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Skin Lightening Surgery: 7 Pros & 6 Cons

How does skin lightening surgery work
Written by Camilla Evaline

If you’ve recently noticed dark patches developing on your face or other parts of your body, you could have hyperpigmentation. This condition is caused by the overproduction of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the pigment that is responsible for giving our skin its natural color. The more melanin your body produces, the darker your skin becomes.

There are different factors that can trigger the abnormal production of melanin in our skin, including genetics, sun exposure, hormonal changes, use of certain medications, and other skin conditions and inflammation.

Hyperpigmentation affects men and women of all races, and can occur on any part of the body, including the face, neck, and hands. While it’s relatively common and harmless, having dark marks on visible parts of the body can be distressing. Fortunately, there are now more available options to treat this skin problem.

Most people with dark skin problems use whitening creams and pills to treat their condition. Some even try natural and home-made solutions to eliminate dark spots, acne marks, and other skin discoloration. However, while some of these treatments are proven to be effective, the results usually last only for a short period of time. This is where the more advanced approaches, such as skin lightening surgery, come in.

What Is Skin Lightening Surgery?

Skin lightening surgery is a cosmetic procedure that aims to treat the damaged tissues and reduce the concentration of melanin in the skin, resulting in a healthier and lighter skin tone. It usually involves the use of chemical substances and modern technology to achieve the desired results.

Skin lightening surgery is commonly done in a doctor’s clinic or an outpatient surgery center. If done correctly, this procedure can provide long-term results with low risks.

Types of Skin Lightening Surgery

Skin lightening surgery utilizes a variety of methods to enhance or restore your skin’s health. Depending on your skin type and skin problem, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following procedures:

Laser Skin Resurfacing

Also known as laser peel or laser skin lightening, this procedure involves the use of concentrated light to remove damaged skin in a precise manner.

The procedure works by removing the outer layer of your skin one layer at a time and heat the underlying skin to trigger the growth of new cells, which then results in a smoother and fairer skin.

Laser skin resurfacing can be painful. Usually, before the procedure, your doctor will give you local anesthetics or apply cooling cream to keep you comfortable. For more invasive approach, your doctor may sedate you to help you relax.

Depending on how large the area of skin is involved, the entire procedure can take 30-minutes to 2 hours to complete. Recovery time will also vary depending on the type of laser method used to treat your skin problem – it could be 1-2 days or 1-2 weeks or longer. 

Side effects may include swelling, redness, bruising, and sensitivity to sun. It is important to avoid too much exposure to the sun after the surgery. Also, it is recommended to apply protective creams and take medications prescribed by your surgeon to avoid infections and help your skin heal faster.

Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion is a cosmetic technique that involves the use of a rapidly rotating device to remove the skin’s top layer. This procedure causes your skin to wound and bleed – but in a controlled manner. As the wound heals, new skin forms that is lighter, smoother, and healthier.

This procedure is most often used for the treatment of acne scars, facial wrinkles, traumatic scars, and even for the treatment of enlarged nose (rhinophyma) and removal of tattoo and pre-cancerous spots, such as actinic keratosis.

Depending on the level of skin removal, it takes an average of 6-12 weeks to completely heal the treated skin. For faster healing, your doctor may prescribe special ointments and medications. In addition, your doctor will also give you information on how to properly take care of your skin after the procedure. It is important to follow your doctor’s advice to help heal your wound faster and avoid any complications.

Dermabrasion is normally considered a safe procedure if done by a trusted and qualified surgeon or dermatologist. So if you’re considering this type of skin lightening surgery, make sure to talk with a qualified specialist.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a light cosmetic procedure that is done in conjunction with or alternative for dermabrasion. It involves the use of minimally abrasive equipment to gently remove the unwanted outer skin layer and reveal the younger, smoother skin.

There are two common ways on how microdermabrasion is done.

One is with the use of a handheld device that sprays tiny crystals across your skin. This device has an attached vacuum that sucks up the crystals along with the dead skin, resulting in a smoother skin.

The other one, which is the newer approach, is with the use of a diamond-tipped wand that is gently moved across your skin that needs to be treated to exfoliate it and stimulate the production of new collagen.

Microdermabrasion is an easy, painless, and non-invasive skincare procedure, so it generally doesn’t require any anesthesia. Recovery time is also faster compared with other cosmetic procedures, such as laser skin resurfacing and dermabrasion. After the procedure, you may experience redness and swelling, but these symptoms will usually fade after just a few hours.

