November 10, 2003

Aesthetic center goes skin deep

By Kathi Baker

People are living longer and healthier, but sometimes the skin has a timetable that may not exactly jibe with a person's internal youthfulness. Environment, genetics, aging and numerous skin conditions can result in visible damage to the natural beauty of the skin.

To address this, the Department of Dermatology in the School of Medicine recently created the Emory Dermatology Aesthetic Center. The center is equipped with clinicians and aestheticians who not only treat but also educate patients who have concerns about their appearance. Procedures such as laser therapies are performed at the center, as well as dermabrasion, collagen and botox injections, sclerotherapy and the Mohs micrographic skin cancer procedure.

"Most of us are born with soft, smooth and firm skin," said Carl Washington, center co-director and associate professor of dermatology. "However, as time goes on, cumulative exposure to the sun as well as the natural aging process, create changes that can result in a picture of ourselves that is not completely accurate."

Products such as sunscreens and moisturizers can maintain skin health, But what happens when skin needs treatment, and when should it begin?

"Skin is a delicate, living organ system that regulates our body temperature, protects our internal organs, and shields us from harmful foreign objects," Washington said. "That is an important reason for seeking the expertise of a board-certified physician or aesthetician to scrutinize and maintain the skin's health."

Without the care of a trained specialist, signs of skin damage may not be detected until they are advanced. Attention to subtle changes can make treatment more moderate and deter further damage. Many products and procedures have been developed over the last few years that can turn back the clock without an invasive or extremely painful procedure. Equally important to the health issue is a person's overall sense of well-being and confidence.

"While cosmetic concerns may seem superficial, those issues have become part of our mission as dermatologists and physicians," said Dale Sarradet, assistant professor of dermatology and center co-director. "In the past, aesthetics has been predominantly a concern for people whose professions depended on their looks. Our world has changed and medicine has changed. People in all walks of life have become conscious about appearance."

Experienced medical aestheticians on staff can be consulted on the use of a wide range of skin care products, or can provide less intrusive treatments, such as acne management, hair removal and treatment for stretch marks.

Center aestheticians work closely with clinic physicians. A patient can make a smooth transition from the physician's treatment to the one-on-one cosmetic management that may be required post-treatment. Additionally, a skilled aesthetician who recognizes an abnormality during a routine visit can immediately bring it to the attention of a staff clinician.