What I Used: 15% TCA Skin Peel Enhanced with 5%...
What I Used: 15% TCA Skin Peel Enhanced with 5% Salicylic Acid 'and other botanicals' from "Perfect Image"
This post is a full documentation of what I did and went through in hopes it helps someone figure out their own way. :-)
After battling with my latest round of adult cystic acne I have finally gotten it down to a small whimper (Thank you Retinol!), but all the scarring remains and I am unnaturally addicted to my concealer (L'oreal C-6-7-8 is a perfect match to my color) . So, I got online (again and again) really trying to figure out what is going on. Have suffered my entire life and nothing sticks -- as soon as it works, it's like my skin decides to try a different attack vector:
- "So that topical works, huh? Well how about *now*?"
- "Oh, oral medication seems to be working, eh? Well not anymore!"
- "Oh so you've figured out the *Magical Face Regimen* of Wash-Tone-Treat-Moisturize-Sunblock twice a day and never skipping once? Yeah, I think I'll suddenly become allergic to that moisturizer you love!"
I tell you, out to get me. But I think retinol is going to be a long term solution -- finally.
And then I saw a blurb, "TCA Peel" and was intrigued. Then convinced. Sounded like this could help with the scaring with fast, lasting results.
A competent, accomplished Do-It-Yourselfer in all areas of my life, I decided to take this on. Truth is, I have held this TCA bottle all day, procrastinating, unsure of its application, effects, preparation. I have a healthy understanding of the risks involved. So should you. The horror stories are horrifying. The success stories are what I dream about. The warnings I heeded with compliance.
WARNINGS AND ADVICE:
- Just so happened to have already been using a retinol cream and a skin whitener for a few days before, AND it just so happened that lots of comments said this was good for face prep for positive results. So check. Done.
- Warnings heeded against anything harsh used on the face recently, no recent exfoliation etc. Look up online all the warnings about Accutane and others issues. I was good on these warnings so moved forward.
- Lots of warnings about "frost" and burns, post-application itching, and cracked/peeling brown skin, and red skin and a month recovery from a harsh treatment -- lots of mixed results for skin of all colors and problems. Most of them were good (and great!) results -- some were bad. Being a dark-skinned woman I paid special attention to other dark-skinned women with their new shocking pink-skin after treatment, and hold onto hope that what I read was true that the pink will subside if that happens to me.
- I looked at lots of videos about people on "Day 2" of their 50% acid treatment who could barely move their mouths, their face is stiff etc, and who, then, on Day 6 loved their new faces. And there are many more warnings AGAINST newbies starting off at 50% strength on the very first time out (which is my guess fror how that pink or angry skin comes about if you don't know what you're doing or you didn't expect it to happen since you didn't go to a professional who probably would have either avoided it from occurring, or told you about the potential for angry skin once the sloughing started). Lots of suggestions for newbies to start low at 10%, but I'm a tough cookie and – most importantly – I wanted results for all this effort! So I looked for 12% but Amazon only returned 15% in their results during that impatient search two days ago. And I received the 15% TCA Skin Peel Enhanced with 5% Salicylic Acid 'and other botanicals' from "Perfect Image" today (So exciting!).
- Stalled all day today before attempting the treatment, looked at more "Before and After" images and You Tube videos of experiences. Read more after care instructions. Read them again. Read the warnings again. Read the many ways to apply (again) and decided on one I thought I could successfully pull off. Read the great instructions, tips, cautions, advice and aftercare notes that came with the solution four, five times. Stalled some more.
DOING THE DEED (FACE PREP)
- Washed my face and neck twice with a face brush thingie. Round head, soft bristles and a face cleanser -- nothing harsh. I also wanted to somewhat relieve a bad spot of hyperpigmentation on my neck and a general 'kick' to my chest to lift some of the acne fading that was already well underway there, so I washed that all down as well.
- Cotton ball'd my face, neck and chest with 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol and ensured I got every trace of residual dirt and oil off. Went through several balls until I felt it was clean enough.
- While all the above alcohol’d skin was air-drying I got my list of items together and setup my work area:
> Just so happened to have spotlessly cleaned my vanity in my bedroom earlier in the day, so felt good about no dust or loose powders around to add to contamination concerns.
> Got several (~10) Cotton Swabs, a spray bottle with water and a handful of soft NON-terry-cloth towels -- They are actually old 100% soft cotton cloth napkins that I now use on my face to gently dry it. So got those. I figured they don't have any fuzzies like normal towels so that has to be good for a face that is about to have its skin acid'd off!
