I have never had any elective procedure designed to improve one’s appearance.
I’m 42. And once I hit 40, the Universe confirmed what It started telling me when I turned 30: “We don’t need you anymore.” It started with stretch marks and melasma (the delightful brownish spots you get from hormonal changes, usually during pregnancy, although women who have never been pregnant also get them). Then my hair got fine. And I don’t mean in the “fiiiine” way. I mean fine as in not luscious and thick and healthy as it always had been.
I also can’t go on roller coasters anymore without getting super ill, I started getting hot flashes, and basically it’s like evolution is DONE with this woman.
And so, after 40, my skin started getting more and more dark spots. Not freckles, which I love. Not moles which I have many of and generally love unless they have jagged edges, changing colors, or start to itch in which case they need to be reviewed by a dermatologist. No. We’re talking weird dark spots around my eyes and upper cheeks.
Linda, my make-up artist on The Big Bang Theory, has known me since I was 14 (she worked on Blossom) and she is not a pretentious or vain person at all. She loves natural beauty and cares for my skin for going on eight years every week. What Linda has noticed is that one layer of foundation used to cover my spots. This past year, one layer wasn’t cutting it. She was having to go in with a special effects brush to cover up all of these spots, which were poking through and is not good for high-definition viewing. Trust me.
She gently and lovingly told me that while she knows I hate, hate, hate this stuff and I hate, hate, hate “maintenance,” and I hate, hate, hate paying money for beauty stuff, it was time. So off I went to the dermatologist for a consultation. And, yes, you can go to facial facilities that offer the thing that she knew I needed, but since my job depends on my face, I figured I should be extra careful and go to a medical facility.
So I went. And the doctor was really nice. And indeed, he says, he can make those go away with a series of three laser treatments. And I stare at him. And I stare as he tells me how much it’s going to cost. I made my first appointment for the following week.
I considered canceling many times, including the morning of. I don’t like attention to my face. Or my body. (I’m a real hoot, right?) I don’t like pampering. I don’t like massages. Beautifying doesn’t feel good to me. Period. So I was nervous. Quite.
The nurse came in to numb my face so I don’t feel the treatment. “It will hurt a little,” she said, smiling. I started to sweat. I told her I was nervous, and she told me how pleased I would be with the results and how it would help with things that I don’t even think about, such as wrinkles, fine lines, redness and pore size. I told her I am just here for the sun spots; it is very important to me that people not think I am vain. She smeared cream over my face wearing latex gloves, which felt odd.
It is very important to me that people not think I am vain.
I worried that I would lose my freckles and distinctive moles. When I mentioned that, she repeated that I would be so cosmetically happy. I didn’t want to be there, alone for 20 minutes while the crap made my face numb. The nurse accidentally got some on my lip and my lip went numb, and that felt weird.
A second nurse came in and asked if I wanted to pay for two or three sessions upfront because I would get a discount if I did so. I told her that I am hoping that one treatment will do it and that I’ve never done anything cosmetic and that I’m kind of freaking out. She laughed kindly.
The first nurse returned. She said I needed to wash off the numbing stuff, but there is no mirror in the office and I couldn’t feel my face, and I was really scared to get numbing cream in my eyes, so I wet down a bunch of paper towels with soap. I can’t believe that with all the technology going on here they haven’t figured out a better way to remove the stuff off of your face with a mirror or maybe some wipes?
The doctor worked swiftly. After hearing that this treatment was originally designed by someone from the Israeli army to remove paint from airplanes, I considered jumping out of the window. They put little eye covers on my eyes and the laser itself did three things I don’t like: 1. It made a loud sound. 2. It flashed brightly every time he zapped me. 3. It hurt.
No. 1 made me literally shout, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” the first time he zapped me. He laughed. No. 2 made me jump a little because I am very sensitive to stimulus and now there is a loud sound and a bright flash, which I can see even through my eye covers. No. 3 made me want to cry. The way I cry if I try to tweeze stray eyebrow hairs when I am premenstrual. Ouch.
I’ve had two kids with no drugs, so I’m no wimp. But this pain is just ick.
Fifteen minutes later, the after effects are explained to me and I’m given stuff to care for my face at home. I’m a rule follower, so I did all of the things I am supposed to.
The spots turned very dark before they “sloughed” a few weeks later. It basically looked like I smeared OREOs on my face, which is what I felt like putting in my face since my nerves were rattled and sweet things make it better. I protected my face and in four days I got to exfoliate. A few prominent spots were clearly gone so that’s cool. And I fear I have to go back as Linda warned me I would have to. Maybe my dermatologist can offer cocktails before my next session? Unlikely.
A very strange and annoying thing happened after the first treatment. A few people who did not know I had the treatment done randomly said how amazing my skin looked. “It looks so clear!” was the thing more than two people said to me.
I had to admit—begrudgingly—that the treatment made me look different. Okay, fine.
I did not want to get a second treatment. Three was recommended as you recall. I felt the results were pretty significant; there had been an age spot on my nose that looked like a pretty dark mole for example. It had only appeared in the last year of my life. It fell off painlessly within a week of that first treatment; so did I really need to go in again? To spend the money again?
Makeup Linda encouraged me to go one more time. And when I looked into my 10x magnifying mirror (which I bought because I clearly hate myself), I could see that indeed there were still some lingering age spots that I would not miss if they went away. The second treatment was done by a nurse and not the doctor. Why? Her schedule was more flexible and she was a third cheaper. And yes, I am very motivated by things that are a third cheaper.
Long story short: She used 2 lasers instead of just the one he used. It hurt more. I felt less secure. She was super nice, but I think I could have and should have stopped at one.
I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I am glad my skin doesn’t have all of that skin damage evident. I hate spending money on cosmetic anything. I don’t like feeling like I’m indulging in “pampering,” and I hate pain.
My experiment is over for now. This is technically the first cosmetic anything I have ever done and I pretty much am walking around depriving myself of things like boba tea and fun snacks until the deprivation totals up to the amount I spent on that second procedure. It’s going to be a long month.