What Facial Analysis Photos Can Tell Us About Our Skin


Just one look at the images that computerized skin analysis systems produce, and you’ll never want to go a day without sunscreen again. In just a few minutes, these devices can reveal the years and layers of skin damage that accumulates over time, while also giving skin experts a glimpse into what’s going on under the surface to help give the most customized treatment plan. While the photos are always impressive, what they show can be lost on the naked eye. Here, we explore what the commonly used skin imaging scans do and if you should get one if you haven’t already.  

Types of Skin Imaging

According to New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD, there’s more than one way to get an inside look into the dermis. “We have a whole toolbox of tools such as reflectance confocal microscopy, optical coherence tomography, as well as dermoscopy and noninvasive tools that help diagnose cancers early as well as help monitor and tailor treatment of skin cancer,” she explains. “Additionally imaging software like Vectra 3D Imaging, Photo RX, MetaOptima, MoleScan and others that help experts keep track of the locations of moles and organize dermoscopic images for better monitoring, but unfortunately these technologies are not yet able to do much more than that.”

What a Skin Analysis Does

“Skin imaging serves a variety of purposes and provides great benefit to our patients as we educate them on the overall health of their skin and to track improvement throughout treatment” says Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. She says these devices allow her to set realistic expectations and create accurate benchmarks with her patients as they navigate through treatment plans to meet their skin care goals. “As providers, imaging and analysis allows us to ‘pull back the curtain’ on our patients’ concerns, accurately target what needs to be treated, and create comprehensive treatment plans. The more we know about the issue, the better treatment plan we can create, and skin imaging is an important component.”

UV Images

UV photography, like VISIA which is commonly used in dermatology practices can show the degree of sun damage present in your skin explains Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD. VISIA separates red and brown skin pigmentation and can be used to take a closer look skin tone, texture, pores, spots and discoloration. “It can be helpful to have a baseline UV photo to show a patient the current degree of sun damage that is present. After we have treated the skin with topical therapies, chemical peels or lasers, we can track improvement with a follow up UV photo,” she says. “This is useful for demonstrating progress and communicating how much sun damage has occurred.”

The Next Wave

“The gold standard has been VISIA and it provides quite a bit of information regarding skin tone, texture, spots, wrinkles, etc. that allows you to tailor treatments specifically to patients individual concerns,” says Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias. “Newer technologies, like Cherry Imaging, have advanced upon VISIA and allows for whole-body imaging not just the face. It also offers quite a bit more detail including volumization of fillers, area of moles, skin roughness, pigment, scars, cellulite, and more. Cherry appears to be a truly revolutionary imaging system and from our limited looks thus far we look forward to being able to provide patients with best in class imaging to tailor their treatments and deliver superior results.”

Who to See

“Imaging devices are helpful when used in the hands of imaging experts or providers trained by skin cancer board-certified dermatologists that specialize in imaging,” cautions Dr. Markowitz. “No imaging is yet able to substitute a full body skin exam. The tools used help the expert but unfortunately technology has not yet been able to be used at home or in the hands of non-experts making proper training and expertise still more critical than any technology currently being utilized.”

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