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At Home Skin Care Devices. Hype or Help?



Dr. Sandra Lee reviews these ubiquitous systems.



By Sandra Lee, Dermatologist



Published October 13, 2011
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The evolution of beauty developments and aesthetic medicine has been astonishing in the last decade. Previously, in order to remove hair, a woman’s only option was a razor, painful electrolysis or waxing.

Nowadays everyone knows about laser hair removal. If we suffered from acne, women were relegated to topical treatments, facials and anti-biotics. Now we have high tech options such as Isolaz. Solutions for anti-aging and other beauty problems have evolved from being available only in a physician’s office, then to spas and now to our own homes!

Just how effective are these at home treatments and devices? As a female board certified dermatologist, I am in in a unique position to understand how alluring these products can be. Are they helpful or just hype?


TRIA Laser Hair Removal System ($395, Triabeauty.com)

What it is: With looks that conjure a hand-held retro sci-fi weapon, this laser takes aim at unwanted body hair by targeting the hair's dark pigment and using heat to disable the follicle so hair doesn'tgrow back. The device is designed to work only on fair to medium skin tones (there's a skin color chart on the site) because if skin is too dark, a laser potentially could burn. And it doesn't work on gray, blond or red hair. The TRIA website states that the device is not to be used on neck, face or genitalia.


The claim: "The TRIA Laser Hair Removal System is the only FDA-cleared at home laser hair removal system that provides permanent, hair-free results."

The Verdict: I have mixed feelings regarding this system. My concern is that at physician’s offices and spas there are already an alarmingly high incidence of untoward side effects from laser hair removal—even when treatment is done by a professional. We have seen burns on the skin, which can lead to permanent scarring. If you use this device, use it wisely and don't ignore the warnings.


Palovia Skin Renewing Laser ($499, Palovia.com)

What it is: An at-home anti-aging system with a device that pulses laser light into skin around the eyes. The user applies a gel, and then holds the laser device to the skin around each eye briefly.

The claim: "The first FDA-cleared, at-home laser clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes."

The Verdict: The before and after pictures on their website are impressive, but no where on the website can a physician or consumer learn what laser wavelength this device uses. After some extensive searching, I finally found the laser specifications at the end of the instruction booklet.This laser is called a "non-ablative fractional laser" which means it is not supposed to damage the surface of the skin (i.e. no downtime) and only treats a portion of the skin.Non ablative fractional lasers are supposed to heat small columns of the deeper skin layers to promote new collagen production, plump the skin and minimize wrinkles. At 1410nm wavelength which is in the infrared part of the spectrum, this laser is essentially generating heat in an area, with the hope of triggering collagen formation.

Heat is causing a little swelling and increased blood flow to the area causing the wrinkles to improve temporarily. Although the skin may appear more radiant, I doubt if this is having any long term or permanent effects.


DDF Revolve 400X Micro-Polishing System ($95, DDFskincare.com)

What it is: Included in the box are the hand-held DDF micro-polisher tool, two foam-applicator attachments, a deep cleansing brush attachment, polishing crystals and batteries. For a microdermabrasion treatment, you're instructed to massage the crystals into the face with the micro-polisher tool with the foam applicator, then rinse and wash.

The claim: "A breakthrough device that delivers microdermabrasion results that are as effective as a professional treatment. After just one microdermabrasion treatment, see immediate improvement in pore appearance, skin tone and evenness, fine lines, skin clarity, brightness and radiance."

The Verdict: With this device one is supposed to massage the crystals into the face with a foam brush, then rinse.This is not the same as true microdermabrasion when you use a vacuum that sprays fine crystals on your skin and immediately vacuums them up. When this is performed by a physician or certified aesthetician, it exfoliates the dry, dead overlying skin cells with the goal of having more bright, clear radiant skin. I doubt the experience is the same as professional microdermabrasion.


The Tanda Regenerate Anti-Aging Starter Kit or Acne Kit ($250, Sephora.com)

What it is: An FDA-cleared New-Age-looking light therapy device that glows red if you buy the anti-aging kit, blue for the acne kit. After you cover your face with the serum or gel, you hold the device for three minutes over each targeted area.

The claim: "A light therapy device combining proven light therapy and botanically-based, light-optimized topicals to provide natural, non-invasive, scientifically proven solutions for common unwanted skinconditions."

What it is: Utilizing LED light therapy, a blue laser light activates porphyry in our skin which leads to the increased destruction of P. acnes, a bacteria that inhabits our acne. By killing these bacteria within the acne it may resolve acne spots sooner. If you are acne prone, seeing a dermatologist will enable you to get a prescription to lessen the chance of acne break outs in the first place.

The Verdict:I can't imagine that this device is as strong and effective as a $100,000 laser at a physician's office. There is a wider range of people that would respond to the professional laser. I think this device would be most useful as a supplement to professional laser hair removal, although it may be useful in getting rid of the "straggler" hairs that still remain because they may have been missed when treated professionally.

Clarisonic Opal Sonic Infusion System ($185, Clarisonic.com)

What it is: The makers of the popular Classic and Mia cleansing tools branch out with their Opal Sonic Infusion System, a tool that massages serum directly into the skin.

The claim: "The Opal is specially designed to help build skin's resilience over time and prevent future damage around the eyes."

Dr. Lee’s Verdict: I have actually used this before, and I questioned the use of "marine botanicals" which sounds like a vague, yet exotic description for ingredients that likely do not remove wrinkles. The device does vibrate and after treatment you still have this vibration/tingling sensation which may make you think that it is working. If I had this product at home, I would rather apply a retinol to the skin and use this device over it, hoping that the vibration may increase the penetration of a topical that I know has anti-aging properties.


About the Author
Sandra Lee, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and the American Society for MOHS Surgery. She was raised in Upland, and after completing undergraduate school at UCLA, traveled to the east coast to attend medical school at Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. Her internship was completed at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, and she completed her dermatology residency training at Southern Illinois University in Springfield, IL. Additionally, Dr. Lee had fellowship training in laser, dermatologic, and cosmetic surgery with the internationally recognized cosmetic surgeon and dermatologist, Dr. Richard E. Fitzpatrick of Dermatology Associates of San Diego.

She now practices in Upland, California where she divides her office time among general dermatology, dermatologic surgery, and cosmetic surgery. She has special interests in Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgery, tumescent neck and body liposuction, eyelifts and laser resurfacing. She also has been extensively involved in clinical studies, is published in multiple journals and medical textbooks, and lectures at a national level to fellow dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.

More info:
www.skinps.com



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