Touro Infirmary

FALL 2013

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Stretch the truth Erasing the marks of age on your skin By Kelly Burgess E SHUTTERSTOCK veryone wants flawless skin, but life doesn't always cooperate. Scars, stretch marks and age spots are often unavoidable, while tattoos may be youthful indiscretions you'd prefer to forget. The good news is that many of these marks can be erased or significantly lightened with the proper treatment. BANISHING BLEMISHES Scars and stretch marks are similar skin blemishes because both are the result of torn or damaged skin that has then healed. "Once you have a scar, you have a scar," says Dr. Josephine Futrell, a dermatologist affiliated with Willis-Knighton Health System, Shreveport, La. "If you're talking about the thick keloid-type scars, you're probably not going to be able to remove them completely. But lighter scars, like those from acne, chickenpox or some surgical scars, can be significantly improved." Stretch marks can vary in severity; making them less noticeable is the goal of treatment. Both scars and stretch marks are typically treated with lasers, and it usually takes more than one session for good results. NO TATTOO FOR YOU? "We all know people sometimes make decisions they later regret," says Dr. Charles Herman, director of plastic surgery at Pocono Health Systems in East Stroudsburg, Pa., about the growing interest in tattoo removal. There are a few ways to remove a tattoo, says Dr. Herman, but laser treatments are the most common and effective techniques. "Success depends upon the tattoo itself," he says. "The color, how it was injected, who injected it and how deeply it was injected all factor into how effectively we can lighten or remove it." LIGHTEN UP ON AGE SPOTS Although these characteristic brown blemishes are all called age spots, there are really two types: One is caused by long-term sun damage, while the other, seborrheic keratosis, has a strong genetic component. The former responds well to over-the-counter treatments or lasers, while the latter may be treated more effectively with cryotherapy (freezing), says Dr. Elizabeth Farley Prater, a dermatologist with INTEGRIS Health, Oklahoma City, Okla. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Most skin treatments are uncomfortable rather than painful, says Dr. Futrell, although the pain from more intense treatments can be eased with topical or injected anesthetics. If you're thinking about having skin marks removed, the most important preparation is finding a medical professional to do the job, says Dr. Farley Prater. Different lasers are designed to work with different skin tones and textures, and personnel in places such as medical spas may not be as well trained as a dermatologist. "I've seen many patients who were treated with the wrong laser, and it leaves pigmentation and scarring that is as bad or worse than the original mark," says Dr. Farley Prater. • w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m FA L L 2 013 SPI RIT O F WOM EN 25

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