> Took the cotton swabs, the spray bottle and the hand towels and prepped them in the bathroom sink. I laid the cotton swabs all out on a papertowel (to protect surfaces from any acid drips) along with the TCA Skin Peel bottle.
> Got a gentle, ultra hydrating (mostly)-natural (cucumber etc) moisturizer ready at my vanity for post skin peel application and general fussing in the mirror.
> Got the neosporin out in case I felt I needed more than just the moisturizer after the treatment.
> Placed a very apparent clock with a moving second hand in the bathroom with me. This is serious stuff we're working with here, folks -- there is no time for an iPhone screen to lock up with your hands busy with ACID on your face!
DOING THE DEED (APPLICATION)
- Went to the bathroom where the cotton balls, the acid, spray bottle with water, second-hand-ticking clock, and hand towels were readied.
- I made note of the second hand and, based on advice, was going to move quickly so my face sat with the acid for about one minute at a time.
- Using one cotton swab per quadrant of my face, I dipped the swab into the acid -- I didn't jiggle it around in there, just dipped quickly until the head was fully submerged, then pulled it out and started zigzagging/wiping all over one quadrant of my face, spinning the swab when one 'edge' was out of solution. Finished that quadrant, quickly dropped the swab, grabbed another -- Dip, zigzag/wipe. Toss that one. Grab another swab -- Dip, zigzag/wipe and did my full face like that.
- I have a few problem areas in the photo I wanted to really get at so I added another dip/wipe over those areas along the jawline.
- By the time I was done it was 90 seconds. I started to feel a tingle -- the tell-tale sign it is working is the tingle so I neutralized my face by thoroughly rinsing with water -- mindful of nose creases, ear areas, hairline, just in case some acid slipped into these areas. I actually panicked a little at the tingling and spritzed my face with the water bottle before I remembered that I should be rinsing it off!
- After patting my face dry, I then did a quick pass of acid on my neck focusing on the hyperpigmentation problem in the photo-- I was cautious about overdoing it because I read the neck and chest are more sensitive and damage could occur if overtreated.
- While the solution sat on my neck, I quickly swabbed my chest. I let only a minute pass before I rinsed my neck, and then immediately after that I rinsed my chest. I read that even without the tingling and peeling the acid will help rejuvenate the skin, so felt I would just be cautious and not try to force it to the point of tingling for my neck and chest. Better safe than sorry. You can always do another treatment in a week for further results.
- So I decided I wanted to really get that problem area along my jawline, so I added another pass along the area, letting it sit for another full minute. And this time the tingling was more --well -- was just “more,” rather than just a faint hint. I felt that THAT pass would produce a result I would be encouraged with. Then I rinsed and patted dry.
- At this point my forehead was feeling taut, very smooth, and dry to the touch. Like a pre-moisturized forehead after a heavy duty exfoliation – the way the skin feels, like if you don’t get moisturizer on fast your forehead was going to flake. That’s how it felt. My face still tingled, and my chest was a little red, so I took all that as good signs of the TCA working.
- I double checked if I should use moisturizer or the neosporin and decided on the non-clogging, hyper-allergenic, paraben-free cucumber-derived moisturizer, and will use the neosporin tomorrow evening if things get really dry and tight. The moisturizer feels great on. The tingling settled down within a couple of minutes of adding the cucumber-derived moisturizer. Very soothing.
Right now it has been about two hours since I did the treatment. My face is moist to the touch, but if I squinch my face up (‘squinch’ is a made-up word), or frown my brow, I can feel a little tightening of the skin and see lots of teeny ‘striations’ in the skin which I surmise is an indicator of the acid drying (??) the skin. I don’t know how else to describe it -- it looks like it’s doing its thing :-) I don't think I'm going to have that dramatic paper-face peeling zombie-skin effect and results, but I do feel confident I will have some improvement -- enough to be encouraged to try it again until I (safely) achieve the results I'm looking for in just a few weeks.
And that’s where I end this for now. I will post an update tomorrow. Hope this helps someone.
Day three. Hints at peeling; TCA'd under eyes
Today is day three and no peeling, only hints that perhaps I will peel tomorrow. There is a teeny bit of occasional itchiness, a very mild irritation a few times today. Mt face feels very dry. I oscillate between wanting to keep my face slathered in moisturizer or let it dry out so I can see some sign of peeling. Have compromised and moisturize with added sunscreen when I go out and then wash it off with a mild face wash when I get home. I had also read that frequent "watering" helps speed up the peeling process. So that's what I'll be doing. Tomorrow is work and will heavily moisturize to conceal the teeny itty hints of peeking on my chin.
