Cryotherapy is a simple and low-risk procedure and serious side effects are extremely rare.
Aftercare is simple and in many cases, no specific aftercare treatment is necessary. Many people leave the treated spots uncovered and allow them to heal naturally over the next 3 weeks or so.
Discolouration of the skin is very common after cryotherapy. It's not always avoidable, but to reduce the risk, we recommend simple steps to seal the wound and encourage healing.
During treatment, the pain of cryotherapy is an extremely cold, sharp, stinging sensation. This settles almost immediately to a milder pain which usually lasts a few minutes, but may persist for some hours. The treated area sometimes feels mildly irritated or itchy after this.
Headache can occur following cryotherapy to the scalp or forehead. This is a tension headache, caused by tightening of the scalp muscles in response to the treatment. The headache usually responds well to simple pain killers, warmth or massage and rarely lasts more than a few hours.
If there are no sores, blisters or scabs in the treated area, no dressing is required.
If your treated area develops a sore or a blister, cover it with a Band-Aid or similar adhesive dressing for 3 days. If you don't like the appearance of the treated area while it heals, you can cover it with a further dressing but this is optional.
Blisters are a common result of cryotherapy treatment and may appear in the first few hours. This is a sign of effective treatment: the skin cancer or solar keratosis has separated from the healthy skin and will replaced by normal tissue as the blister heals. Blisters are usually painless, but they may weep a small amount of clear fluid.
In some cases, bleeding may occur into a blister. This is unsightly but not dangerous and will usually settle without treatment.
Don't puncture blisters. Punctured blisters are more painful and take longer to heal.
We recommend covering the blister with a Band-Aid or other simple dressing for a few days. Do not use any creams, powders or ointments on the blister. Avoid antiseptics such as Betadine, Savlon or Dettol. These antiseptics can help kill bacteria if the wound is infected, but they are toxic to new developing skin cells and can delay wound healing.
To enhance wound healing, you can apply a silicone gel, which helps seal the wound and encourage moist wound healing, which results in less scarring. We recommend Epicyn, a silicone/hypochlorous acid gel which has been shown to significantly reduce wound healing times. Used over a period of up to 3 months, it reduces the risk of a raised scar developing at the treated site.
What can I put on the skin as it heals?
If the surface of the skin remains intact, you can treat it the way you would normally, i.e. using sunscreens, moisturiser and other skin care products in the usual way.
If the treated area forms a blister, sore or scar, you should wait until the surface is healed or dry and crusted before washing with anything other than plain water. In general, when washing your skin, we recommend a soap substitute such as Cetaphil, Aveeno or Dermaveen wash.
Silicone gel, applied two or three times daily, helps to seal open wounds and can reduce the risk of infection or scarring.
We usually recommend Epicyn or Stratamed gel for open wounds.
Open wounds or blisters should be covered with a Band-Aid or other dressing to protect them from sunlight while they are healing. If you can't cover wounds with a dressing, use a silicone gel. You can apply sunscreen over the top.
Recurrence after treatment
Because cryotherapy sometimes leaves a scar, we prefer to treat gently. This reduces the risk of scarring, but it means that the deeper part of the skin lesion might not have frozen completely. This can lead to recurrence of the skin lesion.
In these cases we are usually happy to re-treat the lesion, but we might recommend alternative treatment with a higher success rate, depending on the lesion to be removed.