If you are unhappy with spots on your skin like moles, age spots, skin tags, and more, you might be wondering what your options for ridding yourself of them could be. At Refresh Evolution in Pitt Meadows and Port Moody, BC, we offer one such option in the form of cryotherapy. This technique uses extreme cold to freeze away unwanted imperfections and leave behind only smooth, spotless skin. It can treat a wide variety of skin spots, but how does cryotherapy work, what does it treat, and is it right for you?
What Is Cryotherapy?
When you hear the word “cryotherapy,” you might picture science-fiction-like tanks in which people subject themselves to extreme cold. The reality is much simpler. Technically, the word refers to any medical treatment that uses cold temperatures. It can be applied to cold chambers, to treatments like CoolSculpting, and to the treatment we’ll look at in this article.
At Refresh Evolution, we use a form of cryotherapy that employs a technique called “cryo-necrosis,” meaning it uses rapid freezing to destroy unwanted tissue. Using cryotherapy technology in the form of a unique pen, called the FreezPen, that applies this cold to the desired area of treatment, we can immediately freeze it, killing the unwanted tissue and leaving behind clear skin.
How Does It Work?
Our process employs the FreezPen, which uses cryogenic nitrous oxide or NO2 gas. This gas is compressed at a very high pressure of 725PSI. When that pressure is released, the temperature of the nitrous oxide drops rapidly as it expands thanks to a scientific principle called the Joule-Thomson effect, a thermodynamic process that occurs when a liquid moves from a high-pressure to a low-pressure environment.
The pen is placed over the desired area of treatment and then releases a jet of this gas, which emerges from the pen and expands at a temperature of around -89°C. This immediately freezes the treated area, effectively destroying any lesion there. This happens because when cells freeze, the water inside them crystalizes. When that happens, the water expands, bursting the unwanted cells and killing them. The body then eliminates the cells over the course of a few weeks.
Why Nitrous Oxide?
Some similar treatments use liquid nitrogen, or N2, over NO2. N2 might have a lower temperature than N20, but N20 is actually safer and just as effective as its liquid counterpart. This is because cell destruction in the growths targeted by this treatment occurs at -60°C. While N2O is -195°C, the -89°C of nitrous oxide is more than enough to freeze lesions.
In fact, the extra cold provided by liquid nitrogen is more likely to damage the tissue surrounding the area of treatment. It also increases the risk of pigmentation damage and other undesirable effects. The FreezPen uses nitrous oxide in part because it can treat lesions without damaging the skin around them. In addition, the FreezPen itself can hyper-target small lesions and treat them without impacting the surrounding tissue.
What Is the Treatment Like?
The first step in this and any aesthetic treatment is a consultation that will help you create a treatment plan that suits your desires and your skin’s needs. Once you arrive for your treatment, you might be surprised at how quick, easy, and painless the treatment is. Our practitioner will just hold the pen to the area of treatment and apply the extreme cold therapy.
It takes just a few minutes to complete, and because this treatment is 100% non-invasive, you can return to your normal day immediately.
If you are concerned about pain, you’ll be pleased to know that almost all people who undergo this treatment report minimal discomfort. The intense cold used for cryotherapy instantly numbs the treated area, heading off any potential pain.
What Can I Expect After Treatment?
As mentioned above, because this is a non-invasive procedure, you’ll be able to stroll out of our office just a few minutes after it’s complete. The treated lesion, it cells already killed, will slowly fall off over the course of the two weeks to a month as new skin forms beneath it. Some lesions will take a bit longer to disappear, but most will fall off over time after just a single treatment. Larger ones may require two treatments to achieve optimal results, though.
There are a few things to keep in mind about caring for the treated area as the treatment works its magic. In the days and weeks after treatment, take care to:
- Wash the treated area with unscented soap and water daily
- Leave the area uncovered (if there is bleeding, a simple bandage is okay)
- Apply Vaseline or another petroleum jelly
- Refrain from using scented skincare products, including soap and lotion, on the area until it has healed
Follow those simple rules, and your treatment will result in smooth skin with no evidence that you ever had a treatment!
What Can Cryotherapy Treat?
Our FreezPen can treat just about any non-malignant skin lesions. Below, we’ll lay out some of the more common lesions treated by this form of cold therapy.
Dark spots on the skin are a result of a condition called hyperpigmentation. This occurs when an area of the skin produces more melanin, which gives skin its color, than the rest of your skin. It’s nothing to worry about medically speaking and can result from such diverse things as a tattoo, a sun tan, or medication side effects. Whatever the cause of dark spots, the FreezPen can clear them away.
Liver spots, also called age spots, occur with the most regularity in people with fair skin as they age. These small, dark areas vary in size and usually occur in areas that have been most exposed to the sun over the years. They are extremely common in adults over 50 years of age and, while nothing to worry about, can be erased with our cold treatment.
Warts are small growths that take on the appearance of a solid blister or a tiny head of cauliflower on the skin. They’re caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus, or HPV, family, and can appear just about anywhere on the body. Depending on the location and the thickness of the skin, they can vary in shape, size, and texture.
Warts can be difficult to get rid of because while they appear to sit atop the skin, they actually have a root that goes beneath the skin. If the root isn’t killed, the virus will often generate a new wart.