Lastly, yesterday I TCA'd under my eyes to see if perhaps I could get some relief for mt dark circles and fine wrinkles there. I put on two layers; three minutes each. Since I avoided this area on Day 1, it was like a new application for that area. So today is Day 2 for under my eyes. They feel dry and a little papery. But not tight and I imagine it is because they are already saggy-ish. I think they will have a light peel with slight improvement. Will probably do one or two more there if this first one has encouraging results.
Day, uh, 4? Yeah, 4. :)
Day 4. Peeling on the chin has started. Although I heavily moisturized I still had a disgusting bit of hanging crap under my lip today at work. Yeah, that was unpleasant. I made my apologies to the team that works for me in advance, informing them of my having had a chemical peel "... and will be molting throughout the week. Sorry about that, and will try to keep it under control." lol
So a few flakes fell off today from my chin, which I find to be ewww and disgusting and wish I could just exfoliate the heck out of my chin to get every bit of loose bits off... but I can't. You see, earlier today I made the mistake of tugging at this one piece that was 99.999999999999% peeled off and when I gave it just a little pull it *hurt* which I wasn't prepared for, thinking it would be like when your face peels after a sun burn and you can just peel away without any discomfort. Nope. Not with this stuff. It stung. So don't fuss with it. I won't be doing *that* again. It still feels sensitive hours later, like a haunting reminder not to touch my face.
My problem areas along the jaw and neck haven't yet peeled, but they are tight and super shiny which hints at a promised peel in about two days, I think.
This is actually Day 3 of the under eye treatment. Still feels papery and dry. There is a teeny itty bitty miniscule hint that peeling has commenced, in the inner corner area. I am *so* looking forward to ANY improvement under my eyes! I have dark, grimy-looking under eyes. No matter what I do, eat, sleep, or apply these eyes just always look bad. All my life. Have just accepted them up and feed my addition to concealer -- until now. Fingers crossed!
Day 5 Nothing significant going on today
Just some sloughing like with a sunburn. Those problem areas along my chin *may* be starting to peel, and get a feeling that it will just be a general improvement of the area, but not a life-changing event. In the few areas that have peeled, the skin feels smoother, moist. Newer. There isn't a significant look to my face today, but I can definitely feel the dry, that boring papery layer over my face and I just want it to hurry up and finish peeling so I can do this again, sooner. I intend to apply next in about a week after peeling is complete, focusing squarely on the problem areas as I don't think I have need to endure another whole-face project so soon. I didn't peel much 'over all' anyway. I think I will attribute that to a good prep/exfoliation the week prior to application, a lower %-age strength, and just a generally moderate application.
This is technically Day 4 for the lower eye lids and while I thought last night that I would see some peeling today, sadly that is not the case. The lower lid area, along with most of the rest of the face, still feels dry and a bit papery. Again, just 'meh' peeling going on with the lower lids.
Just hurry up and slough, already! I'm ready to do this again, applying all my lessons learned and *really* get to seeing a newer and improved face for all the effort.
Magical Day 6 -- It's true what they say
I read at least a dozen or so experiences and the majority of the people expressed seeing a significant change on Day 6 -- They got that right!
I am now regretting not taking any 'before' images of my lower eye lids because I think folks on there would have appreciated the success of my application. My lower eye lids, technically a Day 5 post-application day, have almost completely peeled in the last 24 hours. I kept them heavily moisturized and covered in concealer -- I know, I know... Not supposed to apply make up, however I am very much a working professional in a leadership position so there was no way I was letting the ugly out at work unchecked. I would *not* recommend anyone using face makeup like foundation or concealer if they are experiencing a medium or deeper peel. My peel is light - again, like a sunburn, and felt reasonably assured in my choice to use concealer without negative impact. I applied my concealer on my problem areas, leaving the face overall free of foundation, and only after moisturizer and sunscreen, then held it in place with some powder that matched my skin color. Yes, my face looked a little 'off' in texture due to an errant peeling edge of skin, but I would rather have that than the full peeling, splotchy, hyper-pigmented, scarred mess exposed from underneath. :)
Anyway, back to the lower eye lids. I am thrilled to see a marked improvement there. The dark "grungy" look is an 80% improvement! Like seriously. I had to look a couple of times in the mirror to validate what I was seeing: Improvement in my most hated part of my face. HAPPY-HAPPY-JOY-JOY! The fine wrinkles in the inner-most eye area are still there, with just a *little* improvement there, although still very encouraging. In the inner-most eye area there is still the last 20% of 'grungy' look. I *really* want to go after that last bit, but it is so close to the tear duct that I will give it serious consideration before attempting an application there. Clearly, this is the area I avoided during my initial application for the same safety concerns.
