Cryotherapy for Age Spots: How Freezing Age Spots on Face Works
We can all probably agree on the fact that beauty is not skin deep. Yet despite this, we tend to constantly be on the hunt for things that can make us look better and feel better. Gone are the days when we would rely solely on good skincare and makeup to enhance our looks.
Luckily, procedures specifically those concerning the skin, have come a long way and have progressed along with today’s age where technology is constantly making leaps and bounds. One of these procedures is cryotherapy, which we will be talking more about further ahead.
The skin is one of the most visible parts of our body and as we grow older a myriad of changes happens to it. It loses that suppleness, that natural glow, and we get things like wrinkles. Although some are luckier than others, these are just some of our bodies’ ways of indicating the passage of time.
Another one of these not so subtle indicators that we will be focusing on is what we call age spots.
Facial age spots
Age spots, sometimes also called sun spots or liver spots, are skin discolorations that generally appear flat and oval shaped and can be brown, gray, or black. They can commonly be found on areas of the skin most exposed to the sun, such as on your arms, shoulders, forehead, and face. They are the results of excess melanin production or skin pigment.
According to Mayo Clinic’s web page “Age spots are very common in adults older than age 50. But, younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun”.
Appearance can be accelerated from ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or other things such as tanning beds. Think of it this way, the skin shields itself against cuts and other traumas through bruises and scars. In the same vein, age spots are the skin’s defense against the sun’s damage.
While they are mostly harmless, having them removed can give an overall more youthful look.
Removing Age Spots
Now, there are a lot of different ways that people can go about in removing age spots. For example, there are natural remedies and dermatologist prescribed creams out there, but these usually take months before they even show any changes to your skin. And since we now live in a fast paced world where everybody just seems to be in a hurry, this just won’t make the cut for most people.
Luckily, there are a bunch of procedures, mostly non invasive and non surgical, that have developed over the years. One of these, as we mentioned earlier, is cryotherapy.
In this article, we will be answering questions you may have about cryotherapy and how it works in removing age spots. These are the questions that will be answered as we go further:
- What is cryotherapy for age spots?
- How does freezing age spots work?
- Can you use it on any part of the body? Is it safe for the face?
- How long is a treatment session?
- How many sessions are needed?
- Are there any pre treatment instructions for cryotherapy treatment?
- What aftercare is needed after a treatment?
- What is the downtime?
- What are the side effects?
- Are there any risks involved?
- Who are/who are not eligible to have cryotherapy treatment for age spots?
- Which other skin problems can cryotherapy treat?
- What is the cost per session?
But before we answer any of these questions, let us first give you a background on cryotherapy itself to better help you understand its overall concept.
By now, you have probably heard at least once of the tangible and scientifically proven benefits that the cold has on the skin and the rest of the human body. Yes, the cold. There are people who swear by rubbing their faces with ice cubes to heal imperfections and minimize pores; and there are procedures such as the ice bath treatment that have been used for years, with its benefits already well established.
In recent years, another procedure called cryotherapy has been growing in popularity.
According to Healthy Cold’s web page, “In the 1970s, Japanese professor Toshima Yamauchi first promoted the idea of using extremely low temperatures for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. He successfully treated patients using cold (cryo) procedures to such an extent that about 80% of seriously ill people were completely relieved from symptoms of the disease and pain”.
In recent years it has also been used in addressing a host of different bodily issues. First for professional sports medicine and then for aesthetic purposes.
Woman tries a whole body cryotherapy machine
Cryotherapy comes in varieties and can either be whole body or local, but it is basically a treatment with health and beauty benefits through the use of freezing.
Whole body cryotherapy involves getting your surface temperature so low by entering a liquid nitrogen cooled chamber that exposes the skin to numbing temperatures that dip down to -130 degrees Celsius (-200 F) or lower. This sudden drop in temperature freezes your skin and shocks your body. In panic your brain starts pumping endorphins and oxygen rich blood where your body needs it most like sore muscles. The benefits essentially come from the body’s natural attempts to protect itself.
