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The Synergy of Medical Spa Treatments and At-home Skin Care

Ada Polla and Cyrille Polla, with contributions by Dr. Luigi Polla
  • While topical beauty products likely will never have the same type of effectiveness as medical spa and physician treatments, at-home care is a must in order to maintain the results of said treatments.
  • Treatments for everything from smokers’ lines to skin tightening to hair loss can benefit from a combination of in-office treatments and at-home skin care products.
  • Collaborations between those in the professional skin care arena and beauty brands can help consumers see more efficacious results, as well as help build loyalty for particular products and brands.

With the growth of cosmeceutical products and “doctor brands,” it is not uncommon today to see advertising or marketing messages that compare the results of products with those of medical spa treatments. Think, for example, of ads for eye creams that herald an effect similar to, or even better than, injections of Botox. From a scientific perspective, much of this marketing represents an exaggeration of the results one can expect from products. Realistically, an eye contour cream will not have the same effect as Botox.

Does this mean one should not market or use eye creams? Absolutely not. Topical products are an essential part of any skin care regimen, meant to complement and potentiate the results of treatments, whether they are spa treatments, such as facials, or medical spa treatments, such as peels or injectables. After all, think about it from the perspective of time spend and number of applications. Even the most assiduous spa-goer will most likely not get a facial or peel treatment more frequently than monthly. Yet the products she applies at home, she will apply twice daily, every day. This daily regimen is as powerful, if not more powerful, than professional skin care treatments that are followed by inadequate skin care, or no skin care whatsoever.

According to Dr. Luigi Polla, Swiss dermatologist and founder of Forever Laser Institut and Alchimie Forever, “Skin care products and skin care treatments must go hand in hand for the most powerful therapeutic results, and for optimal patient satisfaction.” Here, Dr. Polla reviews some of the ways products and treatments can be combined.

Overall Aging

Problem: Overall aging of the face
Treatment: Hyaluronic acid and botulinum toxin injections
Product: SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5

Dr. Polla developed a technique of combinations of injections he calls the “Forever SoftLift,” for an overall rejuvenation and lift of the face without invasive surgery. Traditional injection methods consist of injecting hyaluronic acid directly into wrinkles to fill them up. The Forever Softlift differs by its more global rejuvenation approach and the use of a blunted micro-cannula that enables a broad dispersion of hyaluronic acid in the various layers of the skin. This treatment restores volume loss due to aging, smooths the skin, and lifts facial features without altering the face’s natural expression and characteristics.

Why hyaluronic acid? Its capacity to retain one thousand times its own weight in water makes it the perfect agent to maintain hydration levels, volume and density in the dermis. Moreover, by its nature, hyaluronic acid acts as a protection against free radicals, stimulates cellular activity and transports essential nutrients to the skin’s viable cells. The injections of hyaluronic acid are combined with micro-injections of botulinum toxin for an additional lift in the upper third of the face.

At home, topical applications of hyaluronic acid then complement the injections, and Dr. Polla loves the Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 gel. Also, associating the in-office treatment with the at-home product through a single common ingredient is very powerful, and it makes sense to the patients.

Lip Lines

Problem: Smokers’ lines
Treatment: TCA chemical peel and Fraxel Dual laser treatment
Product: Alchimie Forever Gentle Refining Scrub

Although commonly called smokers’ lines, perioral wrinkles, or wrinkles around the mouth, are visible on non-smokers too. They age the face, cause lipstick to run and are unattractive overall. Hyaluronic acid injections can be effective in enhancing the shape and volume of the lips, but they will not be very effective on the fine vertical lines of the upper lip. Instead, Dr. Polla prefers a combination of a 20% TCA peel and Fraxel Dual laser treatment, recommending three sessions for optimal results.

As the peel component of this treatment will induce actual peeling and the Fraxel treatment will cause micro scabbing, Dr. Polla recommends the Gentle Refining Scrub by Alchimie Forever to accelerate the skin’s exfoliation and help restore smoothness. The key in terms of the at-home product here is to assist the skin’s natural healing process without injuring it further. Hence, a gentle scrub is preferred to a highly abrasive exfoliator.

Targeting Fat

Problem: Localized fat
Treatment: Cryolipolysis by Coolsculpting and lymphatic drainage
Product: Alchimie Forever Optimizing Body Contour Gel

Cryolipolysis is a technique of fat cell elimination through cold temperatures. The fat cells that are exposed to the cold will disintegrate in a process of natural cell death also known as apoptosis, and the lipids that are released in this process are progressively eliminated by natural metabolic activities over the three months following the procedure. Regular manual lymphatic drainage procedures during this time optimizes the elimination. This noninvasive technique offers an alternative to liposuction for those who wish to avoid the risks and recuperation time inherent to surgical procedures.

