By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
Is the heat still on? Radio frequency, heat therapy, and lasers are some of the well-known skin treatments that generally use heat or high temperatures to repair damaged tissue or encourage cell regeneration to aid in skin healing. Therefore, cold, cool, or freezing aren’t exactly words associated with skin treatments, but it can now be with cryotherapy!
The word cryotherapy means treatment procedure using much lower temperatures. Liquid nitrogen, a very cold substance, is usually used in cryotherapy (aside from carbon dioxide and argon) and applied on the skin using a cotton swab, a spray gun, or a metal probe. Believe it or not, cryotherapy has been “chilling” since the 1900s and, by 1990, almost 90 percent of dermatologists are using this type of skin treatment. Cryotherapy is often used for the treatment of various skin lesions, such as the precancerous actinic keratosis (rough pinkish or red lesions that form on sun-exposed areas and may grow larger if left untreated), sebborheic keratosis (round skin growths that look like melanoma, a skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma (a common type of skin cancer that are smooth skin growths), warts, and other harmless or early stage skin growths. Application involves applying the liquid nitrogen directly onto the desired area for a few seconds. Anesthesia is not needed, but may be applied as well, depending on the size and area of the skin lesion. The wound will heal in a few weeks until the excess skin falls off and reveals new skin underneath. This is why cryotherapy is the preferred treatment option among dermatologists: quick, easy, and desirable results. Aside from treating skin lesions, cryotherapy is also starting to be used for anti-aging treatments and skin rejuvenation too! The possible side effects of cryotherapy are pain that can be lessened by taking a paracetamol before or after the procedure, swelling or blisters that should subside in a few days, and, in rare instances, possible infection that may be treated by antibiotics. When the skin has healed, side effects may also be scarring (although rare), damage to surrounding skin, skin color changes (especially for darker-skinned individuals), and possible recurrence.
Love it or loathe it, summer is definitely upon us. It seems like there is no escape to the 30++-degree weather, and this is why for those who can’t beat the heat, they adjust to it by wearing lighter clothing, showing more skin, and going to the beach! Enjoying the sun too much, however, also increases the risk for skin cancers later on. And while cryotherapy is one of the treatments for precancerous or benign skin growths, it is still better to prevent these altogether by practicing proper precautions when under the sun, like wearing sunscreen, using an umbrella, wearing darker clothing, and refraining to go out at peak hours. Remember, good health will always make you relax better… and chill!