As the weather in Atlanta plummets from summer straight into winter, we are most often plagued with chapped lips and overly dry skin and often forget about our broader skin concerns. With months to go before spring’s warmth and summer sun, I encourage my patients to take a good look at their long term skin concerns and to act now as opposed to the warmer months, when we are more likely to be out in the sun and unable to get the full effects of the treatments below.
So what should you be doing for your skin now instead of in the spring and summer months?
Treating your precancers, shallow cancers and sun damaged skin with photodynamic therapy –Photodynamic therapy (PDT), sometimes called blue light therapy, is one of the best things a person can do to effectively treat precancerous actinic keratosis (AK), mild shallow skin cancers such as superficial or nodular basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma in situ and even some types of acne and sun damage. Many of the cancers I treat on the face and scalp via Mohs surgery could have been prevented if the patient had undergone PDT while the cancer was still in its early stages. Most commonly, PDT is used to treat AKs or skin cancers on the face or scalp but is also frequently used on the arms, hands, neck or chest.
What can a patient expect during a PDT procedure? After having a topical medicine called ALA soak into the skin for one to four hours, the PDT treatment takes only 15 minutes during which a patient lies underneath a blue light, that ultimately causes damaged tissue to be replaced with healthy tissue.
Treat your pigmentation problems! – Pigmentation concerns such as melasma and “age spots” are best treated in the winter months when the skin is not getting exposed to as much UV light.
Melasma is a disorder marked by dark patches on the skin, often on the cheeks and upper lip. Topical medicines and chemical peels can help. During a melasma-specific peel, patients can expect to have a red, sensitive face that peels for one to several weeks depending on the strength of the peel and the sensitivity of the patient’s skin. During this time the patient cannot get any sun on the new skin. And afterwards sun protection is key to preventing melasma’s return. Unfortunately melasma is stubborn, and retreatment approximately once per year is often beneficial.
Other pigmentation concerns such as freckles or “liver spots” are best treated via laser therapy. Again, as these treatments involve damaging the skin with heat and light energy, the best results will come from avoidance of the sun after treatment until the area heals. Use of pants and long sleeve shirts and pursuit of indoor activities help maximize treatment effect.
Treat your legs now: not in the spring when you want to show them off
Patients often present with vascular complaints in early spring and request a quick and immediate fix. Common complaints such as varicose veins, spider veins and telangiectasias can be effectively treated but may require multiple treatment modalities and sessions. Also, insurance companies often require that patients try 3 months of “conservative therapy” consisting of exercise, leg elevation, medical grade compression stockings and over the counter pain medicine before insurance companies will cover vein treatments, so if you want legs to be ready for summer, it’s best to see a physician in late fall or early winter.
At Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta, it is our pleasure to meet your skin care needs. Board certified and fellowship-trained, Dr. Brent Taylor is a skin cancer, vein and aesthetic expert honored to be of service.