Fix your face—Repairing Sun Damage with Lasers

Growing up in the '80s and '90s, having a tan was in and my pale skin was not. I would lie out in the sun each week, covered in coconut-scented tanning oil, hoping that maybe this time my burn would turn into a golden tan. Yeah…it never did. Each time I would turn pink, freckle, and fade back to white.

As I grew older, I turned to tanning beds to get the same effect in less time. At my darkest, I was never tan, I just looked like I actually had pigment. I finally gave up my quest of the perfect tan in my mid-twenties. By then, the damage had been done and I was destined for skin cancer.

 My skin as a result of tanning beds. Still super pale.

My skin as a result of tanning beds. Still super pale.

I had my first pre-cancerous spots frozen off my face at 30. After that, I started wearing sunscreen far more often and using the skincare I should have been using in my 20s. I knew that nothing could completely reverse the damage I had done, but when both my mother and sister had skin cancer scraped off their noses last year, I stepped up my game and visited Avahlee Med Spa  in Lehi, Utah for a consultation.

They take a series of photos of your face, showing pigmented spots, wrinkles, texture, pore size, the bacteria under your skin, red areas, brown spots, and the thing I was worried most about…UV spots. My fears were realized when my face was entirely dark. It wasn't just where my freckles and moles were on the surface, it was everywhere. All my fears of potential skin cancer were realized in one photo.

 Before images, taken December 7, 2017

Before images, taken December 7, 2017

I knew then that retinol wasn't going to save me. I needed immediate intervention. Pattilynn, the owner of Avahlee, guided me through what she thought would be best to bring as much of that damaged pigment to the surface and remove it for good. A series of laser treatments were scheduled, each about four weeks apart.

Most of the lasers used felt like a rubber band lightly snapping against your skin where others just felt like heat. I have pretty thick skin, so they cranked up the power, but they always started low to make sure I was comfortable.

My immediate appearance varied, based on the laser used and how intense we went. Some of the treatments left me looking like I had a slight sunburn that faded by the end of the day.

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Others created more visible damage. Fractional lasers resurface the skin and work by using tiny pins to safely deliver heat through the surface of the skin using radio frequencies.

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This creates very small wounds, which your body naturally heals on its own. The process works to repair signs of skin damage that are visible on the surface, such as scars from acne or injury, deep wrinkles, enlarged pores, uneven skin texture, and pigmentation.

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Since my main goal was to remove sun damage, we went intense with the Venus Versa™ IPL (intense pulsed light) laser. It delivers precise light through several layers of skin, so wearing goggles is essential.

The light generates heat when absorbed by the tissue, which corrects imperfections without damaging any of the surrounding tissue.

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It results in what they call "coffee grounds." Those super dark spots in the photo below are pigment that will slough off the top layer of skin.

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What happened to my face the day after this picture was taken was pretty unexpected. My skin was bright red and covered in small, hard bumps. I stressed out for a few days, then called Avahlee to make sure I wasn't having some freak reaction.

It turns out I am part of the 3% of people whose skin reacts to this treatment in this way. Lucky for me, that also meant that when those bumps finally cleared in a week, my skin had an even better result than the other 97%.

I was so relieved I could contact Pattilynn directly with my concerns. I placed huge trust in her with my face and she was always ready to answer any questions I had.

When it comes to laser repair for UV damage, it's not always easy to see the improvements on the surface. Viewing the results underneath tells a more complete story.

 After images, taken July 16, 2018

After images, taken July 16, 2018

Some things changed dramatically like wrinkles (thanks Botox!), but what I was really curious about were the brown spots and UV damage.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the lightness in my brown spots. They're still there, but there's definitely a difference. (The super dark spots where there's no change are moles.)

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That pigment is a medium depth in my skin, so those spots that are lighter means a lesser chance of skin cancer that was already on its way to the surface.

The UV damage photos don't show a lot of difference, but that's expected. Once the damage is done at the base layers of your skin, you can't remove it, but you can slow down its movement to the surface.

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In total, I had a series of seven facial treatments done, the last three in one visit. I'll probably do the IPL laser once a year to not just resurface my skin, but to continue to keep that UV damage at bay. I'd take the pain of a laser any day over the scars of skin cancer removal.

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Top Picks for the 2018 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

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They say that December is the most wonderful time of the year, but my happy time is during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!

It may seem early, but July is when I plan my fall wardrobe. Its when all the new styles come out full of mustard yellows and olive greens. And the layers? Heavenly.