Local cryotherapy works on the same principle but involves only partial exposure.
Popularity and Benefits
Athletes and celebrities (Cristiano Ronaldo, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Daniel Craig, Lindsay Lohan, Mandy Moore, etc.) alike have become supporters of cryotherapy, helping make the procedure reach mainstream awareness. It has since reached the masses with spas expanding their treatment options to include cryosaunas, with specialty shops opening as well.
This popularity seems to point to the fact that it does produce results.
Benefits of cryotherapy include but are not limited to:
- Less cellulite
- Smaller pores
- Tighter skin
- Relaxed muscles
- Boosted metabolism
- Better mood
- Collagen boost
But with its long list of benefits, it is now time to address its effectiveness on a particular issue that we promised to focus on: age spots.
Cryotherapy for Age Spots
What is cryotherapy for age spots?
Cryotherapy for age spots is also called cryosurgery. It is a non invasive and non surgical way to improve the skin’s appearance that has become in demand as of late.
Unsightly flaws are removed by freezing the affected areas through a localized frostbite approach. A description by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery states that “Cryosurgery fades age spots by freezing them with a liquid nitrogen solution, causing the darkened skin to peel away from the body”.
Freezing at an extremely low temperature destroys cells through damage that is akin to burning. This damage to the skin cells results in redness and sometimes blistering of the treated area. When the sore heals, the original skin lesion is no longer present, now replaced with new skin.
Before and after or age spots removal through cryotherapy
How does freezing age spots work?
There are three main techniques in freezing age spots.
- The most basic is through the use of Q-tips dipped into a cup containing a cryogen (such as liquid nitrogen) and applying this directly onto the affected area to freeze it. It is then allowed to slowly thaw to ensure maximum destruction of the skin cells.
- The next technique is essentially the same but makes use of a device to spray cryogen on to the skin instead.
- The third option makes use of a probe to circulate and cool the cryogen to low temperatures, after which the probe is brought into direct contact with the skin.
All techniques use the same freeze-thaw steps.
In the past, cryotherapy was accomplished strictly through the use of liquid nitrogen, but according to Dr. MediSpa, state of the art equipment such as the Dermapen Cryo ™ which “uses a very precise jet of highly-compressed liquefied nitrous oxide (N2O), to destroy the benign lesions (such as warts, skin tags, and age spots) in a matter of seconds”, is now also used.
Nonetheless, the use of liquid nitrogen for age spots is still the most common technique.
Click here to watch a YouTube clip of a cryotherapy procedure for age spots.
Can you use it on any part of the body? Is it safe for the face?
Cryotherapy is generally safe and can be used on any part of the body including the face. Freezing age spots on face are commonly done, even areas surrounding the eyes. Usage of liquid nitrogen for age spots on face is also a non issue. High precision tools are used to ensure that only affected areas are hit, avoiding healthy skin areas.
Also, it is highly tolerable with only minimal discomfort during the procedure.
Click here to watch a YouTube clip of a cryotherapy procedure done on the face.
How long is a treatment session?
The length of each session can vary case to case but is usually relatively quick. The doctor will treat each individual spot for a few seconds each, with the overall procedure lasting only a couple of minutes up to an hour.
How many sessions are needed?
Results from cryotherapy are not immediately visible but usually it is a one stop treatment, save for rare occasions.
As stated by the Center for Dermatology, “Age spots treated with nitrogen often take 2-4 weeks to disappear, so be patient. If after 1-2 months there is still a lesion, a second application may be necessary”.
You might also be required though to come in for a follow up visit 2 to 4 weeks after your session to confirm that treated lesions have disappeared.
Are there any pre-treatment instructions for cryotherapy treatment?
The Encyclopedia of Surgery suggests that “No extensive preparation is required prior to cryotherapy. The area to be treated should be clean and dry, but sterile preparation is not necessary. Patients should know that they will experience some pain at the time of the freezing, but local anesthesia is usually not required”.
Any other preparations to be done are just the general ones prior to any other procedure.