With our freeze pen, we can freeze both the wart itself and its root system, so it doesn’t come back. Keep in mind though, that HPV is carried in the blood. Our treatment can rid your skin of the wart and ensure it won’t regenerate in that spot, but it is not a cure for the HPV virus.
Skin tags are harmless growths that are connected to the skin by a thin stalk called a peduncle. They are equally common in men and women but are most common in people over the age of 50. While they can appear anywhere on the body, they most often pop up in areas where your skin folds, such as the armpits, thighs, eyelids, and neck.
They’re made up largely of collagen and blood vessels, but scientists are still unsure what exactly causes them. While they are harmless and small skin tags may fall off on their own, larger ones can be painful if they’re in a spot that is constantly pinched or squeezed. Luckily, freezing them away is an effective and permanent treatment.
Non-cancerous moles appear as raised, often dark spots on the skin. They occur when skin cells start to grow in a cluster rather than being spread evenly across the surface of the skin.
Most are oval or round in shape, brown, and less than a quarter-inch in diameter, although they can be larger. They can be frozen off, though larger moles may require more than one treatment. Just be sure to have any new or abnormally-shaped moles checked by your doctor first.
Karatosis is another common non-cancerous skin growth that, like skin tags, tend to show up more as people get older. They are usually black, brown, or light brown in color, but unlike moles, they take on a waxy or scaly appearance. They most often appear on the torso, neck, and head and often come in clusters, although single keratosis growths are also possible.
They’re also more uncomfortable than many other benign skin conditions. They may itch and some can bleed if irritated by clothing. Doctors are still unsure what causes keratosis growths, but some suspect genetics play a strong role. Whatever their cause, a quick freezing treatment will take care of them.
Angiomas are small, mole-like growths that result from an overgrowth of capillaries in the skin. The most common type are cherry angiomas, so named due to their bright red color.
Like many of the other skin issues listed above, they tend to show up as people age and are most common in adults over age 30. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes these small red spots, but age and genetics both seem to factor in. They can be easily removed with a single cold treatment.
A fibroma is another benign skin growth, this one made up of fibrous or connective tissue. Like moles and skin cells or angiomas and capillaries, fibromas occur when these connective tissues group in an abnormal cluster. They often appear in the wake of an injury as the body creates new tissue to heal.
They can look a bit like skin tags when on some parts of the body, but their appearance can change depending upon where they are. Fibromas may be itchy or sensitive to the touch and can bleed if irritated. If you have fibromas that are bothering you or you just want to be rid of them for aesthetic reasons, the FreezPen is an effective treatment.
Milium cysts, or milia, are tiny white bumps that most often appear on the nose and cheeks. Often appearing in groups, they happen when keratin, a strong protein found in hair, skin, and nail cells, becomes trapped under the skin in deposits. They can occur in people of all ages but are actually most common in babies.
When they appear in adults, they are often associated with injury or skin irritation of another kind, like poison ivy, burns, or sun damage. While not itchy or painful, milia can become irritated by cloth or shaving. These tiny cysts, which are typically only one or two millimeters in size, can be easily frozen off with a single dose of the FreezPen.
Like HPV and warts, molluscum contagiosum is the result of a viral skin infection. It manifests as small, round, painless bumps on the skin that can be as small as a pinhead and as large as a pencil eraser. Molluscum contagiosum is particularly troublesome though, because if these bumps are scratched or otherwise injured, the infection can spread to the surrounding skin and result in more bumps.
It’s most common in children but can also occur in adults, particularly those with weakened immune systems. Freezing these bumps can also kill the virus in them so it doesn’t spread to the skin around it.
What Can’t Be Treated With Cryotherapy?
Please keep in mind that any suspicious skin spots, pre-cancerous spots, or malignant skin growths can only be treated by your dermatologist. If you discover something that looks like a new mole on your body, you should visit your dermatologist. If you have any suspicious spots that you cannot identify, a visit to the dermatologist is also in order.
Likewise, any existing lesions or spots that seem to be changing shape or growing should be looked at by a doctor prior to consulting with us. After it’s cleared by a doctor as nothing to worry about, give us a call to discuss your treatment options.
Because this is a non-invasive treatment, it is safe for nearly everyone. It is important to note that there are a few exceptions, though. For example, it’s not a treatment that small children should undergo, but older children and adults will have no issues. Smaller children are more sensitive to pain, and while adult patients report almost zero discomfort, it may be uncomfortable for smaller children.
Also, if the spot you want to be treated is in an area with hair, you should be aware that cold therapy like this can sometimes damage hair follicles and cause hair to stop growing in the treated area.
Our FreezGun can take care of most superficial skin lesions with ease, and you’ll leave looking and feeling great. It’s also such a quick process that you can easily undergo a treatment over your lunch break and head right back to work when you’re done. It’s nearly painless, almost never leaves a scar, and can rid you of painful and annoying skin tags, fibromas, moles, warts, and plenty more. If this sounds great to you, give us a call at Refresh Evolution in Pitt Meadows and Port Moody, BC and set up a consultation. You’ll be looking and feeling like your best self in no time!