If you think making an appointment for an aesthetics treatment (and showing up) are the extent of your responsibilities as a patient, you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, how you treat your skin both immediately beforehand and in the days that follow can make or break your results. That’s because some treatments are literally injuring the skin in the name of stimulating its natural restorative response, triggering collagen production and cellular turnover for firmer, fresher-looking skin.
“When discussing aftercare with patients, I try to keep it simple by explaining that the skin barrier is ‘wounded,’ which is why it’s important to follow post-procedure instructions to a T,” explains Tucson, Arizona-based board-certified dermatologist Sheila Farhang, MD. Although aftercare varies depending on the treatment performed, consider these the top six post-procedure decrees.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Aesthetics Treatment Aftercare Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Wear Sunscreen
The Treatments In Question: Laser treatments, chemical peels, skin-tightening treatments, and any procedure that causes even a low level of inflammation
The Why: Sunscreen is imperative every day, rain or shine, but it’s impossible to overstate its importance after office-based procedures. “After professional treatments, the skin is very susceptible to direct sun exposure that can literally and quickly reverse what we did the procedure for, especially when it comes to sun spots and other types of discoloration,” notes Dr. Farhang. Adds board-certified dermatologist Robert Anolik, MD, of the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York® in New York City, “The length of heightened sun sensitivity depends on the extent of the procedure.” For a gentler procedure, like a mild non-ablative resurfacing laser, you may only have to take extra precautions for a couple of days. More aggressive procedures, like deep chemical peels, could require a few weeks of aggressive SPF reapplication in order to deter sun damage.
Aesthetics Treatment Aftercare Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Ice
The Treatments In Question: Injectable fillers, laser resurfacing, laser hair removal, and energy-based skin-tightening
The Why: Dr. Anolik has very straightforward advice when it comes to ice after professional procedures: Use it. “We provide ice packs to every patient after any treatment that can lead to swelling, bruising, discomfort, or the sensation of heat,” he explains. But, believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to ice yourself. For example, you should never keep the ice pack in one place for too long, as it could reduce blood flow to the area, and thus slow the healing process. “Move the ice pack around, spending only 10 seconds per area, and repeat the cycle a few times to help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling,” suggests Dr. Anolik. Furthermore, Dr. Farhang cautions against pressing too hard when icing post-treatment. “Although the chances are low, too much pressure can move any injectable filler that was just placed,” she warns.
Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Aesthetics Treatment Aftercare Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Keep Your Skincare Regimen Simple
The Treatments In Question: Non-ablative and ablative laser treatments, chemical peels, microneedling, and anything that wounds the skin or causes inflammation
The Why: Whenever the skin is subjected to any sort of trauma, the last thing it needs is harsh ingredients that could cause even more redness or irritation. Although a gentle cleanser and sunscreen can be used after less invasive treatments, such as microneedling, Dr. Farhang stresses, “It’s important to keep the skin moisturized after any treatment or procedure.”
That said, the rules are stricter after more intense procedures, like ablative laser resurfacing. “We have patients apply ointments to prevent dryness and allow scabbing to come right off the skin,” says Dr. Anolik. Similarly, Dr. Farhang advises keeping the skin covered with thicker ointments after aggressive treatments, though it’s not just to prevent dryness — they can also create a barrier on skin that may help prevent infection. Covering the skin can be as easy as slathering it with Vaseline® ($3) (which has been used to help heal skin for 150 years!), or a specially-formulated product, like Elta MD® Laser Post-Procedure Balm ($25).
Dr. Farhang explains that your pre-treatment skincare regimen may also need to be adjusted when undergoing certain treatments, as it may make skin too sensitive and cause your professional treatment to be more injurious than intended. Three days prior to non-ablative laser treatments, Dr. Farhang recommends stopping all topicals with active ingredients (like retinoids and exfoliating acids), and pausing your use of them for an entire week before ablative resurfacing.
Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.
Aesthetics Treatment Aftercare Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Not Wear Makeup
The Treatments In Question: Non-ablative and ablative laser resurfacing, chemical peels, and microneedling
The Why: As tempted as you may be to cover up any signs of a professional treatment with makeup, it’s not in the best interest of your skin’s recovery. Again, the amount of time you have to go makeup-free depends on the intensity and nature of treatment you have performed.
Although Dr. Anolik says it’s OK to apply makeup three hours after non-ablative laser treatments, Dr. Farhang more conservatively suggests waiting three days before resuming makeup use — and limiting it to mineral-based products at that. Since ablative lasers quite literally wound the skin, both doctors agree it’s best to press pause on the makeup until skin is fully healed, which Dr. Farhang says can take up to three weeks. Discover some of the best makeup to wear after an aesthetics procedure here.
