My Laser Skin Treatment Experience
How getting laser for my acne was my biggest regret |
I had the most horrible experience with my laser treatment. Some people get amazing results from lasers, but my skin absolutely hated it. It could have been the type of laser used, but whatever the case, getting laser to try to clear my acne was the worst decision I made.
My skin wasn't even that bad before I got laser. I had some mild active acne, clogged pores, and red marks, but my dermatologist recommended a Black Doll carbon blast laser (more on that below) to smooth out my skin some more. I stupidly agreed without doing my own research.
She showed me all these before and after pictures that were amazing and absolutely convincing and told me I would see great results from one laser procedure and perfect, clear skin from a second and third one. The laser she recommended was supposedly the best kind for my type of skin (Asian, clog-prone). She also told me that, unlike chemical peels, this type of laser treatment was like a lunch-time procedure and wouldn't result in anything makeup couldn't cover. Um, yea, that so did not happen.
I recall asking her if I would purge or get any breakouts from it, but she reassured me that any current active acne would just dry up, fall off, and heal very quickly. I really should have looked into it more before getting it done. (It is extremely important to do your own homework before taking any kind of action. And make sure you ask your dermatologist all sorts of questions!)
Needless to say, that dermatologist is no longer my dermatologist.
Here is a breakdown of my sad and negative laser experience:
I actually didn't do any kind of pre-laser preparation. I basically went to see a dermatologist about my acne and got the laser procedure done simply because she recommended it. I also thought the laser would help treat my acne faster than any topical products and I definitely wanted to get rid of my acne ASAP.
At the time, I was so fed up with my skin that I decided I didn't know what was best for it and that a professional dermatologist would. So, I did everything the dermatologist told me to do. I did no prior research and didn't ask enough questions. I pretty much went into it blindly, which I really regret. I strongly suggest that everyone do solid research before undergoing any serious procedures.
DAY 1: (Day of the Laser Treatment)
The type of laser treatment I got was called 黑面娃娃 in Chinese or "black-face doll" in English, using a nonablative 1064 nm Nd-YAG laser. Popularized in South Korea and Taiwan, it's also known as Black Doll, Carbon Blast, or Carbon Soft laser. It supposedly stimulates collagen regeneration, reduces wrinkles, shrinks pores, smooths skin, and brightens your overall complexion. Most people get this type of laser for its pore shrinking and dark mark lightening abilities.
When I showed up at the dermatologist's office, they cleaned my skin with some kind of toner and put numbing cream over my entire face. They then removed the numbing cream and coated my face with a thin layer of black carbon powder. Eye protectors were slapped on and the dermatologist proceeded to zap away. There was no spot testing to see if the laser was at the right power setting. As soon as I laid down, she began the treatment.
Two runs of laser pulses were made on my forehead, nose, and cheeks. Even though they put the numbing cream on my face, it still hurt like crazy! I actually teared up from the pain, but the whole procedure was over fairly quickly. The numbing cream took about 10 minutes and the laser zapping part took less than 5.
While the laser part hurt, my skin didn't feel much different after the procedure. They put a cooling paper mask on my face for about 15 minutes (which stung a bit) and then sent me home. When my mom picked me up from the dermatologist's office, I actually scared her because my face was so red. It literally looked like someone had drawn all over my face with a permanent red marker and that I had been trying to wash it off without success for many days.
For post laser-care, I was prescribed a topical and oral antibiotic (The dermatologist didn't even tell me I had to take anything before I got the laser treatment. But ultimately, you are responsible for your own skin and asking all possible questions, so I was just stupid to assume the dermatologist knew everything. I really regret being so passive throughout the whole ordeal.) I was told to liberally apply the antibiotic ointment throughout the day to keep my skin moisturized and prevent infection. I was also told to stay out of the sun and use paper masks (popular in Asia) around the clock to help further soothe my skin.
My skin was still very permanent marker-red. It was a bit drier than normal, but not dry enough to cause any peeling of sorts. The parts of my skin that were thinner (under the eyes and around the bridge of my nose) started to get some red dots that faded after a few days (I was told this is common for those who get laser for the first time. Some hydrocortisone cream helps it go away faster).
Aside from the red dots, I also got small whiteheads all over my face (which I was told to leave alone because they would dry up and fall off on their own... which did not happen!) I did leave them alone, but I kept getting more and more. I had five in the morning, but around 15 before I went to bed.
I continued to cover my skin with the antibiotic ointment and drink lots of water. I used a paper mask every half hour and took the oral antibiotics as told.
1 WEEK POST-LASER
My skin was still very red. Not as red as right after the laser, but still very noticeably tomato-y. I looked like I either had a very serious sunburn or some kind of hot water vapor steaming accident.
After three days of the antibiotic ointment, I switched to using Aquaphor and aloe vera gel. I continued to get lots of whiteheads, however, not just surface whiteheads, but deeper and bigger pimples as well. I wasn't sure if the antibiotic ointment was causing the breakouts or if I just had one coming that the laser brought to the surface. I still took the oral antibiotics and stayed out of the sun as instructed.
Compared to before I got the laser, my skin was much, much worse. I was broken out in painful pimples all over my cheeks and whiteheads all over my forehead and I looked like a red bobble head.
On the plus side, the laser did smooth out some fine lines I had on my forehead and faded some old acne marks. It also did not seem to make my skin as sensitive as chemical peels did. My skin was red and "hot" but it didn't feel prickly or itchy.
Whatever the dermatologist said about this laser being a "lunch-time" procedure was a lie. If I had known better, I would have definitely scheduled some downtime because the redness was impossible to cover with makeup.
3 WEEKS POST-LASER
I was very gentle with my skin during this whole time. I used nothing but cleanser and moisturizer. I left all the breakouts alone (didn't pop anything like I normally would have) and just hoped for the best.
I went back to the dermatologist for my post-laser follow-up visit and she told me that the breakout was very normal (what a hypocrite) and that the pimples would go away with another laser procedure. She also suggested that I get a lemon peel to help "dry" up my acne.
However, I was definitely not going to get a facial done, much less another laser procedure, while my skin was still so red and broken out. When I think back, I wonder what the heck that dermatologist was thinking in the first place! Sadly, some dermatologists are just in it for the money.
It was three weeks since I got the Black Doll laser treatment and my skin was still red and broken out. You could actually tell where I got the laser on my face because there were light skin-colored rings around my eyes and lips, the places the laser did not touch, surrounded by red skin.
2 MONTHS POST-LASER
At this point, I started to really hate the dermatologist for recommending the laser procedure, but I hated myself even more for doing this to myself. I didn't do any research, I didn't check how other people reacted to the treatment, and I didn't ask enough questions.
Two months post-laser and my skin was still red (laser induced erythema) and severely broken out. However, although I was red and broken out, my skin was strangely not irritated or sensitive.
After the laser, my acne escalated from mild/moderate to moderate/severe. It was definitely in much better shape before I got the laser done. That dermatologist kept telling me to get another laser procedure to dry up the breakouts, but I did not feel comfortable subjecting my skin to another intense treatment when it hadn't recovered from the first one yet.
I went to a new dermatologist because my skin was really, really bad. He prescribed Skinoren 20% Cream (azelaic acid) for my current acne lesions and it took another 3 months of purging for my skin to finally smooth out.