Not that I am a professional or anything, but if I were to recommend to anyone who is considering a TCA application for under their eyes, I would consider only 15% strength -- if not less. Without doctor care and use, I cannot in my mind reconcile why anyone would want to use anything stronger for such a sensitive area. And I would *not* leave it on for more than 2-3 minutes -- especially if it a first application. Please be extra careful with this area -- go slowly. You can always easily put another light application on later, but from what I have seen on this site you can rarely repair TCA burn damage without serious care from a highly qualified physician. And if you're doing a TCA application yourself to save money, well, then you're screwed because you are going to pay out of the a$$ to repair your TCA burns!
Observation on the peeling under the eye: People have reported that after the TCA application their skin gets really dark. That did not occur for my whole face application, however it did occur under my eyes and the peeling skin is dark, which I can see a stark contrast between that skin and the newer skin revealed. Someone with light skin would *definitely* notice that, but with my already dark, grungy-looking lower eyelids I couldn't really tell until they peeled. I found that interesting, and just thought I would share that small observation.
Regarding the rest of my face application: Am happy with the results. Any disappointment I may have at not experiencing life-altering results is completely within my hands and not the product. If anyone claims "Why see a doctor when you can save $$$ doing it yourself," it is because you are paying for their expertise, skill and experience. Never doubt that.
To recap, I gave myself a conservative application, and even with the light peeling I am thrilled. My face overall looks refreshed. Several small dark speckling is lighter. I would compare it to having diligently exfoliated and skin lightened for two months straight, only I got the results in less than a week.
My final thoughts are that the results of a light TCA is something you could eventually see with proper skin care over time. But the TCA is definitely worth it if you want those 'brighter skin' results faster, with more lasting results as this is truly new skin, not bleaching old.
Will keep writing daily until the peeling process is complete.
TCA Day 7 - Somewhere at the beginning I mis-counted days
... Because I applied the TCA gel last Friday and today is Thursday. But anyway, moving on...
In other news, my trouble areas along my jaw completed peeling. Out of the three areas I focused on, one area had remarkable improvement. I uploaded a photo. The other area along the base of my jaw is improved, but not remarkably so. Again, this less than mind-blowing result is attributed to technique, and not the product. I'll be going after this area ASAP... Like tonight, but most definitely tomorrow. The last area, under my jaw on my neck has barely any difference at all. Again, this is because I was extremely conservative with the application in that area. Am uncertain if I want to pursue another application on this problem area, or just let it naturally do its thing -- I mean, it *will* improve over time, I just have to decide if I want to be patient.
Eyes: Lower eyelids are still making my happy to see the improvement there. Just so darned giddy to not have them looking as 'grimey' as they did a week ago. Will *definitely* be doing another light application in that remaining inner-eye area I avoided last week. I practiced with a cotton swap and some moisturizer to see if I could safely apply the gel, and have decided that with care I think I could have a successful application.
Other than some fine peeling along the edges of my mouth I'm done. I'll keep up with the post as I reattack the problem area along my jaw and reapply under my eyes.
That's it for today!
Post-TCA Peel, Day 10
Just a quick update to day 10, post-TCA peel. The area along the jaw, closest to my ear is much improved. To mitigate any PIH, I started in with my complexion correcting serum immediately. I use Caudalie "Vinoperfect" and I love it. Pricey, but I do love it. I use it on my face and chest. I alternate between the Vinoperfect and neosporin on that spot: neosporin at night, Vinoperfect for day. Because I am hyperpigmentation-prone I will continue that for another week while the second peel is underway.
I am currently on a second "spot" treatment peel. This time I applied with a small fan-shaped paint brush, which allowed for a much more even application. I also applied smaller spots with a cotton swab, being careful to 'fan out' the edges so as to avoid spots of hypopigmentation, aks dots on my face after the peels. I used a cotton swab for the area along the lower edge of my jaw. Am on Day 3 for that follow up treatment, and can feel it is about to peel in the next day or so. Will post a pic of that as well.
Some words of caution: I got a little application happy with the second treatment and while I promised myself I was not going to apply over my whole face, specifically not going over my cheeks or apples, I ended up doing it anyway. Sorry I did. Immediately I felt that my skin reacted poorly to it and on day 2 it felt, hmm... "abraised." Now I know "abraised" isn't a word, but if you can remember when you lightly skinned your knee as a kid and a couple of days later tiny itty bitty small abrasions appeared, almost like pin-head scabs? Well that's what my cheeks did. Over did it. So I could tell something was wrong immediately after the first treatment and slathered on neosporin right away and have kept that on ever since. It is working because I am on day 3 and it has almost cleared. I am learning that the skin is an amazing organ, however I also understand this speeding heeling to be a result of the regeneration kick from the last treatment.
