Out, Damned Spots: Di Gets All Lady Macbeth With A DIY Plan For Zapping Her Seborrheic Keratoses
After a decades-long reprieve, last month marked my return to beauty DIYing.
My first try - and perhaps yours too if you’re of a certain age — was Sun-In spray-on hair lightener. Rather than the glorious highlights I was envisioning, that yielded crazy-patchy-orangey streaks that took a few solid years to grow out.
Not taking that as a sufficient enough hint to go easy, at 17 I ordered an at-home waxing product featured in the back of my mother's Cosmopolitan mag. After studying the instructions suggesting a test patch - which I did all over my shins - the result was significant burns and permanent skin sensitivity augmented by an adverse reaction to the steroid cream prescribed post wax job.
About 25 years later, after PR’ing dermatologists and plastics and getting monthly glycolic peels in doctors’ offices, my friend Todd mentioned he does his at home with an Amazon-ordered solution. He gave me an ounce so I could try it at home.
Eureka! Success with a DIY treatment saving me $175 per month.
Since moving to Florida, I am covered with “age” spots of many names and types all over my body. It's almost like my favorite artist Yayoi Kusama went to town on my gams with whitish-beigey-pink spots, as you can see from the photos below.
Per my last NYC dermatologist visit, there's nothing to worry about health-wise. Still, I'm distressed by all the speckling on my hands and legs because it makes me look old. Despite years of applying AHAs and retinoids to my face, I kinda slacked on my body parts and I'm regretting that now.
Flash-forward to January 2018, when The New York Times published a story on Eskata, a new topical treatment that showed significant results for treating seborrheic keratoses, the benign brownish spots starting to take over my calves and thighs. According to the story, SKs are “an aesthetic skin concern…increase in size and number with age. The condition is more prevalent than acne, psoriasis and rosacea combined.”
I then read the comments section closely, with reader Luther from The Bronx proffering, “Why spend $250 when the main ingredient is cooking-grade hydrogen peroxide…?”
Well, that put an idea in my head that I couldn’t let go of. I started researching whether others had tried ridding their SKs with over-the-counter formulas, and much to no one’s surprise, success stories abounded with mentions citing H2O2.
I first mentioned this idea to Content Chief Dana when showing my spot during her Marco Island JW Marriott Spa visit some months back. Then (and now), she thought going to a professional was a better idea.
(NOTE FROM DANA: I'm standing by my stance on this. There's just too much that can go wrong with DIY dermatology. Skin-altering chemicals in untrained hands? No bueno, baby.)
In May, when Eskata officially launched, I called several local dermatologists to see if they were carrying it - despite the fact that the price had already crept-up to $275. No one here was offering it. And btw, insurance doesn’t cover it as its considered a cosmetic procedure.
Then, last month, while my pal Laurie was visiting, I met a friend of hers during dinner at Sails. His name is Jonathan, and he’s currently our local medical examiner. He also happens to be a best-selling novelist and a former food magazine editor/writer, so while sending him a post-dinner note about our new prix-fixe menu, I queried him about my self-treatment plan.
His reply, in part: “I'd advise caution, though - you don't want to burn off a squamous cell cancer by mistake, or have a lesion turn weird because of the peroxide so that a later biopsy is misinterpreted…"
I can be pretty stubborn when obsessing over something. The next weekend, during a pool day at the Marco Island Hilton with my broads, we took a group selfie and my eyes just honed in on my spotted leg with the SK standing out.
Next, I googled cooking-grade hydrogen peroxide. While quite a few sites were selling it, I didn’t need an industrial-sized jug, just a few Q-tips worth. FGS, a North Naples health food/supplement store happened to carry it. So I drove 50 minutes, spent another 20 trying to find the entrance in a very confusing strip mall, then plunked down my $19.95 and hurried home to give it a go.
Having watched Eskata’s how-to video several times when the NYT article first came out, I had trouble finding it again and watched a few others to gauge application techniques.
It was Saturday night and this was my big-deal plan: After showering and towel drying, I saturated a swab with H202 and applied it to my spot, one drop at a time in 4-minute intervals over three applications.
Just like that, it started forming a white crust. No stinging. A few days later, it was pretty much gone (as you can see below), with only light crusting remaining. One of the “official” videos said to recheck in three weeks - if not completely gone, re-application would be recommended. I didn’t need to - it disappeared 95% and now blends in with the rest of my patchy skin.
Out, damned spot indeed as you can see from the photo.
With that success, I applied H2O2 to one on my inner thigh that really bothers me. Nothing to report after three weeks and a re-app, so maybe it’s not an SK though it looks and feels like the one now gone.
And while tempted to try H2O2 for the two under my eyes (just where my sunnies hit), I don’t want to risk deforming my face.
My takeaway: everyday diligence with sunscreen and brightening creams, plus yearly-ish screenings at my trusted GP’s office is my new Rx.
I’m also not convinced surgical removal is the best answer after seeing so many friends here with resulting scarring just as bad as the original benign lesions. According to The New York Times, Florida is a hotbed for corporate dermatology, where private equity firms own chains of practices, incentivizing staff to excise many types of lesions, whether necessary or not.
(NOTE FROM DANA: I agree that excessive slicing and dicing of moles and other spots is not optimal. Happily, there are new diagnostic devices for derms to use to determine whether lesions are problematic - BEFORE they break out the scalpel. I recently wrote about them for NY Post Alexa, and you can read that piece here.)
(BEAUTEOUS) BUBBLE PHOTO CREDIT: SHARON PITTAWAY