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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Skincare for a Cause with Kiehl's

This post is brought to you by Kiehl's Since 1851, a company that I've loved since the pre-internet days where I would call their NYC office to order Lip Balm #1.

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When I hear hog, I think bacon. Kiehl's has something a little more important, though less tasty, in mind. Their sixth annual LifeRide for amFAR.

This year continues the Kiehl’s mission to heighten awareness and raise funds for amfAR AIDS research. Beginning in Denver, and ending in San Diego (where the first LifeRide began in 2010) this 12-day, multi-stop charity motorcycle ride will take place August 3-15, 2015.

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Here are their planned stops…

TUESDAY, AUG. 4
LIFERIDE KICK-OFF! Kiehl’s Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3000 E 1st Ave., Denver, CO, 12-1PM

THURSDAY, AUG. 6
Kiehl’s Fashion Place, 1664 Fashion Place, Murray, UT, 12-1PM

MONDAY, AUG. 10
Kiehl’s at Neiman Marcus, 3200 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV, 3-4PM
Kiehl’s at Forum Shops at Caesars, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV, 5-6PM

TUESDAY, AUG. 11
Dillard’s at Downtown Summerlin, 11011 Sage Park Dr., Las Vegas, NV, 11AM-12PM
NV 1-2PM

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 12
Kiehl’s Santa Monica, 1516 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA, 3-4PM

THURSDAY, AUG. 13
Kiehl’s at Los Cerritos Center, 274 Los Cerritos Center, Cerritos, CA, 12-1PM
Kiehl’s at South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA), 2-3PM

FRIDAY, AUG. 14
San Diego Harley-Davidson Event, 4645 Morena Blvd., San Diego, CA. 1-2PM
Kiehl’s at University Town Center, 4545 La Jolla Village Dr., San Diego, CA, 3-4PM

SATURDAY, AUG. 15
LIFERIDE FINALE! Kiehl’s at Fashion Valley, 7007 Friars Rd., San Diego, CA, 12-1PM

I'm super excited to attend the stop in Utah. (And not just because Gilles Marini is going to be there!) But because Kiehl's is giving everyone 15% off and donating that to amfAR. Shopping for a cause is the best way to shop.

And lucky for you, Kiehl's is giving back to YOU too! They've provided this fantastic skincare set to one lucky winner. A $100 value! (Winner must live in US.)

Simple Steps to Look Younger

Folks, I'm no spring chicken. I have a few years under my belt and it's showing on my face. (Laugh lines are anything but humorous.) I may not be able to reverse the signs of aging, but I can prevent it from getting worse and look good in the process. Here are a few things I've been doing to stay looking young.

Drink Water

Water is everything to your skin. In fact, it's made up of over 60% water. If you're not well hydrated, your skin will show it. You'll look dry, wrinkled, and tired. Water helps plump up the tissue under your skin, which smooths out wrinkles and fine lines.

Worried you're dehydrated? Pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it doesn't flatten out immediately, you should be drinking more water. 

Topical Vitamins

Eating a good diet will definitely give your skin a youthful glow, but it can't do everything. Your body only delivers a certain percentage of vitamins to your skin. To make sure you're getting the right vitamins to the right places, apply topical creams, oils, and lotions. Want to lighten age spots? Try a cream containing vitamin C. Reduce wrinkles? Look for products containing retinoids derived from vitamin A.

Less Makeup

It seems like strange advice to wear less makeup to look younger, but there's good reason. Heavy makeup settles into lines and creases, making wrinkles look even deeper than they already are. If you walk out of your house looking like, as my mother would say, a "painted lady," the natural glow of your skin won't show through. Dull skin is old skin, so don't cover up the hydration you've worked so hard to achieve.

Sun Protection

The sun is not your skin's friend. Yes, it's warm and creates vitamin D and beautiful tans. But it also gives you wrinkles, sagging skin, discoloration, and cancer. Be smart when you go outside, even if it's cloudy. Apply sunscreen on any exposed skin, including your neck and hands. Wear a fabulous wide-brimmed hat for even more coverage. And never forget sunglasses. Squinting leads to wrinkles!

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Instant Gratification

Sometimes you just need a little boost of confidence when you look in the mirror. It's possible to fake out your own reflection with products like Sudden Change Under-Eye Firming Serum. Within three minutes, it reduces the appearance of fine lines, dark circles, and puffiness and lasts all day. I mix mine with a little foundation, but you can use it alone too.

The image below is unedited. No filters. No retouching. Can you tell which eye I used the serum under? Isn't that amazing?! You smooth a couple of drops from the inner corner of your eye out, wait three minutes without laughing or smiling, and boom. Magic.

Take pics of your own before and after to post on social media using the hashtag #InstantRetouchWithSuddenChange.

You can find Sudden Change Under-Eye Firming Serum at CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, ULTA, Walgreens, and Walmart. I found it for less than $10 at my local Walmart. Cheaper than fillers! But if you'd rather win some, Sudden Change is giving away three $100 gift cards to retailers that carry their product! Clean out your beauty bag and fill it with new makeup and beauty essentials. Enter HERE but hurry! You only have until May 1, 2015 to win.

To learn more about the Sudden Change brand, visit them on the web at www.suddenchange.com and LIKE the brand on Facebook

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. I received a package of Sudden Change Under-Eye Firming Serum for my own personal use. All opinions, text and experiences are my own.