I am 63 and have spent mu entire life in the sun. ...
21 May 2014
Day of treatment
I am 63 and have spent mu entire life in the sun. I was raised on the beaches in California; backyard pool, 3 ,miles from the beach, water skiing and on our sailboat. I came to Colorado. became a ski instructor, backpacker, hiker, bicycle rider and am now an avid golfer. Needless to say a LOT of sun damage to my face; brown spots and lines around my mouth.
Between my consultation and the procedure, I spent many hours looking at Youtube videos done by actual patients and read hundreds and hundreds of reviews here and on other blog sites dating all the way back to 2009. Some reviews of negative experiences terrified me and others were quite encouraging. I went in the day of my procedure nervous as hell.
I expected severe pain from the reviews I read but that just is not true. I had the numbing cream, a dental block, 4 mg of Diazepam and 2 Hydrocodone 7.5-325 tabs. I am also on Valtrex 500 and Azithromycin 250 Zpac. Yes, you can still feel the laser but it is just a quick sting and after the first two or three zaps, you get very used to it. it is honestly not a problem at all.
It is now three hours post procedure and I am keeping my face iced. Lory was more aggressive on my upper lip and on my forehead and those are the only two areas that are still stinging and burning. I have had a lot of sunburns in my life due to my sports and lifestyle and it isn't quiet like that; it is maybe a bit more uncomfortable. Ice, ice, ice followed each time with more Vaseline and it is manageable. Definitely little squares, track marks and some very minor bloody spots in the areas treated more aggressively but way, way better than some of the truly scary pictures I've seen of other patients. Tonight it will be more ice, more Vaseline and sleeping on my back propped up to keep the swelling down.
If I can figure out how to do this, I will give un update tomorrow morning:)
Yesterday was the procedure so I think everyone considers this day two :) Not much swelling at all but then again I followed a few simple rules. I kept icing down my face all last night after the procedure and although it doesn't burn at all today, I am continuing to use ice all day. I was told to wash my face every 3-4 hours, cool it down with the vinegar and water solution (which I keep cool in the refrigerator) and apply Vaseline or Aquaphor liberally while icing my face. I also am taking Arnica orally three times a day; you can get this at any health food store. I used Arnica last month after jaw surgery and it really does keep the swelling down. And finally, I did keep my head fairly elevated and slept on my back. I started practicing sleeping on my back a week ago so No problems there and I slept well. I added one more thing that I read about from another blog; I started taking Benadryl last night and today as it also can help with swelling and the burning feeling. Obviously today I am brown, red and even almost a maroon color depending on how aggressive certain areas were treated. I did not have my eyelids treated so my eyes are just fine. I look horrid but no pain and very little discomfort. This healing process can be just so much easier if you do a few extra things to help yourself out :)
Still using ice packs not so much for the swelling but because it feels so nice! My instructions said to wash my face every three to four hours and to follow with the vinegar water and more occlusive ointment (I've tried both Vaseline and Aquaphor---no real difference between the two) beginning on day one and continuing through day four. Today is the first day that it does not sting to do the face washing. I am not seeing any peeling or shredding yet but maybe that is because I really slather on the ointment? I do know that it will be impossible to go out on day four with light makeup as promised in promotional materials so do plan on a longer healing period. Fortunately I was able to completely block out nine days on my calendar before I need to go out again! From what I have read from others, today is "discouragement day" and I agree. I am tired of mostly sitting around the house and wonder if the process is really worth it, but then again, I am not peeling yet so I have no clue what my skin will look like:) Patience is the key right now. No "pain" but still some discomfort from the slight burning feeling and the feeling like my face wants to crack off!
Worst day yet! Started to really sting late last night and then kept me awake off and on during the night. Today I am living on Benadryl, vinegar soaks and ice packs but nothing I do can take away the itching. At day four I was told I would be almost done with the peeling and shedding---not even close. In fact, I am just beginning to see any shedding of skin; disappointing. I am really, really uncomfortable today. I would love to hop in the shower and wash my hair but with hair down to my waist, I need to really get my face wet when washing my hair. There is just no way I could stand to have warm/hot water on my face yet. Good thing I sent my husband away to our vacation cabin so that I could do my healing without him having to look at my face----I am a mess. Does the horrid itching last only one day????
