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The Pigmentation Picture That’s Worth 1,000 Words

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This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail celia_ ellenberg@condenast.com.

I recently got one of those skin photographs at a MediSpa that shows you how the pigmentation that has already built up beneath the surface of your skin will reveal itself over the next five to ten years—and it was terrifying. How accurate are these things—and is there anything I can do now to reverse the photograph’s seeming inevitability?

“The use of a specialized light—Wood’s Lamp—can depict hidden UV damage that is not easily seen with a standard lamp. The specialized light indicates damage that has already been done. While it is possible to improve the appearance of the hyperpigmentation associated with sun damage by lightening the pigmentation with topical treatments, this is not undoing the damage that has been done to the skin; it is simply improving the appearance of the pigmentation resulting from the damage. While it can be alarming to many patients to see images of the sun damage on their skin, it is important to remember that these images are not necessarily an indication of skin cancer. Only your doctor can diagnose skin cancer, so consult your dermatologist if you have concerns and schedule regular checkups. Physical treatments such as laser ablation may have some effect on improving damage, but patients need to consult their doctor on whether this procedure is appropriate for them. Use of routine broad-spectrum sunscreen products can also help reduce damage associated with chronic UV exposure.”

Dr. Robert J. Friedman is a clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. The co-editor of the seminal textbook Cancer of the Skin, he is an expert on melanoma and the chairman, CEO, and founder of MD Solar Sciences, a product range devoted to advancing the science of sun protection.

Photo: Lambert/Archive Photos

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