This can include:
- Telling your doctor about any medications you are taking
- For women, telling your doctor if you are pregnant
- Telling your doctor about any cold sensitivity issues
- Avoiding taking aspirin, non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs for a specified amount of time prior to the procedure
- Consulting with your doctor about any existing allergies
- Consulting with your doctor about what to expect throughout the procedure
Some physicians may also advise you to take Ibuprofen (400mg) a half hour before the procedure to relieve minor discomfort.
What aftercare is needed after a treatment?
The Encyclopedia of Surgery states that “In dermatology applications, redness, swelling, and the formation of a blister at the site of cryotherapy are all expected results of the treatment”.
Affected areas should be cleaned at least two to four times a day with gentle soap and water. After this, healing ointments suggested by your doctor can be applied. Areas can then be covered with a light dressing such as gauze, to be replaced every time the areas are cleaned. Your doctor might also suggest a sunscreen to be used, especially when going out.
Some patients may encounter pain after treatment and this can be treated by taking Tylenol, or in some cases a stronger pain reliever.
The treated area will heal in 2 to 4 weeks.
Alternatively, if there are no blisters or scabs, no special treatment is necessary. Generally the doctor will prescribe if medications are required.
What is the downtime?
There is typically no downtime after cryotherapy and those who go through it to remove age spots can immediately return to their normal activities. Although there might be visible side effects, these are not the type that will limit one’s physical capabilities.
What are the side effects?
Side effects from cryotherapy can include:
These side effects are generally temporary and will be present before the treated areas are fully replaced with new skin.
Are there any risks involved?
As with any cosmetic procedure, there are risks involved, albeit minimal especially when in the hands of an experienced dermatological surgeon.
Risks can include:
- Permanent white scars in some areas. Dark skinned people have a higher risk of acquiring these.
- Hypo pigmentation or hyper pigmentation
- Infection. This is characterized by an increase in pain and pus forming in the treated area.
- Hair loss. This can happen when treating lesion on sites with coarse terminal hair.
- Nerve damage. Particularly in areas where nerves are close to the surface of the skin such as fingers, behind the ear, and wrists.
- Shards of frozen ice may blow out and come in contact with healthy skin
Again, cryotherapy is generally low risk. The Encyclopedia of Surgery goes on to say that “In dermatology applications, cryotherapy poses little risk and can be well tolerated by elderly and other patients who are not good candidates for other surgical procedures”.
It helps to consult your doctor beforehand.
Who are/who are not eligible to have cryotherapy treatment for age spots?
Generally, everyone is eligible for cryotherapy, but there will be prior consultations with your doctor to ensure that you are not allergic to any of the components that will be used, to discount any other bodily aversions, to determine your skin type, and to discuss any other concerns going forward.
Which other skin problems can cryotherapy treat?
Other skin conditions that can be treated with cryotherapy include but are not limited to:
- Warts- small rough hard growths similar to the skin in colour
- Skin tags- small skin coloured growths that hang off the skin
- Morton’s neuroma- a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot
- Seborrhoeic keratosis- a harmless warty spot that appears during adult life as a common sign of skin aging
- Basal cell carcinoma- a type of skin cancer that most often develops on areas of skin exposed to the sun
Cryotherapy is also used in achieving clearer skin, lessening wrinkles, improving collagen production, relief of psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema, among others.
What is the cost per session?
According to Skin Care Org’s web page, “The cost of cryotherapy ranges between $500 and $900 depending on the size and location of the age spots”. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery also gives the same price range. Since it is a cosmetic procedure, it is not generally covered by medical insurance.
Overall, cryotherapy is a great way to go when wanting to get rid of age spots. It is effective, non invasive, quick, and low risk. That being said, it is still best to consult a doctor beforehand to find out more there is to know about cryotherapy, discuss your options, and ensure that you are administered by someone who is specifically trained.
Also, never forget the old adage that prevention is better than cure. Age spots can be prevented by limiting sun exposure, and ensuring that your skin is always protected with the use of sunscreen and wearing protective clothing. It is always best to start early but it is also never too late to start taking better care of your skin.