Oh the vanity!
March 14, 2019 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I am almost 38 and I want to treat myself to one of the fancy laser face treatment things but it would be great to get the hive mind's ideas. If you had sun damage/melasma from hormones and dull skin etc. what did you do that had the greatest impact? I have about 1500 to spend.

Also, I have been having regular hydrafacials and have done microneedling (although I'm not so sure that made a big difference, maybe it did in some ways but I didn't get much of an improvement on the pigmentation)... I feel like chemical peels kind of make things worse in the long term and haven't done one since my 20's.
posted by catspajammies to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a huge fan of IPL. I have mild rosacea and general Older Person Face and it's been so awesome. IPL will remove pigmented spots, blast small vein redness and stimulate collagen to remove small wrinkles (not forever, but...). The first time might be 2 or 3 sessions to really clean you up and then one session yearly after that. I get it done once a year or even less often now from a medical dermatology spa where it's done by either an RN or a PA (do your research and find a legit place with the latest technology).
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm the same age! I've tried two procedures. Here's my take:

1. Microneedling: they numbed me with cream (so no pain) and micro-needled my face (not with the roller-type you can buy online - it was a machine). Then they spread the blood over my pores and gave me some vitamin C serum and some other reparative goo. Drawbacks: down-time. I bruised a bit under my eyes, and I couldn't wear makeup for about 2-3 days. Skin gets dry and peel-y but within 4 days-6 days you look radiant.

2. "Clear and Brilliant" laser treatment: again, you get numbed with cream. Then your eyes get taped shut (because: lasers) and the laser goes over your skin. It takes longer than microneedling (they go across your face in lines, about 4 times). The downtime is only 1 day, and your skin will feel like sandpaper for about 3-4 days after (although this is not noticeable and I've found makeup covers it quite nicely). Results are noticeable immediately.

I prefer Clear and Brilliant to Micro-needling because of the down-time personally, and it "feels" less invasive. You will also notice results, I'd say, right away. It's pretty incredible.

I've had 1 microneedling session and 2 clear and brilliant sessions and my pores are definitely smaller, my smoking-lip-lines are slowly plumping their way out, my skin tone is DEFINITELY more even, old and new scarring is being reduced steadily. When I've had Clear and Brilliant I've had comments about my skin right away. My Derm says that the results could last for years with the right care: sunblock, staying out of sun, vitamin C, etc.

So that's my experience! Good luck! It's super fun!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:04 AM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was feeling pretty low about my skin recently, after two pregnancies the sun? age? spots were proliferating and starting to team up into megaspots especially around my eyes. I looked at my seventy year old mom's face and thought geez I have even more spots than her! And then she told me she had gotten IPL from my dermatologist brother's practice on his recommendation. I just about fell out of my chair. Anyway my family pooled together and got me an IPL treatment for my 40th last month after I consulted with my own derm and she agreed it would be the right treatment for my melasma / spots as well. Her assistant described it to me as "it's like a Magic Eraser for your face." She was right and most of the the spots literally... like... rubbed off after a few days. You may need 1-3 treatments but I have been very happy with one. $1500 should cover all 3 sessions if you're not in an ultra high cost city I should think
posted by sestaaak at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd go to a dermatologist that does aesthetic work and get a consultation. I got IPL (5 sessions) for redness from rosacea and broken vessels and, unlike the posters above, it did almost nothing. The effects lasted a week or so, but nothing permanent or cumulative. I wish I had done more research and picked a stronger laser so that the issues would be resolved instead of very temporarily lessened. If you're going to spend that kind of money, make sure that the treatment you're choosing will actually resolve your issues significantly.

For general aging skin, I've had a lot of luck with using various acids. Not chemical peel territory, but acids I can use at home. They really plump things up and improve texture and evenness and also make my skin glowy instead of dull. I'm partial to the products you can get through Makeup Artist's Choice (link goes to a coupon you can use), they use all the latest prestige ingredients, but at fractions of the price. They'll also consult with you and you can buy trial size products, so it's lower-risk.
posted by quince at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I tried four or five sessions of IPL years ago to get rid of the sun damage that had become a serious problem by my mid-thirties, and it was a total waste of money -- it made zero difference in how my face looked. I'm still very angry with that salon for not warning me that it might not work, and urging me to continue with treatments when it wasn't working at all.

Here's what did work for me: I went to a dermatologist. He treated my sun damage with liquid nitrogen, and prescribed Retin-A gel. I've been going back for maintenance spritzes twice a year for nearly ten years now, and I use Retin-A daily. And now I'm a 45-year-old redhead with no sun damage.
posted by orange swan at 3:41 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have done both IPL and BBL. They are essentially the same thing but IPL is a lower setting laser that can only do so much damage and can therefore be administered at salons by a not-doctor while BBL is a higher setting laser that can do a lot of damage and can therefore only be administered at a clinic by a doctor. Of course the salons will never ever tell you that.

