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Is beauty more than skin deep? The dangers of the ‘super-facial’

Posted: 04/11/2016

Women and men are turning to so-called anti-ageing ‘super-facials’ to help keep their skin looking young and fresh, but while they are easily available in beauty salons and relatively inexpensive, they are not without risk. Many dermatologists are becoming worried about the long-term damage these treatments could have.

There are two procedures in particular that can cause concern. Dermabrasion, an exfoliating facial treatment that promises to remove fine lines, make skin clearer and prevent ageing, has grown in popularity, alongside acid peels, another treatment that takes off the top layer of skin and stimulates collagen production to ‘plump up’ the new skin underneath. Microdermabrasion, which costs between £40 and £100 for a 15 minute session, involves tiny aluminium crystals being blasted at the skin via a high-velocity jet of air. This ‘sandblasting’ effect takes off the top layer, which is then suctioned away, revealing the glowing new skin underneath. Chemical peels (including glycolic, lactic acid and salicyclic) cost between £50 and £80 and take just a few minutes. An acid derived from sugar cane is used to dissolve the ‘glue’ that holds the older, top layer of skin in place. The result is baby-soft new skin.

There is concern that after experiencing the instant ‘brightening’ effects of microdermabrasion and chemical peels, some women become hooked and start having them more frequently, as often as once a week or more. They can be left with broken veins, uneven lined skin, dark pigmentation spots and acne. Another problem is that some beauty therapists are untrained and inexperienced, failing to recognise different skin types such as fair, sensitive, acne-prone or with broken veins, which can react badly to these treatments. Therapists sometimes fail to ask the client sufficient questions about skin conditions such as cold sores. Medication such as anti-acne drug, Roaccutane, can also cause dramatic reactions to these treatments. Moreover therapists may encourage clients to book in for repeat treatments. Experts advise against having them any more regularly than once a month.

Alison Johnson, senior associate in the cosmetic surgery team at Penningtons Manches LLP, says: “It is possible to have facials without experiencing these adverse effects. To do so safely, stick with highly experienced, qualified therapists, in a well-established, properly insured clinic that operates under the supervision of a doctor. Ask about this before you book and bear in mind the clinical advice about how regularly it is safe for these treatments to be carried out.”

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