Home Laser, Day 3

I  had already tried the low and medium settings of the Palovia home laser and barely felt  them on my skin– and  now was ready  to go to the max and try the highest setting. However, these settings while painless had left raised, red splotches which were still around up to eight hours later.  The skin also felt a bit tender as if  it had been sunburned. 

A friend  who knew  her way around lasers thought she knew the source of the problem.  I wasn’t using enough of the gel.  The instructions  said the enclosed bottle of gel was enough for 60 treatments.  It was not that  big a bottle, so I just used  a light topping of gel before zapping my arm with the laser.  I remembered that when I had IPL or lasers with a physician,  they really did slather it on.

I decided to increase amount of gel, but keep the setting at medium.  I pumped the  bottle about six times and applied a pretty thick coating– not as thick as in an office based procedure, but certainly more than I had been using. Treating the same area  on my arm, I applied the laser and pressed the on button.  It worked once, then a notice came up on the little treatment screen  saying ‘Interrupted”. Hmm?  I shook the device and checked the battery, but it was almost full.  I continued with the treatment and almost half the time, the session  was stopped  with an interrupted sign.  Hmm? 

I stopped to check the instruction booklet again. Apparently this sign comes on  when the device it on, but not in contact with the skin.  I began to wonder if  I had  put  on too much gel and it was blocking access to the device.

The results on my skin was also interesting.  I got some red patches, but they were pretty flat and went away within an hour.  In addition, my skin did not feel sunburned.  So I think that the extra gel was definately a step in the right direction, but now the question was how  much should I really be using.  I’ll try again tomorrow.

Home Lasers– Day 1

It’s no secret that I’m a fan  of  lasers.  I respect their power to erase dark patches, eliminate  lines and fry away  unwanted  facial hair.  But they are expensive and when I saw  the arrival of home lasers I was interested– but cautious.  Lasers are powerful tools and in inexperienced hands can cause burns, scars, discolorations and even eye damage. 

At Beauty Bash in October, I stopped at the Palovia Booth to talk with the rep about their home laser kit.  I was delighted to learn that its made by Palomar, one of the most highly regarded makers of professional grade lasers used by dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.  I was even more impressed to hear that Palovia   is FDA approved  to reduce fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes.

They offered me a machine to try out and  despite my natural cowardice, I really wanted to see what anti-aging benefits they can deliver.   The thick instruction booklet  was a little daunting.  It had a fairly extensive   list of guidelines and I read it severral times  before feeling comfortable enough to get things started.  There are several on and off buttons,  charging instructions, choices in intensity, and a list of  potential problems that were sobering.  And I have to admit that I was afraid of pain. 

I charged it up  for several hours, read the booklet one  more time and was ready to start– with baby steps.  The instruction book recommends trying out the machine on your arm to get used to the sensation.  I decided to try  the home laser on my arm for several sessions to see how my skin responds. I adjusted  the Palovia to its lowest setting and as per instructions, I spread on a layer of gel I ( included in the kit). I  placed the head of the machine on my arm and pressed the on button.  I felt a very mild buzzing sensation  for three seconds, then the machine turned off.  That was my signal to move to another area. I repeated the treatment in four closely linked areas.  When I wiped off the gel,  my skin felt a tiny bit irritated and  the redness lasted for about an hour.  So far, so good.  The sensation was definately not painful and I’m going to continue tonight,  extending the treatment time to see how my skin responds. Baby steps.

The New Wrinkle Busters

It sounds  like a plot of a new Steven Spielberg movie, but its real.  Turns out that our fat is loaded with stem cells  and  that when injected into the face, stem cells actually encourage regrowth  for  healthy fuller contours.  I learned about this and other anti-aging techniques that are  just on the horizon  at a press event hosted by  cosmetic surgery expert Wendy Lewis.  One of the smartest women I’ve ever met,  she assembled a blue ribbon panel  of dermatologists and  surgeons to explain these new wrinkle busters at Waldorf Astoria press conference.

Park Avenue plastic surgeon Dr Z. Paul Lorenc explored new fillers that  actually stimulated the growth of new healthy collagen.  So when the filler is gradually absorbed, the skin stays smooth and young because of  strong fresh skin cell growth that restores youthful contours.  Dr David Golderg, director of Laser Research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine discussed the role of lasers in cellulite control.  He explained that the lasers don’t destroy the cellulite, but rather tighten the skin, making the cellulite far less obvious– eg less jiggle; Dr Sidney Coleman who is associated with NYU-Langone School of Medicine focused on the benefits of fat grafts to aging, sun-damaged and scarred skin.  Not only do the  grafts restore normal skin  appearance, the benefits become better with time.  Research  indicates that the stem cells in the fat injection are stimulating the regrowth of  healthy tissue.  I was especially impressed by the use of fat grafts to cover up dark undereye circles. Dr Coleman has a grant  from the Department of Defense and he is  using these techniques to repair wounds that soldiers suffered  in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Its amazing to see  once flattened and distorted faces returned to normal.  And  just a side note-  cosmetic surgery techniques that we use today  to turn back time, were originally developed  after World War I  as doctors struggled to repair disfiguring wounds.

