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Common Derma Treatments For Newbies

Never been to a derma? Read up!
PHOTO: Jico Joson

These days, we’re faced with a growing selection of dermatological treatments in our quest for flawless skin. How do you know which one’s right for your skin type and woes? We compiled a list of the common non-surgical procedures offered by dermas and aesthetic centers.

Note to CGs: All these procedures come with precautions, potential side effects, and post-treatment care. Pregnant and lactating women, and those with underlying health conditions (like immune disorders or epilepsy) are not qualified for most of these treatments. Please consult a board-certified dermatologist before proceeding.

1. Classic Facial

The process: This is the most basic treatment that cleanses, improves, and pampers the skin on your face. Each spa and aesthetic center has its own procedures and facial subtypes, such as vitamin C-powered, anti-aging, pore minimizing, and skin damage reversal. The basic steps include cleansing, steaming, exfoliating, extraction (blackheads, whiteheads, and papules), facial massage, facial mask, and application of skincare products. Make sure that the person doing the extraction is a dermatologist (not just the assistant) to avoid complications like scarring.

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Best for: All skin types, so ask for one that suits your skin condition

Typical duration: 30 minutes to one hour

How often you should do it: Once a month is good enough, because overdoing will make your skin worse.

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2. Microdermabrasion

The process: Using a minimally abrasive instrument that’s less aggressive than dermabrasion (which is no longer common in the derma world), microdermabrasion exfoliates the dead skin cells on the outermost layer of your face to reveal smoother and healthier skin. It targets age spots, blackheads, brown spots, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, enlarged pores, and acne scars. It does not completely eliminate deeper skin problems like stretch marks and deep acne scars. Some aesthetic centers refer to this treatment as diamond peel, where they use an abrasive diamond or crystal tip to gently loosen dead skin cells and grime, while the wand’s suction vacuums them away.

Best for: Those who have light scarring, discoloration, acne, enlarged pores, rough skin, sun damage, fine lines, and other skin issues. Works on all skin types and colors, but you still need an assessment before being allowed to proceed.

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Typical duration: 30-45 minutes for just the microdermabrasion. When combined with a facial, it extends to one hour.

How often you should do it: Start once every two weeks, and then gradually change to a monthly maintenance regimen. For some, it takes six to 10 treatments before getting the results they like. The frequency depends on the sensitivity of your skin and your derma’s recommendation.

3. Chemical Peel

The process: A chemical solution is applied to the skin and allowed to soak in. For the next few days after the facial, the applied solution irritates the top layer of the skin, and then peels to hasten collagen production and make way for softer, smoother skin. There are three types of chemical peels available. These may be done on the face, neck, chest, arms, back of the hands, and other parts of the body as needed.

  • Light peels. This removes only the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin. They can instantly brighten skin, and target fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, mild acne scarring, age spots, and dry or flaking skin. Chemicals used are glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid.
  • Medium depth peels. They give more dramatic results than superficial peels. Usually derived from TCA (trichloroacetic acid), they penetrate deeper into the skin and can be used to treat sun damage, pigmentation, and wrinkles. The downside is that you need a longer recovery period, and you may experience more side effects, such as burns.
  • Deep peels. This is the strongest type of chemical peel for targeting sun damage, scarring, and deep wrinkles. Carbolic acid (phenol peels) or high-strength TCA are used to penetrate the deeper layers, also known as dermal layers, of the skin.
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Typical duration: 30 to 90 minutes, depending on which type of peel you chose and the size of area being treated. A derma can assess which type is best for you.

How often you should do it: Light peels can generally be done every four to six weeks until you see the results you want. Medium peels can be done every three to six months, while a deep peel can only be done once in most cases. Healing process depends on your skin condition and type of peel chosen.

4. Laser Treatments

The process: There are numerous laser-based treatments used to target various skin issues and cosmetic needs. Here are some to choose from:

  • IPL treatment. Also known as intense pulsed light treatment, IPL is a non-invasive and non-ablative treatment used mainly for unwanted hair removal.
  • Long pulsed Nd:YAG laser. It produces a near-infrared wavelength that penetrates deep into the skin to target issues such as skin rejuvenation, varicose veins, pigmentation, and hair removal.
  • Q-Switch laser. This is used to remove tattoos, pigmented lesions on the skin, unwanted brown spots, and sun freckles. It’s best for those who want to get rid of just a few isolated spots.
  • Fractional laser. The device delivers a laser beam divided into thousands of microscopic treatment zones that target a fraction of the skin at a time. It’s an effective treatment for scars and skin rejuvenation.
  • CO2 laser. This uses carbon dioxide laser for indicated papillomas and the removal of tattoos. It’s also suitable for the removal of benign and disseminated lesions such as keratosis, angiofibromas, syringomas, trichoepitheliomas, and epidermal nevi, among others.
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Typical duration and how often you should do it: It depends on the type of laser treatment and the size of the target area. It can go from 15 minutes for small spots to an hour for a bigger surface.

5. LED Treatment

The process: In the same way plants absorb sunlight for energy, the skin can absorb LED (light-emitting diode) to stimulate cellular regeneration, produce collagen and elastin, reduce inflammation, and heal certain skin conditions. This skin treatment is also called photorejuvenation or light therapy, and it uses LED lights to kill bacteria and promote skin rejuvenation.

Best for: Those who have tried multiple topical treatments for their skin issues (like acne and wrinkles) without much success.

Typical duration: Generally 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your targeted area

How often you should do it: Once a week or depending on the recommendation of your dermatologist. For some, it takes eight to 10 sessions before their acne clears up.

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6. RF Treatment

The process: It uses radio frequency to tighten and lift skin. It usually targets the forehead, under-eyes, cheeks, mid-face, jaw line, and neck. It can also be used to address cellulite and fat in other parts of the body. The heat energy doesn’t affect the upper layers of the skin, but goes deep into the soft tissues under the skin.

Best for: Those who want to tighten and lift saggy skin, but do not want to go under the knife

Typical duration: 20 to 30 minutes per area of the body

How often you should do it: Start weekly, and then progress to a monthly maintenance. 

7. Electrocautery

The process: Also known as thermal cautery, this uses heated electrodes to burn or destroy abnormal tissues such as skin tags, small benign skin lesions, and warts. You will be given a topical anesthesia prior to the procedure.

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Best for: Done only when there are lesions that need to be removed

Typical duration: Depends on the number and size of targeted tissues 

How often you should do it: Only once to zap the specific lesions, but you need to have a post-checkup to be sure that there’s no lesion left.

8. Microneedling

The process: Also called skin needling, collagen induction therapy (CIT), and percutaneous collagen induction (PCI), microneedling is a procedure that uses fine needles to puncture the skin and create a controlled skin injury in order to rejuvenate skin. After a topical anesthetic is applied, a small instrument called a derma roller makes tiny columns of trauma or irritation on the dermis, so the skin is forced to make new collagen to fill them in and heal them. A serum is applied after the procedure.

Best for: Those looking to improve conditions like acne scarring, wrinkles, loose skin, rough skin, big pores, brown spots, stretch marks, and pigment issues. There’s a growing number of people who are into DIY microneedling, but it’s still best to have it done by a dermatologist as there are many potential complications, such as scarring and infection.

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Typical duration: Application of topical anesthetic aside, the microneedling process can vary from 15 to 45 minutes.

How often you should get it: It’s typically performed in a series of three to six sessions, spaced about a month apart. consulted with Abelaine Venida-Tablizo, MD, of the Philippine Dermatological Society.

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