IPL (multiple sessions) did nothing to remove my brown spots but BBL was very effective. My doctor said that IPL is a joke for established brown spots because they sit deeper in the skin where a lower setting laser won't reach, and that manufacturers cannot legally give salons machines that allow for high-enough settings because those can easily permanently damage your skin and are therefore too dangerous to be operated by an esthetician. It did take a couple BBL sessions to see full difference in my brown spots, and keep in mind that even if they are "erased" by the laser they can come back - according to my doctor those brown spots are the skin's response to "injury" (sun burn) and once your skin learns to protect itself by producing the protective brown pigment in that spot, it can easily re-produce it. For me, only the very worst spots have returned, and they returned much lighter so I am very satisfied.

My cost for BBL is about $400 per session. My doctor gives a significant discount for a pack of three; I use two sessions in one year which gives me a good-enough result and leave the extra session for another year to save money. (FYI the reason I keep doing BBL is because I keep getting more and more spots - I grew up in an extreme subarctic climate and I would use every opportunity to soak up as much sun as possible in the summer... I did a looooot of sun damage to myself).

I did also try liquid nitrogen administered by a dermatologist and it did nothing to remove my spots. I did prescription strength Retin-A too which improved texture and clarity of my skin but did nothing for the brown spots (and I would say that the improvements in texture and clarity were probably only noticeable to myself). Something to keep in mind here is that hormonal or age-related brown spots sit deeper in the skin and need to be burned out by a laser that can reach to that depth; when you see people having success with pigmentation using creams or facials (including IPL and chemical peels) it is probably because they are talking about post-acne pigmentation or similar texture problems that sit on top of the skin.

For reference, I have non-sensitive caucasian skin with yellow-olive undertones, my skin is light but will tan easily, and my brown spots started coming out in full force around your age (coincidentally to my first pregnancy so it's hard to say whether it was age or hormones).
posted by rada at 7:24 AM on March 15, 2019

Can I ask any of you experienced people, do any of these treatments deal with areas of the skin that are naturally just more-pigmented, not sun damage? I have some dark pigmentation around my mouth and chin that I really hate and would jump at the chance to fade. I've tried hydroquinone and it didn't do anything.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2019

I've been considering IPL for some (relatively) minor Middle Aged Skin issues and the range of responses here is both fascinating and frustrating. I've got some minor overall sun damage, some spots on my cheekbones and beneath my eyes seem like they're going to get darker with time, and fine upper-lip lines that are starting to make lipstick a challenge. I basically want to mitigate some of this stuff now, at 45, while it's still mostly only noticeable to me. I'm inclined to pay more to go to my dermatologist because cheaping out a salon with a groupon sounds like a terrible idea, but damn, the expense makes me nervous for something that might not do much.

For those of you who had IPL and thought it made a big difference, could you tell after the first treatment that it was going to be effective for your skin, or was it blind trust until after you'd had two or three treatments?
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on March 18, 2019

If anyone wants I can share before / after IPL pics. Memail me.
posted by sestaaak at 6:33 PM on March 21, 2019

Okay- so I wanted to come back and let everyone know what I did in the end. I had a tca chemical peel 35 percent with a week downtime. It wasn’t a fix for the melasma but very much improved my dull skin and texture and evened out my complexion. Next I had Botox in my upper face (I’ve done that regularly anyway) and finally I really analyzed my face and identified an area on my cheeks where I noted loss of volume and got a small amount of filler there. ( 1 syringe split on both sides) That made a huge huge difference and I’m completely happy and will start to budget for that in the future. It really felt like i was looking at myself in the mirror again! Also I’m now on a much better skin care regime with glycolic acid cleanser, vitamin c, hylauronic acid and retin-a (and sunblock!)
posted by catspajammies at 12:18 PM on April 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Okay so i have another update- i used a toooooo strong glycolic Acid cream after my peel and it gave me more hyper pigmentation.

I was in London this week and I had previously made an appointment with a top doctor on Harley street to discuss my eyes. I wanted tear trough filler. That’s all. I didn’t want more. But also- my left eye seemed a bit lazy post kids and I was concerned about that. I thought I had ptosis- that’s what it looked like and it can happen after pregnancy.

To make a long story short I burst into tears after about ten minutes into the consult. In the end I did not have ptosis. I did not need tear trough filler- but I had lost the volume that was supporting my left eye.... she treated the areas of my face that needed treating but I REALLY REALLY wish that i had gone to her from the start.

If you are upset about the structure of your face- or if your face is not symmetrical- go to someone who understands the structure of the face.

Also- get to an EXCELLENT esthetician and/or dermatologist. The best ones can really explain your skin to you and stop you from doing anything crazy. I had a great one in my previous city and I know she would have tied me up in her basement before letting me do an aggressive peel. SIGH.
posted by catspajammies at 4:04 PM on May 17, 2019

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