Regarding the neck, ahhh, I don't think I'm going to take any more chances with that area for fear of damage. I am just exfoliating and using topicals for correction. In time that will be much improved.
Like I said I was going to do, in this follow-on treatment I applied the TCA in the inner-area of my eyes. I DO NOT RECOMMEND anyone doing this at home. I practiced and practiced with water to get the technique down, absolutely certain I would avoid the tear duct, water line etc. And so I did and I was absolutely unprepared for the stinging/burning fumes from the TCA wafting into my eyes. My eyes wanted to water, and I ended up pulling my lower lids down, like you did when you were a kid making ugly, scary faces to reveal the inside of your lower lids. Okay, so not to extreme of a pull -- I didn't turn my lids inside-out, but I did have to pull them down *and* hold them like that for the full three minutes, all the while the fumes making me want to cry and not knowing what sort of damage even the "fumes" could be causing and afraid to close my eye for fear my upper lashes would pick up the amounts of TCA. I was fanning my eyes like crazy with my free hand! I swear, it had better be worth it. Don't plan on doing *that* again. lol
Anyway, have uploaded a pic I took tonight of my major problem area. I looked back at "Day 1" photo compared to now, Day "10" and I am really impressed.
Oh, and also, I found this great article, IMHO, on chemical peels. Goes into specific detail on peel effects on ethnic and dark skin, which I wasn't reading it for, but was pleasantly surprised to find and thought more folks need to see this article. Here it is, and I shall upload it as a new post for the greater community, as well:
"Evidence and Considerations in the Application of Chemical Peels in Skin Disorders and Aesthetic Resurfacing"
And in case I haven't said it, if you are dark-skinned, PLEASE please please don't use anything stronger than TCA15-20%. I have been doing *a lot* of reading and deep TCA peel strengths aren't even recommended for professionals to apply for dark-skinned patients -- unless, of course, you are really going for that serious, almost surgery like effect. If so, then see a doctor, definitely do not do it yourself. And expect several months to recover from it.
That's it for now.
Before and After 7 Days - Photo
Just got two photos together to make a before/after 7 days. Wish I had taken them in consistent lighting. Will work on that.
More on the technique I used and other observations
I found the trick to having an even result is to apply a nice, even, first layer over the whole face and let it sit for a few minutes. The TCA should not be dripping from your face, but it should be a light coating, not just a damp glistening. For the second application, which I just did this week, I let it sit no more than three minutes -- I was *not* going to burn my face, but everyone's skin reacts differently; watch carefully for that frosting and splash water if you see it sooner than three minutes or so. The instructions that came with in the box said leave the TCA on for 5-10 minutes --screw that; my face tingled at one minute. I listened to my body and it said "don't push it" at three minutes. Maybe after I do this for a while my face may require 5 or more minutes. I don't know how this works yet -- like does my skin build up a tolerance to the TCA, and therefore I would need longer times the more I do it? Don't know (yet).
So, then after I splashed water/wiped and dried my face I waited a full minute and proceeded with a second layer. I applied a second spot layer/application on the more problematic spots only. For these areas I tried to be careful to keep the TCA limited to just the dark brown spot I was targeting if the scar was isolated. However, if the area I was targeting was a closely grouped spattering of spots, then I just wiped on the second layer of TCA over the area that the spots made up, not individual itty bitty spots. Again, I waited three minutes before neutralizing well with plain water. After this I heavily moisturized and continued after care.
I read that 15% TCA strength and the short duration I'm leaving it on for is considered a "superficial" light peel, and it has best effectiveness when several peels are applied in a row. I plan on doing one more third "spot treatment" for my forehead next week and also work at that really dark spot on my jaw, then I'm going to give my face a rest for a couple of weeks. I will then probably pick it back up with two or three more weekly light peels until the rest of my skin has evened out. I figure at ~$300 for an office visit, I am saving $$$$ so I will be happy to take my time to not damage my skin.
Of course, if at any time you see any sign of serious irritation, burning sensation beyond the "tingle" or signs your skin just doesn't like the TCA you should be cautious about applying it again. TCA may not be for you -- there are several other types of peels. Read this medical article to learn more about TCA and other peels:
Admittedly, one of my second treatments resulted in a rough spot of skin which I think is from over doing it there. I have been fortunate that it has been improving with the use of neosporin instead of serious scarring. I'm feeling lucky about that.