Chemical Peel

Also known as chemexfoliation and derma peeling, this procedure is considered one of least invasive treatment for treating uneven tone and wrinkled skin. It utilizes a chemical solution, such as salicylic acid or carbolic acid, to create a controlled wound, which eventually peels off. As the skin peels off, a younger, brighter, and healthier skin grows.

Chemical peels don’t hurt, but they can cause slight sting. After the procedure, you may also experience mild swelling and redness, but your doctor will usually prescribe the necessary creams and medications to relieve the symptoms.

Recovery time also varies depending on the type of chemical peel used to treat your skin condition. Mild peels usually require 1-7 days to heal. But for medium and deep peels, it takes an average of 1-3 weeks to completely heal the treated skin.

Cryosurgery/Cryotherapy

This procedure involves the use of a very cold substance, usually liquid nitrogen, to freeze and destroy dead skin tissues, as well as encourage the growth of new and healthier ones.

It’s a quick procedure, which can be done either in a doctor’s office or at home, but it can be painful. If you can tolerate moderate, short-term pain, cryosurgery may be a good treatment option for you. This procedure is commonly used for the treatment of warts, liver spots, lesions, and pre-cancerous growths.

Common side effects may include redness, swelling, burning sensation, and fever. These are normal and can usually be alleviated by taking medications prescribed by your doctor, such as Ibuprofen and paracetamol. Depending on your skin type, scarring and blisters may also occur. These symptoms are also temporary and will usually fade after a few days.

Who Can Benefit from Skin Lightening Surgery?

People with the following skin conditions can benefit from skin lightening surgery:

  • Melasma or hyperpigmentation. A condition caused by the excessive production of melanin in the skin, making the skin darker in color.
  • Vitiligo or hypopigmentation. A condition caused by the lack of melanin in the skin, making it lighter in color and more sensitive to the sun.
  • ​Fine lines and wrinkles
  • ​Acne-prone skin
  • ​Damaged skin due to age and overexposure to sun
  • ​Acne scars and birthmarks
  • ​Freckles and other unwanted spots
  • ​Uneven skin tone and natural dark skin

However, while skin lightening surgery is considered one of the most effective treatments for treating your damaged skin, it’s still an invasive procedure that you should not take lightly.

Side Effects of Skin Lightening Surgery

Just like other forms of surgery, cosmetic skin surgery has its risks. Common side effects are the following:

Hyperpigmentation. It is possible that your skin may develop dark patches after the procedure since the surgery requires the removal of damaged skin, causing wound. But these symptoms will usually fade on their own after a few days or with the help of prescribed ointments and medications.

Bacterial infection. This is also a common risk, but your doctor will usually recommend you to take antibiotics to treat and prevent infection from occurring.

Redness and swelling. These conditions usually occur on almost every patient. They are normal and will go away after a days. However, some people may experience prolonged redness, depending on their skin type and the procedure used to treat their skin.

Bruising and scarring. While these conditions are rare, they are still possible. Sometimes, they disappear on their own; but in severe cases, you will need to apply special creams prescribed by your surgeon to heal them faster.

Sensitivity to the sun. After the procedure, your skin may also become more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to apply sunscreen all the time and as much as possible, avoid going out during the hottest period of the day.

Getting Skin Lightening Surgery

As mentioned, skin lightening surgery is a serious procedure with risks and complications, so you should take it with caution and education. If you’re considering this kind of treatment to whiten your skin, then it would be best to follow our recommendations below:

Educate yourself

Familiarize yourself first about the possible side effects you can get, and ask yourself if you’re ready to deal with them.

If not, you may want to consider using other less aggressive approach to treat your skin problem, such as applying skin bleaching creams, using whitening soaps, or taking skin lightening pills. But if you’ve already tried these treatments and still get no results, then you can go with the surgery option. But keep in mind that aside from the risks involved, the results of cosmetic surgery may also vary from person to person.

Some people respond quickly to treatments, while others may need to undergo more sessions to get results. Some also heal faster than the others. These all depend on your skin type, skin problem, and medical history.

Consult with a qualified doctor

It’s important to consult a trusted doctor before deciding on anything. Keep in mind that not all cosmetic surgery procedures are ideal for every skin problem. For instance, a chemical peel can help improve irregular pigmentation, dark spots, and wrinkles, but the procedure will not treat deep facial lines and deep acne scars. A qualified and experienced doctor will help you determine what type of cosmetic procedure is right for you.

