Although the terms “skin rejuvenation” and “skin resurfacing” are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Rejuvenation is anything that makes the skin look better — skincare products, treatments or in-office procedures — while resurfacing refers to a treatment or procedure that physically removes the top layer of the skin. Simply put, skin resurfacing is just one way to accomplish skin rejuvenation.
Skin resurfacing takes many forms. Lasers, acids or other means remove damaged cells on the skin’s surface. While deep laser resurfacing can require anesthesia and significant downtime, there are gentler, less invasive ways to obtain skin rejuvenation via skin resurfacing. Here are the top three:
Chemical peels: Either at home or in the dermatologist’s office, peels generally use acids (such as glycolic) to remove the uppermost layers of skin. A series of eight to 10, spaced a few weeks or so apart, can improve fine lines and discoloration without any recovery time. These peels are not effective for deeper wrinkles, and may cause skin discoloration when performed by inexperienced providers, so be sure to seek out a properly trained professional.
Microdermabrasion: This treatment “sands” the surface of the skin by propelling abrasive particles (usually aluminum oxide crystals) at the skin before they’re vacuumed away. Microdermabrasion can be performed in a series of 5 to 10 treatments, spaced 10 to 14 days apart or whenever skin begins to look dull. On the plus side, this treatment can help chemical peel ingredients penetrate better and can be used on darker skin tones without the risk of pigment changes. However, I find no long-term benefit other than a glow that lasts about 24 hours (which can be achieved with an at-home scrub).
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Laser resurfacing: There are many types of laser resurfacing, but they all remove the uppermost layers of skin in a controlled fashion. They can be “dialed up” or “dialed down” to adjust the depth and intensity, which has an impact on the amount of time it takes for skin to heal. These treatments are usually performed with topical anesthesia to keep you comfortable, and you can opt for a series of lighter treatments or one deeper treatment. The results are permanent so long as you avoid sun exposure after treatment and use the proper skincare products, and they have the ability to improve fine lines, moderately deep wrinkles and excess pigment, although they cannot be used on dark skin.
One of my favorite treatments for skin rejuvenation (though not skin resurfacing) is Ultherapy. This treatment delivers ultrasound energy deep into the skin, generating heat that helps tighten existing collagen and prompt the production of new collagen. It’s great for tightening skin on the face and neck in just one or two treatments, and results can last up to two years.
Even if your budget doesn’t allow for in-office treatments to help rejuvenate your skin, you can prevent aging by eating the right foods. Blueberries, pomegranates and acai berries are very high in antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals that cause visible signs of aging. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon help fight inflammation at the cellular level, which plays a role in skin aging. Just remember, when it comes to skin rejuvenation, you can be as close as a bite away from healthier, younger-looking skin.
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.