“Doctor, help! People think I’m a drinker because my face is always flushed. The truth is I barely touch alcohol. Is there anything I can do to remedy this problem?”
_ Patient seeking treatment
Our skin is the most exposed part of the body that inevitably has to endure the test of nature and time. The skin on our face and neck suffers most and, wrinkles aside, over time can become uneven, blotchy and spotty. In severe cases, skin becomes flushed, blood vessels around the nose become dilated and white-headed bumps appear _ a skin disorder known as rosacea which sometimes leaves sufferers mistaken for heavy drinkers.
WHAT CAUSES THE REDNESS?
Bette Davis said it best: “Old age ain’t for sissies.” Uneven pigmentation, unsightly spots, redness, blotchiness _ these are but a few of the ways ageing rears its ugly head. The natural ageing process is exacerbated by sun damage, especially in tropical countries like Thailand.
Patients who seek treatment for these skin irregularities are typically women over the age of 35 and men over the age of 50. In particular, fair-skinned individuals are most prone to reddishness and blotchiness as a result of the sun’s harmful UV rays.
A more serious form of redness on the face is a skin disorder called rosacea. It may sound like the name of a flower species in Latin, but rosacea (pronounced “rose-A-sha”) is actually rose-coloured acne.
This commonly misunderstood skin disorder appears as a constant flush of redness on the face as a result of enlarged blood vessels below the surface of the skin. It often leaves patients moaning, “People think I’m drunk all the time!” or “I’m too old for pimples!” Other grievances can include pimples on the nose, cheeks, forehead and chin, itchy facial skin and swelling of the eyelids.
The exact cause of this non-contagious skin condition remains a mystery. We do know that it has nothing to do with ageing or sun damage, although direct exposure to the sun can aggravate matters. Besides sunlight, other contributing factors can be hot and humid weather, exercising, tension, eating spicy foods and consuming alcohol.
Some experts believe that sufferers are allergic to the demodex folliculorum mite, a microscopic creature that can inhabit the pores of the skin. Diagnosing rosacea requires a physical examination and blood test by a specialist to rule out the possibility of another type of skin disorder such as common acne. It’s a lifelong condition. So far, no fail-proof cure exists. To alleviate symptoms, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream, antiseptic lotion, a peeling agent or benzo-peroxide metro gel. If these topical treatments fail to help control the condition, laser therapy may be recommended.
ZAPPING THE RED
In the past, regardless of the severity of the patient’s skin condition, there was little doctors could do to get rid of the blotchiness or redness beyond telling patients to stay out of the sun. Fortunately, in the past couple of decades, cosmetic laser technology has given patients more options for treating all kinds of skin conditions.
This procedure is used for collapsing broken capillaries on the face. The GentleYAG laser creates a beam of high-intensity light that penetrates deep into skin tissue where it delivers a controlled amount of targeted therapeutic heat, leaving the surrounding skin unaffected. During treatment a device is used which sprays a cooling substance called cryogen on to the skin, ensuring the upper layers of the skin are protected.
The number and frequency of treatments varies depending on the degree of redness. In most cases three to five sessions will be sufficient to collapse the blood veins, while for more redder complexions up to 10 times may be in order.
As the name of the laser implies, there’s little pain or downtime involved.
Another advantage of using GentleYAG is that it stimulates the collagen, thus tightening and rejuvenating the skin and making it look clearer, brighter and significantly less blotchy.
– Pulsed Dye Laser
The laser of choice for more serious forms of redness like rosacea and other skin conditions related to blood vessels, is the Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL). It works by shooting a beam of light with a specific wavelength at the affected area to target the damaged skin cells area, while leaving the surrounding tissue intact.
The method is safe and effective with minimal pain involved. If desired, a topical anaesthetic cream can be applied 30 minutes prior to the procedure. During treatment, patients may feel some stinging, similar in sensation similar to the snapping of a small rubber band against the skin.
The number of PDL treatments again varies depending on the gravity of the skin condition. On average two to three sessions are required, with five to 10 times if the patient not only has blotchiness on their face but also on their neck. After the treatment a slight bruising may occur but this rarely lasts longer than about seven to 14 days.
It’s vital to protect your skin with a sunscreen that has an SPF30 or higher, especially post-treatment.
ANY RISKS INVOLVED WITH LASER THERAPY?
As with any medical procedure there are always risks involved but as long as the patient is in the hands of a qualified specialist, these are minimal.
A FEW TIPS
While protecting yourself from the sun is part of any sensible skin care regimen, certain factors have been found to trigger or aggravate redness and blotchiness in the face. To minimise flare-ups, follow these recommendations:
– Diminish your alcohol intake
– Minimise sun and wind sun exposure
– Avoid very hot drinks and spicy foods
– Monitor your stress levels
– Steer clear of saunas and overly hot baths and showers