Health Break

Health Break: Lights, lasers lead cosmetic surgery treatment options

December 23, 2013 

Cosmetic services have gained a lot of popularity over the past several years, especially with celebrities always promoting the next best thing. With each service, cream or tool promising to be a miracle-worker, it can be hard to sort through the best options for looking and feeling your best.

The most common cosmetic anxieties are typically concerns regarding acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles, blemishes, facial spider veins, brown “age spots,” small red moles and unwanted hair. In fact, hair reduction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed in the United States.

Today, more providers treat these types of conditions with a laser or what is known as intense pulsed light.

IPL and laser services are similar in some respects, but physicians may choose to recommend one service over another based on a number of factors including the type of condition you want to treat, your skin type and your lifestyle.

Generally, IPL uses multiple lengths of light rays to treat various skin problems. It operates on a wider range of wavelengths with varying intensity, allowing it to treat more than just one type of skin condition. On the other hand, a laser uses one continuous light wavelength and is typically stronger than IPL. The laser removes outer layers of damaged skin and stimulates collagen production.

While both treatment modalities are safe and effective, the provider will determine which service has the best chance for a successful treatment.

In terms of setting, both the IPL and laser services are performed on an outpatient basis. Patients typically feel minimal discomfort from the procedures, and depending on the type of condition being treated, the appointment may only take a few minutes. Some conditions require as few as two or three treatments to see noticeable results.

After deciding to explore treatment options for one or more of the common cosmetic conditions, a physician typically will schedule a consultation visit and skin examination as the first step. At that time, the provider will be able to determine which treatment type will work most effectively.

Also during the consultation, the physician likely will be able to estimate as to how many treatments will be needed to achieve the desired results. Questions or concerns about the treatment plan can also be addressed at this time. Because cosmetic services are personalized to the patient, what’s right for one person might not be right for someone else.

While it’s always a good idea to be proactive in your care and to learn about the different types of services a provider offers, you should remember that physicians have the education, skills and tools to recommend the product or service that’s best for you.

It’s also important that you be open and honest with your physician about the results you want to achieve, so that the treatment experience can be pleasant and enjoyable.

Dr. Emily Peterson is a board certified plastic surgeon with Mount Nittany Physician Group

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