My Experiences with Cryosurgery

I currently have three “dots” on my face from a recent cryosurgery treatment. They are not a big deal except for the fact that I am in the film and television industry and my face is often on camera. My face is on my headshots. My face is important to my livelihood. If my face is not what a casting director wants, then I am out of a job. It’s that simple.

I wasn't happy with my skin

I lost the desire to worry about my appearance years ago. Here is what I mean: One of the reasons I had too much sun exposure as a younger person was because I wanted to be tan. I felt that being tan made me more appealing, more desirable. I was not happy with my natural skin tone. I was not happy in my own skin. That has changed to a considerable degree. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about my appearance, but I don’t obsess about it.

Cryosurgery can get in the way of my work

That being said, having dots on my face is not a good thing, even with being able to cover them to some degree with make-up. I need to work. So, when my dermatologist brought out the cryosurgical spray gun, I was not thrilled. I had this treatment before and even though I had good long term results, I needed to think about how this could affect me professionally.

300 degrees below zero?!

Cryosurgery is a method in which the doctor applies liquid nitrogen directly on the skin to treat various dermatological issues, such as skin growths, precancerous lesions, and fade age spots.1 The goal is to freeze the skin rapidly to damage the targeted skin cells. According to my doctor, the nitrogen is over 300 degrees below zero, and it sure feels that way.

So cold that it burns

I remember the first time I had the “cold spray”. I was told that it was so cold that it would feel like it burns. All I can recall is that the treatment make me feel like someone was sticking an ice pick in my brain. The pain quickly went away and didn’t bother me much, but that initial shock was startling. In my experience, this has been typical: initial pain and shock, and then gradually things settled.

My skin becomes discolored

The spray areas discolor my skin to a reddish brown dot, which eventually scabs over after a few weeks and gives way to a pinkish hue. As the new skills cells grow, the skin eventually goes back to a more natural tone akin to my existing skin, but this can take a while, hence the dots and make up and concern about my on camera opportunities.

I was worried about the treatment on my scalp

One of my biggest concerns was when I had this treatment on a patch on my scalp. I was happy that a possible actinic keratosis would be treated, but was concerned that I would lose a patch of hair in the process. I need all the hair I can get and this patch would have been in one of the more densely populated areas. Thankfully, when the scab came off, a clump of hair didn't come with it.

Here are some of the possible side effects according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS):

  • Swelling (not my issue)
  • Scarring (not my issue)
  • Loss of pigmentation (mine did change)
  • Loss of hair (nope, thankfully!)
  • Bleeding/blisters (not my issues)

Comparatively, it's not terrible

I will say this. In my experience, cryosurgery is a “piece of cake” compared to excision and most other dermatological surgical methods. I am thankful for the technology and the eventual results that I have received. I can cover up the dots for the most part and even when they show, it seems to fit with most of the characters I play anyway.

What has your experience with cryosurgery been like?

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