Spa Treatments Give You More Reasons to Shun the Sun
Before or after a treatment, you may have special reason to avoid the sun.
Avoid sun exposure before any laser or IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment, says Katie Hanstad, the president and cofounder of SKN Medical Spa in San Francisco. "Exposure to the sun makes your skin more sensitive, more likely to burn, and more prone to hyper- or hypopigmentation [dark or light areas]," she explains. SKN tells clients to avoid sun exposure for three weeks before and after treatments and to use sunscreen regularly.
Clients at Advanced Skin Fitness in Dallas, where laser hair removal is a primary service, are advised to avoid sun for four to six weeks before a treatment. "Lasers burn pigmented skin. Even a spray-on tan has to be stopped seven to ten days beforehand," says owner William Moore. They are also advised to stay out of the sun for the entire course of the laser hair removal treatment --which may mean a period of 10 to 14 months --in addition to using sunblock year-round, rain or shine.
"After exposure to the sun, steer clear of super-exfoliating facial or body treatments," says Laura Moore, the spa director of Longboat Key Club in Sarasota, Florida. "Sun exposure dehydrates you in general, and the skin's capacity to stay hydrated is further reduced when the top layer of skin cells is removed. Not to mention that exfoliation mixed with sunburn equals pain!"
Following peels, waxing, and aromatherapy, stay out of the sun. Retin-A and peels remove the top layer of skin and make you especially vulnerable to sunburn and sun damage. Even after waxing, although skin may appear normal, it has been traumatized and will be hypersensitive. And the oils and herbs used in some aromatherapy treatments make some people very sensitive to light.
Always get your aesthetician's advice about sun exposure in connection with any specific spa treatment.
"So many spa treatments --like removing freckles, fine lines, and wrinkles --correct sun damage. Paying for those should be a great impetus to stay out of the sun," says spa consultant Kelly Costa Gravitt.
Spa Etiquette: Is it appropriate to ask your aesthetician for a skin checkup?
Not even a loved one (or you yourself) may be as familiar with your skin as your spa technicians --the massage therapist, aesthetician, and the people who give you a manicure, pedicure, or scalp treatment. In addition to doing thorough self-checks and visiting your dermatologist regularly (see the Editor's Message on page 1 for guidelines), you can ask spa personnel to help keep watch over your skin.
In the course of providing services, they have a good opportunity to check out places that you can't, such as your back, behind your ears, and your scalp. And they may be more aware of changes between visits. They can suggest you see a doctor if anything appears out of the ordinary, but aestheticians are not permitted to give a diagnosis.
"You can encourage spa professionals who give you a service to be observant," says Kelly Costa Gravitt, a former spa director who is now a medical spa consultant. "Say, 'Would you mind taking a look at my neck or face or chest, and call my attention to anything you think is worth noting? I'll have it checked.'" Costa Gravitt fervently believes that spas should support preventive health measures. If you need another reason to justify a spa visit, this is it.