Sammy Sosa: Skin Discoloration & Laser Treatments

sammy sosa before and after

After he announced his retirement from baseball back in June, it seemed like we’d probably seen the last of controversial slugger Sammy Sosa for a while. Recently, though, the formers Chicago Cubs All-Star was back in the headlines, trying to explain the extreme lightening of his skin pigmentation as evidenced in a series of photos taken at a recent promotional event. These now infamous Sammy Sosa before and after pictures spread over the internet like wildfire, with many observers speculating that Sosa had had his skin bleached or was suffering from Michael Jackson’s skin pigmentation disease, Vitiligo. Finally, Sosa himself chimed in on the issue, explaining that his skin discoloration was actually the result of a laser skin rejuvenation procedure he was in the midst of undergoing. This explanation seemed to quiet most of the speculation, but it’s certainly worth asking, is this sort of considerable skin lightening (hypopigmentation) really a possible side effect of laser skin rejuvenation? And if so, are laser skin rejuvenation risks generally greater for patients with darker skin? The answers might surprise you.

Laser Skin Rejuvenation Side Effects

Every year, thousands of laser skin rejuvenation and fractional laser resurfacing procedures are conducted in medical spas and laser clinics across the country. Patients who undergo their procedure with an experienced, licensed laser technician or skin care specialist are very rarely disappointed with the results. This is because most professionals in the industry can easily identify and avoid potential risks of skin rejuvenation by carefully informing their patients of their candidacy for treatment, and by using the latest state-of-the-art laser technology to conduct the procedure itself. In most cases, the only real laser skin rejuvenation side effects a patient will experience are minor temporary conditions such as itching, redness, and peeling. Occasionally, pre-existing conditions like acne or cold sores can cause additional complications, which is why it’s so important to seek the guidance of a skin care expert before going ahead with a laser treatment.

Presumably, someone with the considerable budget of Sammy Sosa would make sure he was choosing a highly rated cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist for his laser skin treatment, which only makes his results all the more perplexing. Simply put, the risk of a noticeable skin pigmentation change is very low with most skin rejuvenation and skin resurfacing treatments. And in the rare cases where it has occurred with patients with dark skin, the result is almost always hyperpigmentation (the darkening of the pigment) rather than hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin).

Laser Skin Rejuvenation and Dark Skin

Today, advances in laser technology have made laser skin procedures a viable option for people of virtually any skin color. In the past, lasers were not generally recommended for dark skin patients, as the melanin in the skin made them more prone to burns or scarring during the procedure. As mentioned, the darkening of skin pigment has also been an understood risk of the procedure for African-Americans, Latinos, and other people of darker skin tones, but newer lasers like the Erbium laser and the Fraxel laser skin resurfacing system have reduced this risk considerably. In many cases, a specialist will suggest the use of a bleaching agent prior to a laser treatment, thus further reducing the risk of hyperpigmentation. If Sammy Sosa had just recently undergone a treatment prior to the photos in question, part of his appearance may have been the residual effects of such a bleaching agent, rather than a permanent side effect of the actual laser procedure.

If Sosa’s skin discoloration is permanent, however, it raises some interesting questions. Considering the highly unusual case of discoloration (as opposed to darkening), one has to wonder whether Sosa realized what he was stepping into. Did he put his treatment in the hands of a proven professional? Did he fully discuss the potential risks and side effects that can come not only for a patient with dark skin, but one with acne and sun damaged skin? And maybe most importantly, is he actually displeased with the results he’s experienced (based on his current response, Sosa seems to think that the entire issue has been blown out of proportion, and that he has no concerns about the results of his treatment)?

Trusting Sammy Sosa

Once a beloved sports hero, Sammy Sosa’s reputation has gone through the ringer in recent years, starting with the revelation that he used a corked bat, and continuing with his implication in Major League Baseball’s steroids investigation. Sosa denied knowingly using a corked bat or performance enhancing drugs, so is it possible that his skin discoloration is the result of something other than laser skin rejuvenation? In many ways, that is Sosa’s own personal business and not for us to judge. But by associating skin discoloration with laser skin resurfacing, Sosa does make it more of a public issue. Prospective patients with dark skin who’ve considered a laser treatment should be aware of all the potential risks, but those answers are always best provided by a licensed skin care specialist, rather than a former homerun specialist. The huge majority of dark skinned laser procedure patients experience no pigment changes of any kind, let alone changes to the degree witnessed in those Sammy Sosa before and after photos. This is perhaps the most critical piece of information being lost in the reaction to both the pictures and Sosa’s explanation.

To learn more about the potential risks and side effects of laser skin rejuvenation, or to schedule a private consultation with a trusted provider in your area, contact us today at Healthy Skin Portal.

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