Preparing for skin treatments conducted in a medical clinic can be as important as the treatment itself. This is true if you’re wanting to maximize the outcome and results of the treatment as get the most out of the investment and experience. Just planning your treatment at the right time of year, like in autumn and winter, gives you more benefits and creates fewer risks.
While many skin treatments such as Fractional laser, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), Dermapen, Chemical peels, and Microdermabrasion can be done all year round, you do need to be extra cautious during the hot summer months when the risk of pigmentation is higher. It is also not advisable to have any of these treatments when you are tanned.
Over two decades ago I became the first laser specialist in South Africa. It was then that I realized the importance of an integrated approach to skin rejuvenation, for the best possible results after laser treatments.
What is an integrated approach?
An integrated approach is about looking at the whole treatment journey, not just one segment of it. Preparing the skin with the correct products before treatments and supporting the skin with targeted post-procedure products not only enhances these treatments, but also minimizes any discomfort or unwanted side effects when the skin is in the healing stages. It’s at this point when the skin is most vulnerable and dehydrated.
Pre-treatment preparation of the skin is equally as important. The skin needs to be clear of any build-up of dry dead skin cells and this is especially important when you are considering any kind of laser treatment. This is the reason why we often advise our clients to have a chemical peel a few weeks prior to a laser treatment so that the skin is clear and smooth, rather like a clean canvas.
In addition, it is also important that your skin barrier function is healthy and functioning correctly as dry, sensitive skin can cause further discomfort, allergic reactions, and a longer healing time post-treatment. One of the factors that contribute towards a healthy skin barrier function is hydration – a skin that is healthy and hydrated is able to tolerate skin treatments far better.
If you are using products which contain ingredients such as Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, Retinol or other exfoliating formulations your skin should not require any pre-treatment products, because these ingredients naturally prep the skin by encouraging cellular turnover, whilst keeping the skin smooth and healthy. In skins that are naturally drier, it is advisable to use an added moisturiser together with these products.
“If you are using products which contain ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, retinol or other exfoliating formulations your skin should not require any pre-treatment products because these ingredients naturally prep the skin by encouraging cellular turnover”
There are two schools of thought on stopping Retinol when preparing for skin treatments, but it all depends on your tolerance levels – this is something you would need to discuss with your doctor as some people are of the opinion that it enhances the results and others feel it makes the skin too sensitive. My opinion is if you are an experienced Retinol user, with no sensitivity, you can use it right up until just before your rejuvenation treatment.
When you embark on a course of skin rejuvenation treatments, you are investing in your skin and you need to protect your investment in the best possible way. If you are starting on a course of treatments and you have never used any active ingredients products, then it would be a good idea to build up your skin tolerance with the correctly indicated products. If you haven’t taken our online skin assessment, this is a good place to start in finding suitable products.
In the days following a skin rejuvenation treatment, the skin barrier function may temporarily be disrupted and this can result in red, inflamed, sensitive skin that lacks moisture. Generally, the use of active ingredient products is discouraged at this time as they can cause irritation and discomfort. Targeted, corrective products which help to the restore the skin barrier function and that provide comfort and hydration post-treatment are advised as the skin can be vulnerable and it needs good care and extra special attention.
We normally suggest to our clients that they re-start their normal skin regimen with active ingredients as soon as the redness and sensitivity have disappeared but this varies as it may take a day or two after a mild treatment or up to a week with more invasive treatment. Again this is something to discuss with your doctor or skin therapist, depending on who is performing the treatment.
“We normally suggest to our clients that they re-start their normal skin regimen with active ingredients as soon as the redness and sensitivity have disappeared”
If you are undergoing a more invasive skin rejuvenation treatment such as ablative fractional laser then it is best to take pre-and-post treatment advice from the doctor who is performing this procedure as each doctor has their own set of guidelines for their patients.
Any skin rejuvenation treatment that involves the skin can make it more photo-sensitive i.e. more sensitive to light and increases the risk of hyperpigmentation or brown marks and general sensitivity. The sun is Enemy No 1 after a skin treatment. The reason for this is that redness or inflammation of the skin when exposed to sunlight can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It is best to avoid total sun exposure after any of the skin or laser treatment until the skin is completely healed.
You do not want to swop one set of problems for another – you may have undergone a skin treatment for wrinkles but by not looking after it post-operatively, you may find yourself with pigmentation which can be a long and arduous road to correct. So it’s best you consult a qualified skin professional at a medical practice when preparing for skin treatments, as they can advise you further on the associated risks that come with each treatment.
The Best Products
The type of products we recommend for post-treatment care usually hydrate, soothe and build up the skin barrier function. These products can be used several times a day to lessen any discomfort. Here is our full list of Post-Treatment care recommendations, but if you’re still unsure, fire up our live chat service and we’ll provide you with a customized recommendation.
It is very important to use a very mild, gentle cleanser and the most important product of all post-treatment is a high quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen as it is not always possible to totally avoid the sun in South Africa.