But keep in mind that NONE of these new anti-aging developments are legally approved in the US and are still waiting for FDA approval.  ( They are found in other parts of the world and that’s a topic  for another post)  And be aware that non-MD’s are pouring into the field offering   all sorts of anti-aging injections and a wide variety of unapproved techniques.   To avoid dreadful complications ( there were some pretty awful photos at the conference)  make certain you  get treated by a certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

And speaking of treatments, today I am actually going to Dr Lorenc for his  super cleansing hydro-facial.  I will post  before and after pix  next  Wednesday.

My BFF– Best Friend with Freckles

Intense Pulsed  Light (IPL) is a type of photorejuvenation  that uses  a blast of light to remove freckles, unwanted hair and  little red lines on the skin.    Often called the “lunchtime laser”  it does not burn off the top layers of the skin like a tradtional laser and the skin looks beautiful and smooth within a week.    I had IPL  last year in June  with Dr Marmur and was so pleased with the results.  I thought  it made my skin look tighter and fresher and I posted before and after pics on the blog.  My BFF ( best friend with freckles) liked  the changes so much that  she went  for her own IPL date.  I think her results were even better.  Not only does she look 10 years  younger, her skin  has a new radiance.  She is so pleased with the results, that she  has now joined  me in my anti-aging journey.

First we developed a plan.   In the morning  she is using a strong sunscreen  to prevent  the return of freckles.  When she  was in school, BFF was a super athlete.  Her current passion is gardening and she is developing a new style of wall garden.  For either activity  she is often in direct sun, and needs  an uber sunscreen.   At night she is using Retin A to stimulate  circulation and new collagen. After a few months on Retin A, she will have Pelleve and will share the results on No-Nonsense Beauty Blog.  Have you tried out an anti-aging  tool or technique?  It would be wonderful if you could share your experience and before and after photos.  There are so many options out there its hard to know  which work and which are empty promises?  As Mulder would say to Scully–” The Truth is  out there”.

A Beauty Bonus for my Neck

Here is a pix of my neck ten days after removing the various bumps and splotches.  The scabs are gone and  the redness is slowly fading. To avoid awkward stares  questions,  I am still wearing scarves and chuncky necklaces to cover them up.  I found that powder mineral foundation does hide them,  but then rubs off and stains  my tees and blouses, soI’m sticking to camouflage rather than make-up.  Now that I’ve worked so hard to  polish up   my neck and chest  I want to protect it from new problems.  I had three types of spots:

Brown spots:   These are a combination of age and sunlight.  The former I can’t so anything about– the latter just needs a daily sunscreen.  Done.

Skin tags: These are also linked to age and to high blood sugar levels. Not surprising, since I have type II Diabetes. As a matter of fact, it was Park Avenue dermatologist Dr Lefkovits who saw them  15 years ago and told me  to get tested for diabetes.  If I keep my blood sugar under control,  they do  not reappear.

Red spots:  These are called cherry angiomas and result when a small group of tiny blood vessels clump together.  They are a genetic thing and there is nothing I can do to prevent them.  However  they can develop  little extensions which are known as spider angiomas.  Both sunlight and alcohol can provoke these to appear.  I’m a two glasses of wine a week kind of drinker, so that’s not a problem.  Remembering to apply aunscreen to  my neck and chest is  my  new summer routinue.

And I’ve noticed an extra bonus to  this round of freckle removal.  In the area where  I had laser treatment,  the neck skin  looks smoother and less bumpy.  This ability to  tighten skin is one of lasers best benefits and spot tightening is actually the principle behind the Fraxel Laser. Rather than  totally burning off the top layer with the ultimate C02 Laser, Fraxel  works on a grid to treat tiny areas. but leave adjacent skin untouched.  The result?  A  more natural looking tightening.  I had not been that interested  to do Fraxel, but now  that I see how the principle works, its something I will explore it a bit, especially  for my neck.

Red Carpet Shoulders

Watching the celebs walk the red carpet during awards season, I began to focus on the flawless  chests and creamy  shoulders of the stars  in their strapless gowns.  Was I  the last woman in America with  age spots  on my upper body?