Aesthetics Treatment Aftercare Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Be Proactive About Bruising
The Treatments In Question: CoolSculpting® and any other treatment or procedure that may potentially cause bruising
The Why: Some people are naturally more prone to bruising, and some aesthetics treatments may cause the unwanted side effect. Many providers ask their patients to stop taking certain medications, like blood thinners, as well as some supplements before treatment to avoid reducing the blood’s ability to clot.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or supplement.
If you bruise easily (or have been black-and-blue after professional treatments in the past), Dr. Farhang recommends taking arnica before treatment and continuing to use it for a few days after treatment. She also says topical vitamin K (such as Revision Skincare’s® Vitamin K Serum, $48) may help speed healing. Dr. Anolik adds that pulsed dye laser therapy is effective for reducing bruising, whether caused by a professional treatment or injury.
Aesthetics Treatment Aftercare Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Take a Break From Your Fitness Routine
The Treatments In Question: Laser hair removal, laser resurfacing, IPL, chemical peels, and other treatments that disrupt the skin barrier
The Why: If you’re planning a professional treatment or procedure, don’t book that CrossFit® or Pilates class just yet. Dr. Anolik recommends taking a few days off after mild treatments and ceasing your regimen for up to two weeks after ablative laser resurfacing. If not, you run the risk of congesting your pores, or even causing scarring, depending on the treatment. Plus, sweat contains bacteria, and introducing bacteria into an open wound could absolutely cause an infection.
However, some caveats to the no-workout rule exist — there are certain scenarios when exercise may be doctor’s orders. “I encourage working out after body-contouring procedures, such as CoolSculpting®, and other non-invasive fat-reduction [treatments], as well as muscle-stimulating treatments like CoolToneTM,” as they have little to no downtime.
Product prices may vary from the time this article was written.
Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.
CoolSculpting® is an Allergan®-owned non-invasive fat reduction treatment.
CoolToneTM is an Allergan®-owned magnetic muscle stimulation (MMS) device.
CoolSculpting® Treatment Important Information
The CoolSculpting® procedure is FDA-cleared for the treatment of visible fat bulges in the submental (under the chin) and submandibular (under the jawline) areas, thigh, abdomen and flank (love handles), along with bra fat, back fat, underneath the buttocks (also known as banana roll), and upper arm. It is also FDA-cleared to affect the appearance of lax tissue with submental area treatments. The CoolSculpting procedure is not a treatment for weight loss.
Important Safety Information
The CoolSculpting procedure is not for everyone. You should not have the CoolSculpting procedure if you suffer from cryoglobulinemia, cold agglutinin disease, or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria.
Tell your doctor if you have any medical conditions including recent surgery, pre-existing hernia, and any known sensitivities or allergies.
During the procedure you may experience sensations of pulling, tugging, mild pinching, intense cold, tingling, stinging, aching, and cramping at the treatment site. These sensations subside as the area becomes numb. Following the procedure, typical side effects include temporary redness, swelling, blanching, bruising, firmness, tingling, stinging, tenderness, cramping, aching, itching, or skin sensitivity, and sensation of fullness in the back of the throat after submental or submandibular area treatment.
Rare side effects may also occur. CoolSculpting may cause a visible enlargement in the treated area which may develop two to five months after treatment and requires surgical intervention for correction.
Ask your doctor if CoolSculpting is right for you. To learn more about what to expect, visit the CoolSculpting website and comprehensive Important Safety Information.
CoolToneTM Important Safety Information
The CoolToneTM device is FDA-cleared for improvement of abdominal tone, strengthening of the abdominal muscles, and development for firmer abdomen. CoolToneTM is also FDA-cleared for strengthening, toning, and firming of buttocks and thighs.
Important Safety Information
The CoolToneTMprocedure is not for everyone. You should not have the CoolToneTM treatment in areas with metal, electrical, or electronic implants/devices like cardiac pacemakers, implanted hearing devices, implanted defibrillators, implanted neurostimulators, drug pumps, or hearing aids.
Tell your doctor if you have any medical conditions as CoolToneTM should not be used over a menstruating uterus, over areas of the skin that lack normal sensation, in patients with fever, malignant tumor, hemorrhagic conditions, epilepsy, recent surgical procedure, pulmonary insufficiency, or pregnancy.
CoolToneTM should be used with caution in patients with Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disorder that causes overactive thyroid), active bleeding disorders, or seizure disorders.
Women who are close to menstruation may find that it comes sooner, or cramping is increased or intensified with CoolToneTM treatments, therefore, it is recommended to not undergo treatment during this time of the month.
CoolToneTM should not be used in the heart or head areas, areas of new bone growth, over the carotid sinus nerves, or over the neck or mouth. CoolToneTM should not be applied over swollen, infected, inflamed areas or skin eruptions. Caution should be used for patients with suspected or diagnosed heart problems.
Common side effects may include, but may not be limited to, muscular pain, temporary muscle spasm, temporary joint or tendon pain, and redness at or near the treatment site.
Ask your Healthcare Provider if CoolToneTM is right for you.