Lastly, start your plan about a month before you're going to do your TCA peel so you can "train" your skin to accept chemicals and abuse like TCA by applying AHA creams/gels/serums or a Glycolic cream or retinol on your face. I applied daily, but your face could be more sensitive so you need to use your own best judgement on how much, how often and what to use. Something over the counter should work to train/prepare your skin the TCA. Worked for me at least.
Stop applying the creams a week before you plan to do your TCA to let your skin rest. Also, no exfoliation scrubs the week leading up to the peel either. This is the week to let your face rest. Maintain cleansing, toning, moisturizing and sun block.
Note: SUN BLOCK IS YOUR BFF
You will need to start using sun block with the AHA and similar type products, and most definitely immediately after your peel. So if you aren't using sun block yet, start getting into the habit. I also learned through this experience that contrary to understanding, though dark skin may not burn as easily, it is more susceptible to the sun than lighter skin in that exposure to the sun increases hyperpigmentation from acne scars. Dark skin just soaks up those rays, even if it does not burn. It reminded me of a science experiment I did as a kid: Black sheet of fabric and white sheet of fabric in the sun. The black fabric soaked up the sun and got really hot. The white sheet was much cooler as it reflected the rays. Probably has something to do with that and melanin etc. Whatever, I don't know why it is, but that's how my brain made sense of that tidbit of info I read about dark skin and hyperpigmentation. :) What I do know now is to use sun block every morning. I use "Self-Defense Vital Antioxidant Moisture SPF 30" by Boscia (www.boscia.net) purchased at Sephora. It is a little pricey at ~$38, but it is light, my skin doesn't react to it and it is slightly matte when it settles in. It is broad spectrum, active ingredients are Avobenzone 3% and Octinoxate 7.5%, moisturizer and sun block in one. When I run out I will be looking for same ingredients and comparable quality at less cost.
And don't forget: I'm not a doctor or a professional :) Good luck and enjoy!
Photo update! Can you believe it hasn't even been 3 weeks?! Wow.
Ok, I quickly took some pics tonight and threw together three 'before after' pics for my serious problem area along my jaw, my forehead and my chin. Again, my apologies for the lighting differences, but I think it is still good to show the progress.
Like I said I would do, am taking a break of the light weekly peels for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I continue to use AHA, sunblock etc. The 2% salicylic acne gel I use is THE BOMB at helping me keep break outs under control. I tried it a few weeks ago because it was the first product I have seen in a drug store that marketed for adult problems. It has two additional active ingredients that I think may be making the difference, but I can't make it out no the tube, but you can google the product, "Acnevir." Also, I had only *one* cystic acne 'break out' and I can't really call it that -- it was only ONE!! OMG I am so happy about that. And I was a good girl, didn't mess with it. After four days it is almost gone. The second night I had it I put my blow dryer on low and applied heat for 20 minutes because I read heat kills the bacteria. Well that must have worked, combined with the nightly heavy-handed blob of Acnevir over the spot, followed by a blob of neosporin on it overnight (after I wash the Acnevir off after an hour or so), because it is seriously *just about* gone. Yay! I have *never* had an acne cyst ever go away without serious problems.
Anyway, back to "before and after" pics:
1) Jaw Area: For my area along my jaw, the bottom spot is stubborn, however am really happy with the progress. Even without a spot TCA treatment on it this week it is still improved over the last one. Will continue to apply AHA, focusing extra on that area.
2) Chin: Now that is another surprise for improvement. The deep blackheads and other buried "ickinesses" are making their way up to the surface. What I have *not* seen is a single whitehead. Yay! Regarding the blackheads and general "ickinesses", the surfacing is true for my entire face, actually. After washing my face at night, I wrap my fingertips with tissue and gently prod the ickinesses along, being careful to only help out what is already *just there* ready to come out. Gentle, easy does it. Then I disinfect my face and continue with treatment, creams etc.
3) Forehead: Finally, my forehead is also noticeably improved, but not dramatically so. I know this is because was very cautious with the application there-- feeling that THAT area is up front and in your face, so that was one area I really didn't want to end up with burns/scars. Now that I have more practice and confidence I will resume light TCA peels, with extra focus on my forehead as well.
All in all, the improvement continues and I am still amazed at these initial results.
Do NOT forget your sunscreen!!
OH. MY. GOODNESS. IT. BURNED!
Moral of the Story: Always apply sunblock – everywhere.