The question whether to see a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon depends greatly on the type of skin problem you have. Both professionals are skilled in diagnosing and treating various skin problems, but plastic surgeons can perform more invasive techniques. See them both for consultation and discuss the details of the procedures, including the process, side effects, recovery, and cost.

Make your decision

After talking with the professionals, you can now decide who you wish to trust in your treatment. Keep in mind that while both professionals are specialized in skin treatments, their training and focus are different. When making your decision, it’s important to consider the following:

Qualifications. Your chosen professional should be board-certified by an appropriate specialty board, such as the American Board of Dermatology or American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Experience. This greatly matters when choosing the right specialist. Determine if the specialist knows how to deal with the specific condition you have. The more experience the specialist has in treating the condition you have, the more likely you’ll get the best results.

Cost. This is always an important factor when planning any kind of treatments. But this doesn’t mean you should choose the specialist who offers the cheapest option. Choose someone who is willing to offer various payment plans to meet your budget.

Your comfort. Choose the one with whom you are most comfortable talking with. This is especially important because you will be dealing with this specialist very closely for a considerable amount of time.

Once you’ve decided to undergo skin lightening surgery and chosen the right specialist who will treat your skin condition, you will need to set-up another consultation with the specialist. You should come completely prepared to your next visit to discuss your medical history and other concerns.

Keep in mind that it’s important to be honest with your doctor to get the best possible treatment for your skin and reduce the risk of complications. You should provide all the necessary information, including your previous surgeries, your past and present medical conditions, your skin allergies, and current medication.

Prepare for the procedure

Prior to any cosmetic surgery, your doctor may place you on a pretreatment program during which you will be required to apply creams or other ointments to your skin for a certain amount time. This is important as you need to be in general good health before you undergo any surgical cosmetic procedure.

Pretreatment is also important to effectively prepare your skin for the procedure and maximize the results of the treatment. In addition, your doctor may give you oral medications that you should take, as well as some instructions that you should follow to make the treatment more effective, which may include:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Avoiding too much sun exposure
  • ​Discontinuing the use of skincare products
  • Avoiding taking certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs

Plan for the recovery

As mentioned earlier, the recovery time may vary depending on the method used for treating your skin problem. For mild surgery procedures, it usually takes an average of 1-2 weeks to completely heal your treated skin. But for more aggressive procedures, it could take more than 3 weeks for you to recover fully.

Recovery time may also vary depending on your skin type. Some patients heal faster than the others. For faster healing, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice strictly.

Aftercare and Recovery Tips

Depending on the type of procedure used, your doctor will apply specialized dressing to protect your treated skin. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to properly cleanse your skin, change the dressing, and if applying ointments or taking medication is necessary. It is essential that you strictly follow your doctor’s instructions and avoid doing anything that may interfere with the healing process.

In addition to prescribing medications and teaching you how to properly cleanse your skin, your doctor will also recommend you the following:

  • Avoid exposing yourself to the sun. If you need to go out, you should wear protective sunscreen as well as cover your body effectively to better protect your skin.
  • Make sure to only use mild antibacterial cleansers and fragrance-free skincare products to avoid skin irritation.
  • Always keep yourself hydrated to help rejuvenate your skin and keep it moisturized.

For safe and healthy outcome, it’s important to return to your doctor’s clinic for follow-up and further advice. In case of problems or if you have any concerns during your recovery, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.

Cost

The cost of skin lightening surgery may range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It can vary depending on the type of surgery that will be done, the expertise of the person performing the procedure, the time and effort the procedure requires, and the geographic location where the procedure will be performed.

Be sure to ask your doctor about all the cost involved in your treatment so you can prepare yourself financially. Also ask your doctor about different payment plans to make the procedure easy for your budget.

Skin Lightening Surgery: Before and After

Skin lightening surgery is, indeed, an effective solution for skin whitening. If you’ve already tried everything to whiten your skin – from applying home-made creams and bleaching agents to taking pills and oral medicines – and still nothing happens, considering cosmetic surgery is also a great option.

Lots of people have already undergone this treatment, and the results were amazing. In fact, even famous celebrities take this kind of intensive skincare treatment to make their skin appear pale, young, and healthy. Michael Jackson, Mshoza, and Dolly Parton are among the famous celebrities who underwent cosmetic surgery procedures and skin bleaching.

About the author

Camilla Evaline

Why settle for average when you can have the best?

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