Body slimming treatments are perhaps one of the areas in which at-home care is the most essential in order to enhance and prolong treatment results. Dr. Polla believes that “any body treatment, any slimming or anti-cellulite treatment really should be combined with disciplined at-home use of a body product, as this is a key component of this type of therapy, and will improve both the therapeutic results and patient satisfaction. Fat, cellulite and sagging of the skin of the body are such recalcitrant problems that they need to be targeted by multiple methodologies.”

Here, he likes to prescribe the Alchimie Forever Optimizing Body Contour Gel for at-home use, recognizing also that “any body gel with caffeine extracts and an anti-inflammatory ingredient will help with therapeutic results.”

Tighter Complexion

Problem: Lower face skin tightening
Treatment: Mini liposuction and Ultherapy
Product: Nothing for 7-10 days, then Alchimie Forever Firming Gel for Neck and Bust

When people hit their mid-30s, the skin begins to lose its elasticity. The fibroblasts—skin cells that produce elastin, collagen and the extracellular matrix—become progressively more scarce and lazy. Excess sun and tobacco accelerate the process of skin sagging, and around menopause, loose skin becomes more severe. The lower third of the face and neck are the most affected, creating jowls and what is sometimes called the “goose neck” effect.

While noninvasive treatments are ideal to help prevent this sagging, there comes a time when surgery is the only effective way to tighten and lift the skin. Dr. Polla recommends a combination of therapies, namely associating a mini liposuction of excess fat in the double-chin area coupled with Ultherapy, which is a focalized ultrasound that helps offer a scalpel-free, natural face lift. This treatment is specifically recommended for jowls, the loss of an oval face shape and double chins.

This treatment regimen enters the world of invasive surgery, which represents a different challenge in terms of associating treatment with at-home care. Indeed, in the case of surgery of the face, neck or body, when there is an open wound, product recommendations must be made with great care. Dr. Polla prefers to let the skin heal before recommending any type of topical product. In this case, topical products are recommended exclusively when the patient comes back for a postoperative check-up appointment after the surgery. Once again, the products are chosen specifically for the area treated, in this case the neck and décolleté.

Hair Rejuvenation

Problem: Hair loss
Treatment: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections
Product: Hair growth supplement such as Rogaine

For both men and women, hair loss equates to a loss of confidence. At Forever Laser Institut, the team has found injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in the scalp to be very effective in terms of both a reduction in hair loss and a stimulation of hair regrowth. PRP is a skin-regenerating medical technique that uses the patient’s own blood to produce plasma enriched with platelets, growth factors and stem cells. Once reinjected beneath the patient’s skin, it accelerates cellular activity, revascularization and repair. The treatment protocol typically involves five sessions every 15 days and is repeated twice a year.

Once again, at-home daily care is essential in terms of maintaining the results of these treatments. Dr. Polla recommends combining both oral and topical products, whether an MD-prescribed supplement or over-the-counter product.

Together for Success

Overall, recommending at-home products is an essential part of any skin care treatment, whether at a spa or a medical spa. While estheticians and medical doctors are not always enthusiastic about “selling products,” a retail recommendation really does affect the end result of professional skin care treatments, and thus the overall satisfaction of the client/patient. While no topical product can—or should—have the same result as a professional treatment, the two should go hand in hand.

For beauty brands, this is an opportunity to think of ways your products can complement today’s popular professional treatments, to create specific retail protocols to highlight this complementarity, and to align your products with a professional environment and relationships.

In working with skin care professionals, physicians and therapists, encourage them to remember their patients and clients will be using some type of home care beauty products no matter what, so they might as well benefit from the ultimate in service, which is education about what products will best complement their therapies.

Ada Polla is the co-creator of the Swiss antioxidant skin care line Alchimie Forever, which launched in the U.S. in 2004. Her strategic focus and implementation have yielded double-digit annual revenue growth for the company. She holds an MBA from Georgetown University, majored in art history and political science at Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1999. She is also a GCI magazine editorial advisor.

Cyrille Polla graduated from Cambridge University, where she obtained a BA and MA in anthropology. She has experience in the art industry, having directed Analix Forever, a contemporary art gallery in Geneva, as well as published a collection of poems entitled Une eau plus douce, and written and performed the lyrics for Planète bleue, a music piece by Giuseppe Mangione. She currently works for the family business, and after two years in Dr. Polla’s private dermatology practice as a research assistant, she is now the communications and marketing manager for the Forever Laser Institut.

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