Okay, so I used a new face product today with built in sun screen. I'm getting a bit cocky and used a much lighter tinted face cream. No more heavy foundations for me! As an experiment in lighter, sheer 'foundations' I tried the new L'Oreal Magic Nude, Liquid Powder with built in SPF 18, forgoing my usual Boscia sunblock, foundation and powder. All of that stuff, even with "mattifying" power and blotting, leaves my face a slick mess at the end of the day. I don't know why, exactly, my face is producing so much oil, only can assume it's from all this abuse even though I am moisturizing it like crazy at night. Hopefully this will eventually settle down.
Anyway... Back to my sun picks of death on my face today. I was driving into work, a beautiful bright sunny Hawaiian morning, the type of balmy summer day winter dreams on the East Coast are made of, when suddenly the area under my eyes started burning like lasers were focusing 1,000-degree daggers there. Like seriously, what the hell?! It took me a minute to realize IT WAS THE SUN! And that MY FACE IS BURNING – Like literally *BURNING*! Now, I had read that “you may experience sun sensitivities” with AHAs, peels etc, but nowhere does ANYTHING say to be prepared for lasers to be bored into your face. No, "sun sensitivity" doesn't cut it. More like "You will experience a sharp, burning pain like nothing before known -- different than a knife cut, different than child birth, this pain will be one similar to Superman's heat stare, only it will be focused on your face – YOUR EYES -- while you are driving, while you can't do anything about it because you already felt the pain, and those sunglasses, $250 UV/UB or not, aren't going to cut it!" Apparently I missed that little area under my eyes when I applied the "foundation" I applied with built-in sunblock. A mistake I won’t soon forget.
So. I snapped the visor down like it was my only defense in keeping my face from going up in flames, put the A/C on high blast and pointed those vents straight into my eyes -- my eyes... burning... must stop... cold... ice...ohmygodmakeitstop -- and juggling my sunglasses to simultaneously block the sun and let the AC reach my eyes. About 5 minutes later I was feeling better. Ahhhh... thank you Packard Motor Company for inventing air conditioning in automobiles in 1933. Wikipedia’d it ;)
Fast forward to later in the morning and I'm in a meeting in our conference room with the stunning view of Diamond Head on this beautiful sunny day. Sun?! Uh, NO; I don't think so! LOL I felt just a tingle of warmth on my face and jumped up almost in a panic, closed the blinds and turned on the overhead lights -- much to the disappointment of my colleagues. "Sorry. I am experiencing sun sensitivities."
Recently learned about Light Therapy
So apparently light therapy is the bomb -- LEDs to be specific. I stumbled upon a product at Sephora and I got all excited about the possibilities of using LEDs to treat acne... and then read up about it and learned that different colors do have different effects: Green LED can be used to lighten hyperpigmentation, blue LED to reduce/avoid acne, and red LED for fine lines and wrinkles. There is also yellow, orange and white, but I forgot what those do because I was focused on solving my particular problems. Sowwy :(
So after a few days' research I ordered Green, Blue and Red LED light panels. I'm 42, and wrinkles aren't a problem yet, but I figured what the heck, I might as well rock it the best I can before lines *are* a problem.
I am currently waiting on my green LED light to arrive in the mail. I'm in Hawaii and it is coming from China so it'll be a few more days.
My blue light, however, arrived yesterday from New Jersey (gotta love eBay). Last night I used it on my face for 15 minutes to treat two problem bumps: one cystic acne bump on my chin and the other just your normal p.acne type bump on my cheek. I got that cystic bump thanks to missing a BCP - grrrr!!! The pimple was a blackhead I tried to extract that rebelled. And it'll scar. Always does, even if I don't touch it anymore.
So... again, last night 15 minutes under the blue LED. Tonight, 24 hours later, the cystic bump on my chin is greatly reduced; not as much pain and much smaller. The pimple on my cheek is almost gone! Many sites claimed the blue LED won't work with cystic acne, but I had read on *one* site that it *can* help, but needs a boost with a topical, so I slathered on a good pile of 2% salicylic gel on both bumps and let the light do its thing. According to that site, the light is supposed to "push" the topical further into the skin to work better. Supposedly. Well, I guess it worked based on the results today because I haven't had luck with topicals alone when dealing with cysts. I am about to apply the light again on my chin for another 15 minutes before going to bed.
So, to recap:
I'm trying light therapy as an adjunct to TCA peels.
- Blue LED: treat acne
- Green LED: treat/repair hyperpigmentation
- Red LED: fine lines and wrinkles.
