My Laser Peel
The other day I was having lunch with my makeup artist friend and she asked me about my opinion on microdermabrasion. Even though she worked in the beauty industry, the concept of microdermabrasion was “extreme.”
Extreme?! I went on to tell her that I think microdermabrasion is kid’s stuff.
To review, microdermabrasion is a mechanical form of exfoliation that gently removes the top layers of dead skin. The technician brushes a diamond or crystal-tipped wand-like hand piece over your face and it gently scratches and sucks off grime and dead skin cells. The treatment is quick, taking about 15 minutes. Immediately after a microdermabrasion you can expect your skin to feel clean and smooth, but don’t expect to see too much visible improvement beyond that.
From doctor’s offices to nail salons, these days you can get microdermabrasion done at just about anywhere. Every woman seems to start her foray into cosmetic skincare treatments thinking that microdermabrasion is some kind of advanced solution for every skin problem. Not so.
In fact, on it’s own microdermabrasion isn’t capable of doing a whole lot if you’re looking to clear your skin of sun damage, fine lines, and tone and texture irregularities. Even if you’re getting it done every month. For real transformative results, you need to cross over into dermatological territory where more powerful modalities such as resurfacing lasers, light-based energy treatments, and chemical peels are used. Those who really know skin consider these treatments to be regular ‘maintenance.’ Plus the other beauty truth: it takes a lot to look like you did less.
Welcome to my world.
Somewhere between getting my first microdermabrasion at a spa (for $85!) in my early twenties to buying my first bottle of medical-grade retinol serum at age 30 (paying $250!), I have seemed to have cross over from mainstream beauty onto the other side of what I call next-level beauty. It’s a world where skin treatments hold more value than makeup brushes. A world where you ponder the difference between retinol and retinal. A world where you avoid the sun like the plague. And where microdermabrasion is mild maintenance, akin to getting a bang trim at a salon. Yes, it can get expensive, but my pores have never looked smaller, so I can’t look back now.
I could see my friend’s eyes grow larger with awe and borderline fear.
So what do you do instead of microdermabrasion? She asked, with slight trepidation.
First and foremost, I always check in with my dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett or her nurse Diana Phillips before booking anything because every treatment is slightly different, sometimes it can be combined with other modalities to meet my specific goals, which can evolve along with the changing of seasons and hormones.
One of the mainstays in my DLK Wedding Day bridal timeline is a mild laser resurfacing treatment called the Laser Peel (3 treatments, $1500 at DLK on Avenue). The company that manufactures the laser machine refers to it as the NanoLaserPeel, a fast and comfortable treatment that is a cross between microdermabrasion and a light chemical peel. I’ve done four Laser Peels so far since Last Fall and it’s, by far, my favourite mild laser fix for restoring bright and smooth skin. (Note: I prefer it over the Clear + Brilliant laser, reviewed here).
My derm says that a Laser Peel can be more effective than a chemical peel because lasers not only exfoliate the top layer of skin (the epidermis) but it also uses heat. This heat causes a cascade of collagen-stimulating processes deep down in the dermal layer of the skin where collagen and elastin are present.
When you heat up the deep dermal layer of skin you cause some inflammation to happen. Phillips once explained it to me as being similar to the micro tears that happen when you lift weights, which causes lean muscle to grow. This good inflammation does two things in the skin:
1) It repairs, longterm. Heat via lasers help remodel and shake up dormant collagen cells, shouting at them like a drill sergeant to make more. If you have acne scars or wrinkles, this revved-up collagen production going on in your skin is very beneficial as collagen remodelling helps plump up skin depressions and reduce pigmentation, improving the look of scars and lines over time.
2) It firms, right away. Heat via lasers cause a general tightening effect in the days following the treatment, but according to the experts, the true benefit of the collagen remodelling occurs during the 4 to 6 months following your treatment.
In a nutshell you get both short term and longterm benefits with a Laser Peel.
Microdermabrasion, on the other hand, does not use heat and the exfoliating hand piece is only capable of scratching the surface of the epidermis. That translates to a temporary glow. Hence why microdermabrasion is significantly cheaper than laser or peel treatments.
The Laser Peel treatment uses a high-quality physician-administered laser called the Sciton Er: Yag laser (see pic on left). It has various settings for specific concerns. For example, it can be set higher for ProFractional Therapy which is used to treat deep scars and wrinkles; here it uses a tiny laser beam to selectively burn off these areas without damaging the surrounding tissue. The skin’s wound healing response kicks into high gear and creates new collagen, which adds firmness and resilience to skin (that good inflammation, again). While the results from a ProFractional can be amazing, it can cause pinpoint bleeding so full recovery can be a full week, which isn’t desirable for people who can’t afford the downtime.
That’s where the Laser Peel can help. Using the same machine on a lower setting, this treatment ablates between four to eight microns from the outermost layer of the epidermis – going much deeper than a microdermabrasion.
How do you look during the downtime? Asks my curious gal pal.
Right after, expect to look sunburned and shiny because the technician puts Vaseline all over your face to protect it from the elements and speed up healing. Helen L., the senior medical aesthetician at the clinic, always finishes off my mild Laser Peels with a few zaps on the higher ProFractional setting on a few acne scars on my cheeks and on a large chicken pox scar I have on my forehead. That’s why right after my Laser Peels, I look a little messy…
Don’t let that selfie scare you. The pinpoint bleeding heals overnight because you sleep with Vaseline on your face, and it washes right with a mild cleanser in morning. Here I am the next day…
You can resume with your regular makeup routine the following day, but try to abstain from wearing heavy foundation. I like to let my skin breathe and wear just a bit of tinted sunscreen or a BB cream to conceal the tiny pinpoint circle marks, which are only very visible if someone is cheek-to-cheek close. My fiancé describes my post-laser-peel face as looking as if I had slept on a screen door mesh.
By day two, the skin will feel rough and will start to lightly peel. Be liberal with moisturizing your face throughout the day, and be sure to protect your new skin with sunscreen. I carry my Kellett SPF 30 lotion everywhere I go and apply it every few hours, lasered face or not.
By day 3, you’re left with an incredible smooth and radiant surface that can last for a full month – as opposed to 2-3 days from a basic microdermabrasion. Makeup will go on smoother, pores will appear smaller, and brown spots, whether from breakouts or the sun, will seem lighter.
Since I combine my Laser Peels with ProFractional it takes a full week for my skin to heal completely. But throughout the week, my skin isn’t selfie-shy because I look normal. Actually better than normal because my bare face has a healthy glow.
Does a Laser Peel hurt? MUA friend asked.
You feel practically nothing during the session because they put a topical freezing cream 20 minutes beforehand, and you look fabulous…
They call the Laser Peel a weekend treatment because it typically requires 1-2 days of ‘social downtime’ which means you don’t have to close your blinds and camp out in your house all weekend. You won’t scare the neighbours or even yourself when you see your reflection. I suggest getting it done on a Thursday or Friday and you’ll look completely fine by Monday. Check out these progress photos, from the DLK on Avenue site; it illustrates what you can expect better than my fuzzy IG pics…
Did I convince my friend that microdermabrasion is weak sauce? I think so, but I may have also scared her with my “extreme” enthusiasm for dermatological-grade laser treatments. When it comes to beauty maintenance, some like it hot.
For more on the Laser Peel, check out this video I shot back in the Fall of 2013.