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My Personal IPL Experience: Part Deux – Two IPL Treatment Series

My Personal IPL Experience: Part Deux – Two IPL Treatment Series

updated

As discussed in part I of my personal IPL experience, in which I reviewed my consultation and prepping process, I was nervous about undergoing laser treatment - especially on my face.

The reviews I have read about IPL fotofacial treatment focus on the non-invasiveness and revitalizing benefits of procedure, but I know a couple of people that have undergone laser procedures, specifically laser hair removal. One girl I know said she felt like she was being tasered during treatment. That doesn't sound appealing to me.

IPL Treatment #1

When I come in for my first treatment, I am instructed to wash my face so that the laser has clear access to the skin. The nurse who is performing my treatment, Laurie (who I had my consultation with), examines my skin and starts asking questions as she enters data into the Lumenis IPL machine.

Monday, 4:30 - The Procedure

As I settle in my chair, Laurie explains that she is going to spread a clear substance on my face. She then enters the last bit of information into the machine and applies the handheld laser device to my right cheek.

"Okay," she warns, "don't be embarrassed if you jump a little when I do the first one. Almost everyone does."

And I do. The entirety of the IPL procedure lasts for less than 10 minutes. But every time Laurie zaps me with the laser, I startle. She treats the right side of my face before moving on to my forehead.

"Okay," Laurie says, and by the sound of warning in her voice, I know I’m not about to receive great news. "I need to get your forehead, and you have these fine hairs around your brows and hairline. Don't worry if you smell burning hair. That's normal."

Between the smell of burning hair and the feeling of being branded across the face, the actual time I spend undergoing the procedure is not fun. I doubt I’ll be willing to undergo the treatment ever again. But then Laurie says something that made me reconsider.

"It looks like your skin responded to the treatment really well," Laurie says. "I think we should apply lidocaine to your face next time so I can be a little more aggressive."

I agree to come in 15 minutes early for my next appointment for a little face-numbing downtime.

One-Hour Post Procedure

My face still hurts one hour after undergoing treatment. Further, Laurie warns me that my face will look worse before it looks better.

"The dark spots will rise up to the surface and then come off, kind of like a sunburn," she says. "And then they'll just rub off right off."

Of course, I’d prefer immediate results. But my face does, in fact, look worse.

Tuesday Morning

When I wake up for work in the morning, I am still optimistically hoping my skin will suddenly be clear and perfect, but I’m in for a hideous awakening. Things got much worse overnight, and the dark spots look twice as dark as they did before I got myself into this mess.

I pile make-up on, wear my hair down, and vow to avoid prolonged face-to-face contact with my coworkers.

Wednesday

Is it possible for things to get worse? In a word, yes. In several words, my face now looks horrendous because the dark spots now appear to be black. I am trying to hide behind a veil of hair, emo-style, which I doubt is doing much for my image at work.

I am also starting to rethink my decision to undergo treatment in the first place. I knew it would be painful, but I didn't realize how bad things would get during the recovery process.

Further, I have my brother's surprise 40th birthday party to attend on Saturday, and if things don't get better, I am going to have to face dozens of family members and friends in this condition.

Thursday

I can finally see signs that the dark spots are fading and new layers of skin are regenerating, but things still look bad. I meet up with one of my brothers Thursday evening to head to San Jose for our oldest brother's party. I can tell he thinks I look hideous, so I fill him in on the details of my treatment plan.

"Ugh. How long is it going to last?" he asks.

"I don't know... but I think it's getting better," I say hopefully.

Friday

When I wake up in the morning, I can tell that the damaged areas of skin are ready to be sloughed away. As I cleanse my face with a damp washcloth, I literally wipe the flaws off of my face. In a matter of seconds, my face goes from the worst shape it has ever been in to better than it has looked in months, if not years.

Saturday

The last of the dark spots are gone by party day, and there is already a visible improvement in skin tone - better than any of the results skin creams can offer. I am pretty amazed, and close family and friends notice a difference in my complexion after just one treatment.

I begin to look forward to the final results, but am dreading the next treatment.

IPL Treatment #2 – Two Weeks Later

My second IPL fotofacial treatment session was scheduled two weeks after my first. I experienced good results following my first IPL treatment, and was looking forward to getting through the pain of my second session - and the hideousness that would follow.

Monday, 3:45

I arrive 15 minutes before my scheduled appointment time so that there is no way I can be denied my lidocaine ration. Laurie dispenses a whopping dollop of lidocaine cream into a container and hands it over to me with instructions to smear it on my face and wait about 15 minutes.

I begin to generously smear cream on the areas that hurt the most during my previous treatment – around my mouth and on my cheeks. There is still enough left to smear a thick layer on the rest of my face.

When enough time has passed, Laurie comes back into the room to examine my face and plug more information into the laser machine. Since my skin responded well to the first treatment, Laurie feels that we can be a little more aggressive with the second treatment. I begin to feel a wave of fear thinking about the pain, but I try to tell myself that the lidocaine will make everything better.

I am wrong. The lidocaine helps a little, but I can still definitely feel every zap of the laser and, once again, I jump a little when Laurie gets me in the more sensitive areas.

Upon leaving, I check the price of the IPL package to see if it had changed in case I decide to go in for another round of treatment. Then I go home to wait for the numbing of my face to subside. It takes about two hours, and though my face is numb during that time, it still kind of hurts.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

I have surrendered to the realization that I am going to look horrible for a few days. When I wake up in the morning, I check the mirror and things look just as bad as last time. I trudge off to work and try to avoid giving people a clear view of my face by hiding behind my hair.

Friday

The last time I underwent the IPL fotofacial, virtually all signs of treatment were gone by Friday, within four days. This time around, my skin takes a bit longer to regenerate. Today is still a vast improvement over Tuesday, but I still have some waiting to do…

The Results

Over the weekend, my skin finally shed the last of the dark spots, and there is a marked improvement in my complexion. I have completed two treatment sessions, but Laurie had initially recommended three to four sessions to achieve the results I was hoping for.

I have remained diligent about applying sunscreen to my face every day to prolong the results of the IPL treatment and avoid future sun damage, but living in Southern California can make it difficult to protect the skin. And a few weeks after I finish my second IPL treatment, I headed off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for some all-inclusive fun. After one day there, I noticed the dark spots seemed to be returning.

I'm undecided as to whether I will undergo another series of IPL treatments. There are three factors holding me back. The first is the ugly recovery period, during which my skin looks worse than it ever has. The second is the pain – the thought of putting my face through that trauma again makes me shudder. The third is the cost, as I would rather save my money or go shopping with it. However, I am curious as to whether one or two more IPL treatment will give me my desired results, and I am mulling over the thought of purchasing another package.

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