Sting-itch-sting-itch-----same as yesterday. My face is still five shades of red. I can feel the rough areas so I'm hoping those areas will shed/peel very soon. I have some very small areas that have shed and they are bright, bright red. I can still see definite track marks all over my face from the laser. Last day of antibiotics (Z-Pac) but still taking Valtrex for next nine days. I wash my face four-five times a day, follow with a vinegar soak, put on Dermal Soothing Cream (bought at health food store) then a layer of Vaseline. I think I might be having a moderate to bad experience with this procedure? I hope and pray that I will not be one of those people that write a few months from now that I am scared with track marks and still bright red---yikes!! Staring to panic a bit :(
The itching isn't quite as bad today but holy cow, my face is bright red, splotchy, and still stings like a severe sun burn! I decided after five days of coating my face all day long and all night long in Vaseline, that today I would shower and wash my face twice with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser to get it really clean for the first time in five days. Instead of following with a vinegar soak and Vaseline, I just put Neosporin on some of the bad spots (like my entire upper lip!) and am wearing a coat of Cetaphil Restoraderm. Still sings a bit but it just feels so wonderful to not have my face coated in Vaseline. I put on a second coat of the Restoraderm after putting ice on my face for awhile. Mr. Ice is my best friend and I still ice down whenever the burning or itching is too much for me. I doubt if it is doing my skin any good but it does feel wonderful. I think I am still swollen on my upper lip area and around the lower part of my mouth but other than that, no visible swelling. This is what I expected to feel/look like on day 3 but it has taken me a full 6 days to get to this point. Luckily I am recently retired so down time is not a problem for me but I am really, really tired of being house bound. My first trip out will be two days from now to have my check up for the treatment. I plan to go with absolutely no makeup on so that she can see exactly where I am in the healing process and let me know if there are any concerns. I did try putting on some Bare Minerals on my forehead last night after I washed my face and even though it did calm down some of the red look, it also showed all of the places I am still shedding skin so not a good solution and I don't want to go out and not only scare little babies, but their grandmothers too!! I think people should definitely plan on taking ten days to two weeks off from work for this procedure---do NOT believe it when the doctor tells you that you only need four or five days at home!!!!
The itching has mostly subsided but there is still quite a bit of a stinging sensation. I hope this means my skin is healing? I am still bright red and splotchy which I don't think is particularly normal at this stage? Still wash my face three times a day and then apply the Neosporin to a few really bad spots; mostly my upper lip area where the treatment was very aggressive. Now just using the Cetaphil Restoradeam for lotion instead of the Vaseline. It is a bit slimy but way, way better than the goopy feel of Vaseline! Sure hope for big improvement very soon as we leave for a 2 1/2 month trip to Alaska in five days---yikes! Go to see the dermatologist tomorrow so maybe I will get some idea of what else can be done to speed up this healing process. I have not yet ventured outside at all and I am going stir crazy but I just don't think my face could tolerate the slightest bit of sunshine even with a zinc oxide sunscreen. Anyone else have this long of a recovery period????
Back to the dermatologist's office for my first check-up. Still a whole lot of the burning, stinging and itching but they just told me I am a slow healer and keep up with putting tons of lotion on my face. Whenever it gets too bad, I just put the ice pack back on and that gives me some relief for the time that it is applied. Still taking heavy doses of Benadryl but not getting much if any relief from that. I do have a some light track marks in one spot but since I am obviously not completely healed, I was told to give it at least a month or two and if they don't go away, I will be treated with the IPL light. Same thing for a couple of brown spots that have not gone away. On the whole, the really bad brown spots are gone (for now) and I do like the look of the skin that is showing through. Even though I am on Valtrex, I seem to be developing some fever blisters on my upper lip but am now treating with Abreva and got another prescription of Valtrex. Hopefully nothing big develops!! My upper lip was very aggressively treated for both the brown spots and wrinkles. The last thing I need now is a rotten fever blister!! I was asked if I would do it again but I just said at this point my answer would be an emphatic no, but we'll see what happens in the coming months :) Still keeping my hopes up that this was well worth the miserable recovery time.
Oh great---even after having taken Valtrex beginning one day before the procedure and still on the Valtrex, I now have three or four fever blisters forming!! Supposedly the Valtrex and by starting Abreva yesterday, the fever blisters won't be too bad :( We shall see. Still a lot of the stinging and itching. I can also feel a low level of "burn" similar to being out in the sun too long. The redness is getting a bit less but definitely pink in almost all places. I am using a wonderful zinc oxide sunscreen called "Bum". It is made in Australia and can be found on the Internet and in some shops in the U.S. Goes on without leaving your skin white looking and has a pleasant soothing feel to it. Highly recommend this sunscreen!
Wish I could say that all is well by now---but not quite. The burning, stinging and itching are a bit less and it only happens a few times a day. I did however, wake up at 2:00 AM this morning because my upper lip was itching so bad that I just wanted to tear it off!! I did talk to the surgeon who did some jaw joint surgery on me about two months ago (he is also a plastic surgeon) and he used to do fraxel laser treatments. He said the nerves near the surface of the skin are still damaged and trying to heal. He reassured me I would love the end results---whoa I hope so! The worst part right now is my upper lip that was apparently treated VERY aggressively (I would not know as I was given a dental block and felt nothing). The area between my nose and upper lip is still bright red and peeling. Still taking the Valtrex, was even given a new prescription for it, but my upper lip area is breaking out in small fever blisters. Between the Valtrex and using Abreva, I am able to keep the blisters small but it is still painful. Not happy about this at all. The rest of my face is fading and mostly just a strong pink color similar to a slight sunburn. I am concerned that the texture of my face on my cheeks is quite rough and hoping in the next month or two that those areas smooth out. My forehead, which was not done as aggressively is very smooth but my lower face was given a much more aggressive treatment. Could by my fault as I told my technician that I chose the dot laser treatment over a peel or the IPL as I wanted to do this only once and not do a series of treatments. Maybe that was a very bad idea????
