface won’t tend to “grab” the laser heat and burn the skin; and there is low pigment levels in the skin on the whole so higher energies won’t result in PIH.
But darker skin and skin that CAN get dark requires lower energies and a different treatment protocol to protect the surface. This energy regulation will minimize unwanted brown patching from the excitement of the pigment producing cells. This means that ethnic skins will need more treatments for laser hair removal than skins that are more “white”.
We’ll typically treat ethnic skin with a yag laser for hair remlaser hairoval, since heat doesn’t linger in the upper levels of skin where pigment is produced.
Resurfacing and Scar Reduction
The same premise applies here. Although we want to provide collagen stimulation, we want to reduce as much as possible the involvement of pigment producing cells. Standard laser can be used, but the risks are higher for PIH.
A new alternative procedure we now frequently use is a technology based on Radio Frequency – eMatrix– which focuses the trans-formative heat below the pigment cell layer. This process bypasses most of the melanocytes (pigment producing cells) while still getting the job done. Although there is no guarantee of zero post treatment side effect, the RF system has proven to be remarkably better when it comes to avoiding PIH. For resurfacing, it’s far kinder to ethnic skin and thus far we’ve had no issues with PIH.
Acne scars usually require a stronger treatment to make visible changes. In our office we still defer to the scar-resolving power of Fraxel Re:store for acne scarring – simply because it does the best job. We’re careful to treat only where needed and address any pigmentation issues early during the treatment cycle.
Veins and Redness
Options here include Vbeam and for light, diffuse redness, IPL Photofacial. Both can create some pigmentation following treatment. Again, we closely monitor the treatment process and treat any emerging pigmentation with suppression agents.
No Worry Treatments
Certain technology is colorblind and can be used on all skins – such as Thermage for skin tightening and CoolSculpting for fat reduction.
Since ethnic skin is so picky, you need to be too. Research the various procedures, ask questions, and steer yourself in the direction of a practice that has plenty of experience in treating a wide variety of skin types and colors. The time you take to choose wisely will make a difference in getting treatment that’s right for skin…and with best possible results.