Being a Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon who literally cuts into skin for a living, I have a unique perspective on assessing a person’s health from the inside out. There is no question that one’s habits have a profound effect on their body. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and directly interfaces with the outside world. The condition of the skin is, therefore, a direct indicator of one’s overall health.
There are four common types of skin that I see: The first is that of youth. The skin is thick, elastic, has small pores, and an even color and texture. Even if it is tan, youthful skin has minimal changes associated with sun damage. Ah. Youth is wasted on the young! The second type of skin is the sun-damaged skin. The skin is darkly, but unevenly pigmented; it is very thick, very wrinkled, and has virtually no elasticity. There are often age spots and precancerous areas. Ultraviolet radiation causes damage to our cellular DNA creating premature aging and poor cellular function. The third type is that of a smoker. The skin is very thick and has virtually no elasticity. These patients are usually thin and can be severely wrinkled. Cigarette smoke contains many toxic compounds, but it is the nicotine that creates the largest havoc on the skin. Nicotine is an intense vasoconstrictor, especially at the sub dermal level. Every time you smoke, it literally starves the skin of it nutrients. When the skin is injured by actinic change, it has a lot less ability to repair itself. The forth type of skin is that of a drinker. These patients’ skin is characterized by red “broken capillaries” on their face known as telangiectasias. Although the elasticity is diminished, it is not as severe as a smoker or someone with sun-damage. These patients tend to bleed more when cut. There is a physiologic reason for this. People who consume an excess of alcohol compromise the function of their liver. Remember the liver produces clotting factors. Additionally the liver clears excess estrogen, so someone with impaired liver function will have higher levels of circulating estrogen which has a vasodilatory effect leading to increased numbers of telangiectasias.
The big question is: what can a person do to enhance the appearance of their skin without surgery? The first things are a dramatic change in lifestyle will reflect in your skin. Quitting smoking and keeping drinking alcohol to moderate levels are a huge step to allowing the skin to repair itself. The next thing is to avoid the sun damage and cell damage by avoiding excessive sun exposure and using “appropriate” sun block. “Appropriate” means a sun block that contains either clear zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, a minimum of 30 SPF. One of the most powerful means to enhance the appearance of the skin is basic cardio exercise. Shopping doesn’t count. It has to involve some shortness of breath and sweating. A minimum would be 20-30 minutes at least 3 times per week, and the more the better.
By changing one’s lifestyle, you will feel better, improve your health, and your skin will reflect this by becoming more elastic and vibrant. If you really want to look better this should be just the beginning. There are many ways to get to the next level that don’t involve surgery. These include basic skin care, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), and BoTox. BASIC SKIN CARE WORKS! Today, there are a number of very high quality skin care products that can help modulate the skin’s pigment and have specific growth factors that can improve fine wrinkles and the texture of the skin. We carry the ZO, Skin Medica, and Lifeline lines of medical grade skin care products for a comprehensive skin care program. Another aspect of skin care is a visit with a medical aesthetician. The basal layer of the skin turns over every month. Typically, the basal layers contain younger cells with less actinic damage. If the upper layers of cells, which are more damaged, are replaced by the more youthful lower layers, the skin will have a more vibrant appreance. By performing techniques such as “peels”, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, and microneedling with a Dermapen, the upper more damaged cell layers are removed and the lower more healthy cell layers are stimulated to divid ultimately replacing the upper layers. This is why we recommend a visit with our medical aesthetician once a month. An IPL is a device very similar to a laser except that it delivers intense light at a broad spectrum of wavelengths. The intense light is absorbed by brown and red pigments acting as a smart bomb to treat the skin removing brown spots and ruddy red complexion. It usually takes 3-4 treatments to get a dramatic result, and we recommend maintenance treatments 2-3 times a year for best effect. We have the Sciton BBL which is the best in class IPL device delivering the best result on the market. It had a very large spot size and enhanced optical qualities so that it is virtually painless and very quick. You can treat and arm in about 8 minutes and a face in 15 minutes. Don’t forget the hands. The IPL is especially good at treating sun spots on the hands. If you combine the effects of IPL with the appropriate skin care program, you have a winning combination. Lastly, BoTox is a central player in improving the appearance of the skin. BoTox has been extremely popular for the past 20 years because it works and has almost no downside. It is most often used to treat the wrinkles between the eyebrow (glabellar creasing), the forehead wrinkles, and the crows feet. It usually lasts 3-4 months. Other areas where it is used are on the upper lip and to treat the bunny lines on the side of the nose. It can also be used to elevate the corners of the mouth.
By living a healthy lifestyle, you will be rewarded by feeling better and having skin that is healthier, more vibrant and glowing. Everybody over the age of 30 can benefit from basic skin care, IPL, and BoTox. The beauty is that the improvement looks natural and it is very easy to do.