Birthmarks, freckles, and moles are things that make us unique. While some freckles across our cheeks might be lovely, a crop of age spots or acne scars can be bothersome. Of course, you tend to be more aware of your own irregularities than other people are. You may be convinced that someone is staring at the birthmark on your cheek but chances are that they aren’t.
People may become so self-conscious about perceived physical flaws that they perform poorly in job interviews and feel insecure in social situations. If you're one of them, take stock of your options.
There are multiple options for dealing with facial scars or acne marks, both surgical and nonsurgical. Depending on your situation, one might be better for you than another. If you are considering any of the options, talk with your doctor or dermatologist.
If flat, pigmented birthmarks bother you, you can use makeup to cover them. Use a makeup brush and invest in foundation and concealer that works well with your skin tone. This is an easy and accessible way to cover any marks that make you self-conscious.
Injectable dermal fillers are a nonsurgical option for some skin problems. A range of dermal fillers has been developed for cosmetic and reconstructive uses. Some of these products are synthetic. Others are of bovine (cow) or porcine (pig) origin. A few are made from purified cadaver cells. Some hyaluronic acid fillers are extracted from rooster combs. Another option is to graft the patient's own fat from another body site.
Dermal fillers can restore youthful volume to the cheeks, smooth out large folds and creases, remove fine furrows and wrinkles, and plump the lips. They can also be used to improve the appearance of scars that have recessed. They won't restore elasticity to extremely slack skin and the filler is eventually broken down and absorbed by the body. Bruising and swelling usually occur. Infection, clot formation, allergic reactions, and other adverse effects are risks of the procedure.
Botox injections block muscular nerve signals, weakening the muscle and stopping it from moving. Moving these facial muscles cause skin to wrinkle when we smile, frown, and produce other facial expressions. It’s a short procedure done in-office. An experienced, trained professional will inject the toxin into specific facial muscles depending on where the problem area is. The procedure minimizes wrinkles and keeps them from becoming more deeply etched into our faces.
Conservative use of Botox allows a range of facial movement. Overreliance on it can produce an unnatural, frozen look. Risks are similar to those of dermal fillers. If an inexperienced practitioner places the injections at the wrong site, it can cause an eyelid or corner of the mouth to droop until the product's paralyzing effect wears off in several weeks.
Dermabrasion is a technique in which the skin's surface is brushed to remove acne scars, age spots, fine wrinkles, and other imperfections. The procedure is performed by a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon on an outpatient basis. The top layers of the skin are removed during the procedure, and the resulting abrasion looks and feels something like a full-face carpet burn. The red skin forms a crust as it heals. In a week or two the skin becomes a smooth pink. If the skin is deeply pitted by chickenpox or acne, sometimes dermabrasion is combined with small skin grafts called "punch grafts." Dermal fillers can also be used to reduce pitting.
Dermabrasion does carry risks, including:
- overgrowth of scar tissue
- too much or too little pigment in the resurfaced skin
Microdermabrasion is a more superficial procedure that requires several treatments and produces less dramatic results.
Another way to remove the top layers of the skin is to apply a chemical irritant. A chemical peel is a somewhat less aggressive technique than dermabrasion, and its effects may not be as impressive or long lasting. The risks of the procedure are similar to those of dermabrasion. Chemical peels should be applied by a dermatologist or other licensed professional. There will often be post-peel care that you adhere to. A dermatologist will help you with at-home care for skin recovery after your peel.
Laser resurfacing is another option to treat your skin. A surgical laser can be used to target specific areas of the skin for resurfacing. The most common lasers are a carbon dioxide laser, and an erbium laser. Lasers are also useful for tattoo and hair removal. They can improve the appearance of spider veins in the cheeks or near the nose. They might not be appropriate for those with darker skin. The procedure carries virtually the same risks as dermabrasion, with the additional risk of accidental eye injury.
If non-surgical options have not worked for you, surgical removal might be the best choice. Moles and raised, reddish birthmarks can usually be removed, depending on their size and location. Removal generally leaves a scar, which can make you even more self-conscious than before. In most people, these small surgical scars tend to fade and shrink over time. Removal can be done in one or two office visits. If you suspect a mole is cancerous, talk to your dermatologist immediately. Signs of a cancerous mole include a change in a mole's borders, color, texture, size, or symmetry, or if the mole bleeds or changes in any way.
Different skin conditions require different treatments. Not every treatment will be right for every patient. Most treatments have side effects, which need to be considered in comparison to how you feel without the treatment. If you are considering any treatment for acne scars or age spots, talk with your doctor about seeing a dermatologist. The dermatologist can help you make the right decision for you.