You can read up all about light therapy online. Then, take a tip like the one I got and hit eBay for "plant growing lights" to save the most money. If you are interested in LEDs I highly recommend you do some research. It's some pretty exciting stuff.
Since this is mostly about improving the condition of the face, not so much acne per se, I will ensure to take photos of those stubborn hyperpigmentations along my jaw that I still have remaining. I will use those as the "before" pics for the Green LED. I really hope it works. In the meantime until my light arrives in the post, it's the Blue LED to keep those cysts at bay to AVOID the scarring in the first place.
TCA Results -- About 1 month later
Okay, here are some updated pics. It has been six weeks since I started this.
So far I have done:
- Two 15% TCA peels
- Kept up with an OTC retinol nightly cream
- Weekly deep cleansing with exfoliation (scrubbing) and clay mask
- Twice a day cleansing. In the morning it is with RoC cleansing pads (the gold container). In the evening I use Neutrogena Blackhead remover. I use this as a mask once a week.
- Moisturizer with Sunblock in the morning. In the evening it's the retinol I mentioned, and Philosophy Hope in a Jar over the retinol. It goes through the retinol, or so I read. Must work because my face isn't over drying/flaky from the retinol anymore.
- Eye cream, also by RoC for under my eyes and on my eye lids. I love this 5-in-1 cream because it really has been working for my crepey under eyes and is lightening the dark circles as well. Have been using it for two weeks, and will see where we are in a few more weeks.
In the pics, I can really see a diff now with the stubborn hyperpigmentation. I also picked up a new one on my forehead since this started. But that is where the green LED light will come in. More to follow on that.
What you will also notice in these latest pics is a cystic acne bump on my chin, under the outer edge of my mouth. I have used a blue light on it two nights in a row and it has reduced in size by half! Am super stoked to see the healing time cut so much! I don't know how it will go completely away, as I am usually left with a dried bit left under the skin that doesn't come out without a huge amount of extraction effort -- and subsequent scarring. Grrr. Am praying that the light will allow it to go away without all that trouble.
That's it for now.
The Green LED Lights arrived!!
Okay, this is crazy but my green LED light bulbs came in from China already. It took only 5 days. Wow. I picked up three of these because at ~$4 ea, and shipping at ~$7, it made sense to me to pick up a few of them.
I have uploaded the photo that will become the "before" shot to judge how quickly, and effective the light therapy goes. I know for the Blue LED I am already impressed with the effects on my pimple and cystic acne. Fingers crossed I will see improvement in hyperpigmentation quickly as well.
I think a week from now, with daily use, will be a good time to retake a photo. So unless the lights make a huge difference overnight, I will post an update to the green LED at that time. I also may have to relocate this part under a new subject on Real Self, and if so will cross link the blogs.
So... here I go! Wish me luck!
Link to Green LED and Blue LED Experiment
I started a new post to properly have my LED treatments under the right category. Here's the link if you are interested:
Did another TCA application tonight...
Put a light 15% TCA application on tonight. I got super bummed over the blue LED actually making my hyperpigmentation darker. So while the blue LED kicked some serious acne butt, it isn't too kind on my darker skin and hyperpigmentation. It has set me back a little as a result and I wanted to try to regain some of that lost ground. And that's why I did a 15% TCA peel. I'll be all peeling and grody at work next week as a result, and I don't care :( Bummed about the blue LED 'tanning' issue. I will have to clear my face up completely before using the full-face blue LED panel again. In the meantime, I have a smaller 2.5" blue LED light on order so I can focus on individual pimples/problems and mitigate the whole face tanning issue.
Now let the peeling begin! :)
10 Week Photos
Have added a few photos I took at 10 weeks, a couple of weeks ago-ish. I have not done a full TCA treatment in about a month. I have, however, continued with a few spot treatments using a q-tip to target a few stubborn areas. I did like three in a row, and I just got sick of the constant peeling so I gave it a break so I could just sit back for a couple of weeks and actually enjoy the face! lol The unbelievable has happened and I actually go out without foundation! Wow. The jaw line is like crazy improved now. I am *just* about ready to apply another spot treatment on a couple of new PIH spots from a break out last week. It just doesn't matter if I pop, pick, or completely leave a pimple alone because it will still scar, it is only to what degree that is the difference. Grrr.. This may be close to my final update on this post as from here on out it is all about maintenance, because the life-long battle for clear skin will continue to be sure. But, all in all the face is looking great by my standards! I'm just so thrilled to have mostly clear skin for the first time since my first break out at the age of 12! The (thus far) approx 3 months of twice daily commitment to the face program was time very well spent -- better late than never! :)