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Some of the least expensive cosmetic procedures are also the safest and the most basic to personal beauty.
Most of us are understandably squeamish about have surgery to change the contours of our buttocks, breasts, or bellies, or to give a new nose, higher cheek bones, or a new chin. These painful and often cosmetically perilous procedures are also among the most the most expensive. The safest procedures in cosmetic surgery, however, also offer the biggest "bang for the buck." Here are two low-tech procedures that almost never go wrong.

Mole Removal

Moles can contain deadly melanoma, although in 98% of people who have white skin, 99.5% of people who have brown or Asian skin, and 99.9% of people who have black skin, moles will be non-cancerous. Even benign moles, however, can mar the symmetry and contour of the skin. And since a melanoma can mature into a form that is gray or white or that matches surrounding skin tone, it's always a good idea to have moles checked out by a dermatologist.

Mole removal is not a complicated process. Moles can be removed surgically, and the skin closed with stitches. Moles may also be burned away with an electric cauterizing needle. Laser surgery is not used to remove moles because laser light does not penetrate deep enough. Usually mole removal only requires the use of a topical anesthetic like Lidocaine.

Depending on the depth of the mole, the doctor may place soluble stitches under the skin (these don't have to be removed later) or use regular stitches on the skin (these have to be removed by the doctor). Any skin surgery can leave a scar, but if you follow your dermatologist's instructions exactly, scarring usually does not occur.

Chemical Skin Peels

Chemical skin peels strip away the topmost layer of skin to remove wrinkles, indented scars, and pigmentation to be replaced with smooth, unblemished skin. On a structural level, the problem with wrinkles and scars alike is that the layers of skin have become disorganized. Healthy skin has cells lined up a little like bricks in a wall. In skin that is wrinkled or scarred, the neat rows of cells have slipped and fail to hold together properly.

Chemical skin peels destroy the top-most layers of skin that aren't served by blood vessels. The peel reveals the base of pores and sebaceous (skin oil) glands that also generate new skin cells. These new skin cells form clear, smooth, unblemished skin that has a more pleasing appearance.

Fair skin usually takes peels well. Darker skin may not fare well with the procedure. While chemical skin peels can remove age spots and pigmentation left after acne heals, darker skins make new pigment to stop inflammation. Black skin should never be treated with skin peels, and brown and Asian skin types should be treated with chemical skin peels only with extreme caution.

You are unlikely to do serious damage to your skin with the 1 to 3% solutions of salicylic acid (used to peel oily skin) and the 5 to 10% solutions of glycolic acid (used to peel dry skin) that are available in over-the-counter skin care products. Stronger solutions of these chemical peels that are intended for professional use are available from Internet vendors but should be left to aestheticians and dermatologists. They can cause more harm than they correct.

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  • Aldraibi MS, Touma DJ, Khachemoune A. Hair removal with the 3-msec alexandrite laser in patients with skin types IV-VI: efficacy, safety, and the role of topical corticosteroids in preventing side effects. J Drugs Dermatol. Jan 2007.6(1):60-6.
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