The short answer is  no.  This is an often overlooked spot until a dress or bathing suit suddenly reminds you that sun damage doesn’t stop at the chin. That’s the bad news.   The good news?   There a buffet of spots removers including skin bleaches, IPL, lasers, Fraxel, peels and  microdermabrasion. The question is  which one  is the best.   According to Dr Marmur, I have several  different types of discolorations that require  different types of treatments.  For example the true freckles can be easily treated with a YAG or Ruby laser– the same type that I used on the freckles ( aka age spots) on my face and hands.  The raised spots are actually skin tags that are best cut off or burned away with electrocauterization.  As you can see  from my before photo, the red spots are atually more numerous and I’ll find out what they are  and how they are treated when I  get them removed tomorrow.  Its a good thing its still scarf weather here, since I  know from past experience that I’ll have a bunch of red scabs  on my neck for at least a week.

New Respect for Retinol

I have often mentioned my reservations about retinols vs the more powerful retinoids like Retin A.  When applied to the skin, retinols have to convert themselves to  a true retinoid before they can be effective. Researchers estimate that a retinol is only 25% as effective as a Retin A.   For example, a .1% Retinol (  a very common concentration) is equal to a .025 Retin A–  which is actually the mildest Retin A on the market.  And then there is the problem that most retinol products don’t say how much of the power  stuff they actually contain.  You can’t know if a  product is to weak to be effective or too strong and irritating. 

I stayed away from retinol products until wandering in the exhibit hall  of a derm conference, I picked up  free samples of .5% Retinol from Skinceuticals. I was intrigued.  A .5% retinol is at least equal to my current .1% Retin A  Micro. ( I know  this is a lot of  math but  staywith  me– its worth it). And then there was the question of price.  .5% Retinol ( they need to work on the name) is just $50/ tube–  a lot better than the $300 price tag of my Retin A Micro.  But price  is not that important if it didn’t  deliver beauty benefits.  After just three days, I  had new respect for retinols.  I could put it on  shortly after washing my face without developing dryness or irritation–yet I could see a fresher, brighter skin.    What I  loved best about Retin A  is that relieved my pale, pasty skin tones and replaces them  with  pinker, happier looking skin. This retinol product delivered the same “pinking” but without the dryness.

To keep my skin from getting bored, I’ve been alternating between .5% Retinol and .1% Retin A  Micro.  I liked the results so much, that when I had finished my samples,  I paid retail for a full size tube.    Next I want to see if I can use  it before and after an office anti-aging procedure.  IPL and lasers  make my skin especially sensitive and I need to suspend Retin A for as much as a week.  Next time, I’m going to see if I can use .5%Retinol the next day to avoid a break in beauty routinue.  What has your experience been  with retinol products.? How did they compare to Retin A for you?  

For more information, I’ve written a   guide to Retin A.  Like my Facebook  Fan Page and you can download   the four page guide for  free.

New Year, New Retin A

I finally got  my new Retin A this week and I’m lovin it.  To recap my Retin A adventures, I  had been using .04% Retin A  micro with wonderful results.  Its the lowest dose of  one of the gentlest forms  of tretinoin and I got good results  without too much discomfort. After about 10 months, I noticed that  I no longer could see  that characteristic yourthful glow you get with Retin A  and  realized  it was time to move up to the next level.  Dr Marmur gave me a prescription for.1%  Retin A– the  turbo powered one, not the micro-sphere stuff.  And here is where I went rogue.  In my local CVS, brand name Retin A was about $200.  I decided to order a generic version from Canada for $40.  I was so proud of all the money I saved.

When my bargain Retin A arrived, I was a  concerned that  it was yellow, not white, but I had faith in the label.  Concerned that  it would be too irritating, I used   a dab every other day for a week.  Nothing happened.  Then I used it every night.  Nothing.  I used two dabs.  Nothing.  I used it for a  month and while I didn’t get irritated, I didn’t see the lovely “pinking”   that I developed with  Retin A  Micro.   I even tried it under my eye.  Nothing.  I did everything but spread it on toast and eat it.  I don’t know what is in this yellow goo, but its not an effective Retin-A.

For my holiday present, I bought myself  .1% Retin A micro.  At $269 at my pharmacy, it was a commitment.  It turned out to be the right choice.  Within a week, I’ve got a little glow again.  I’m still using it every other day without flaking and redness.  My skin feels tight after washing — a signal to keep taking things easy– but I’m back in a good Retin A routinue. 

I’ve used  so many anti-aging tools, I’m running out of body parts.  Its going to get difficult   see  what procedure or product is  responsible  for changes.   That’s why I am so excited that a good friend  has volunteered to join me on this anti-aging exploration.  First  treatment, IPL for the brown spots on her hands.  I used  lasers and we can see  what a different approach can do.   Have a wonderful New Year!