Holy cow---the 2:00 AM wake up call from my skin itching is getting ridiculous. I woke up this morning with probably the worst itching yet!! My upper lip is just not healing and is now mostly crusty from the dried skin even though I use a Vaseline based moisturizer every night and put lotion on my face probably five times a day. I realize my story is not the worst one you've probably read but I am getting beyond tired and depressed that my treatment has not gone smoothly at all. Maybe living in Colorado at 8000' is part of it since there is zero humidity in our climate. I leave tomorrow for our long awaited Alaska trip (will be gone about 2 1/2 months) but my skin is not ready even though I was promised that two full weeks was more than enough time to completely heal from the laser treatment. I just want all of this to be done with and very, very soon! Today I am back to the stinging/itching thing all day long.
The stinging and itching FINALLY easing off!!! I have to put moisturizer on at least four or five times a day to keep things under control---very, very, very dry skin. Still have some blisters on my lips and still taking Valtrex twice a day. Very upset about this. My opinion is never, ever, never let anyone talk you into being "aggressive" with the treatment. I ended up with third degree burns on my upper lip area that blistered and are now mostly scabby. I also have definite rough spots on my cheeks that I HOPE will go away eventually. These spots are kind of what others call "orange peel" skin areas and are the driest spots on my face. I am very, very tired of the healing process that is way longer than the four days we all hear about. Now on our driving trip to Alaska and I really can't tolerate the sun yet even with a 50 SPF sun screen with zinc. This will make the first part of this trip very hard for me as this is a definite outdoors trip and I was assured many times that things would be fine but that certainly is not the case. Bummed out to say the least.
Three Weeks Post
I can honestly say that I am sooooo glad the last three weeks are over with!! My skin is still very, very dry and requires two coats of moisturizer both morning and night. I also use an SPF 60+ sunscreen but can not use the sunscreens with zinc in them, as recommended, as they never sink in and do in fact turn my face white in color. My upper lip appears right now to be actually scarred from the "aggressive" treatment in that area. What I did not realize at the time, but have now figured out, is that during the treatment around my mouth, my lips were actually burned with the laser too!! I know they were just pure white looking for days following the treatment but I had no clue what was going on. They have been dry, dry, dry and burning like crazy for the last two weeks; so much so that at times I need to take some sort of pain medication. It is like they are on fire and severely sunburned. I had some blisters but they are gone now. I do need to use some form of lip balm almost hourly and it has been three weeks---not right. I also have weird white bumps, look like a blister but are hard, around my lips which I assume are scars. Hopefully these will eventually go away??? Some people have said this treatment leaves their skin soft like a baby's skin; not so for me. I have rough patches on my cheeks three weeks after. I will just have to wait, keep moisturizing my face, keep lip balm constantly on my lips, and hope all of this goes away when the skin is completely healed. Again, I do not think putting yourself through the pain is worth it; just live with the sun spots and wrinkles as you age. It is really a crap shoot; maybe 50/50 odds that you will come through this with no scars or problems but those are not good odds at all.
At this time the redness is gone from my face and the brown spots are much reduced. I do have some Refissa bleaching cream that I was given that I could start using now but I am so tired of dry skin that I think I'll wait on that awhile! My upper lip seems to have some shiny skin (almost scarring) from the too aggressive treatment given to me in that area but I'm hoping this will cure itself in the months to come. I also have several whitish, kind of puffy bumps at the corner of my upper lip that kind of look like a fever blister only they never blister and never do anything at all. Once I get back in town (almost two months from now) I will go back in to see what, if anything, can be done about those. I was hoping they would resolve themselves but nothing is really happening. I wonder if that is scar tissue too???
I am still kind of on the fence if I think this was all worth it. I do see improvement in the dark spots on my face but there are other ways to deal with that including bleaching and IPL treatments. As far as wrinkles, around my mouth area they are less but who knows if that will last; I certainly hope so!! The total discomfort, and yes some real pain, may not have been worth the cost nor the possibility that there is some true scarring going on in the lips themselves. I'm still with the people who say it is a 50/50 gamble that you will come through this with no permanent damage and only some minor improvements. I think it may be too risky since everyone's skin will react differently and every technician applies the CO2 fractional laser in a slightly different way. Definitely be very wary if like me, you start off with dry skin; you will NOT heal up in a week or two. It takes much longer than that and at one month out, I still need to use a heavy moisturizer three times a day.
Lory Chislom has over eight years experience with the DEKA Smartxide dot laser. She is extremely personable, very professional, obviously knowledgeable and very honest about the procedure; what to expect during the procedure and how to manage the after care. If I'd met her any where else, she would definitely be someone I would want for a best friend! Great bedside manner and we even had some laughs along the way today:) Let me add that this is my very first experience with any kind of cosmetic or dermatological procedure so I am a true novice!
5 out of 5 stars
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5 out of 5 stars