From basics to extras, I'm sharing my top pics of what I love from this year's sale, available for purchase July 20 - August 5. (Cardmembers have early access from July 12-19.)

Denim

Everyone needs a good pair of flattering jeans. These are a couple of cropped standouts that move from summer to fall when paired with booties.

J.Crew Billie Demi Boot Crop Jeans (Redwood Wash) - $82.90 (after sale, $125)

BLANKNYC The Madison Straight Leg Crop Jeans (Friend Zoned) - $58.90 (after sale, $88)

Skirts

Fall calls for plush fabrics, richer colors, and midi length skirts. Below are a couple of my favorites, both from Halogen.

Halogen Tweed Midi Skirt (regular & petite) - $58.90 (after sale, $89)

Halogen Pleat Detail Midi Skirt (Green Painted Rose, regular & petite) - $45.90 (after sale, $69)

Blazers

Something about blazers reminds me of college. They look "smart" without being pretentious.

Chelsea28 Double Breasted Corduroy Blazer (Rust Ginger) - $65.90 (after sale, $99)

J.Crew Dover Blazer (Navy) - $131.90 (after sale, $198)

Shoes

I think shoes are my favorite since my size doesn't really change. Chunky heels and booties are my weakness for fall.

Louise et Cie Jayant Pump - $79.90 (after sale, $119.95)

Vince Camuto Kentvi Sandal - $99.90 (after sale, $149.95)

Bags

The richness of leather and suede draw me into fall. Here are my two favorite bags from the sale.

Treasure & Bond Remy Pebbled Leather Backpack (Burgundy Fig) - $132.90 (after sale, $199)

rag & bone Suede & Leather Circle Crossbody Bag - $259.90 (after sale, $395)

Beauty

Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale is when I've picked up all my makeup brushes and sets. Companies put together exclusive collections just for this sale.

M•A•C Basic Brush Kit - $52.50 ($172 value)

Trish McEvoy The Power of Makeup Planner Collection (Sunlit Glamour) - $225 ($585.50 value)

Anything on this list you HAVE to have? What's missing from your closet for fall?

Discover Utah and the World at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

A HUGE thanks to Loveland Living Planet Aquarium and Mom It Forward for providing tickets for my family and sponsoring this post. As you can see, we had a blast!

My kids weren't out of school for a week when I heard the dreaded, "I'm bored" statement. Since this isn't my first go at summer vacations, I was prepared. We all hopped in the van and headed to Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper, Utah.

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I hadn't been to their new location and was super excited to see the space. When the first thing you see when you walk in is a giant whale hanging from the ceiling, you know you're in for an impressive time!

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The first exhibit on your right is, appropriately enough, all about Utah. It contains all the fish and critters local to our state, which I think is important to show our children. We definitely have more than brine shrimp and the Great Salt Lake.

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Travelling around the exhibits is like taking a trip around the world. You don't just walk from tank to tank, you learn about each species and what their natural habitat is like. I love trips like this where my children are being entertained and learning at the same time

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.A very popular stop on the global tour is the penguin station. I honestly could have watched them all day. They each have so much personality! It was so fun seeing them interact with each other, swim in the water, waddle, and jump.

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.It was quite the jump going from Antarctica to South America, but that's the exhibit we headed to next. There was a distinct temperature and humidity shift in this space to accommodate the birds, frogs, and everything else living here.

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We had the chance to watch these fish being fed. I wasn't sure what they would eat, but I didn't expect to see chunks of papaya floating in the water. These fish have excellent taste.

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I didn't expect to see ducks at the aquarium, but these two kept us busy avoiding the water they'd intentionally splash on you. Pretty sure Daffy and Donald's personalities were based on these two.

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My middle kiddo wasn't a fan of the splashing, so we took a break in the lobby where they had a hands-on lesson about the fishing industry. He even taught us about it later that day.

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Not going to lie, this is my favorite animal in the aquarium! I was so excited to see that the Asia exhibit houses two Clouded leopards. What can I say? I like big cats and I cannot lie.

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I never thought I'd think a catfish was cute, but this guy just looked so happy to be there, he reminded me of The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

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One of the busiest and coolest exhibits is the domed tank that you walk through. Different varieties of sharks, stingrays, even sea turtles swim right over your head. It's like being in the ocean.

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I think this picture sums up our trip perfectly. My kids were in awe of the amazing world we live in and all the animals, fish, plants, and people in it.