35 Yr Old Got IPL for Lots of Sun Spots and Freckles - Washington, DC

I have always been careful to wear sunscreen every...

I have always been careful to wear sunscreen every day, but I have very fair skin and I guess the damage added up and hit a tipping point this last year. I have also always struggled with acne and only recently found something that works for me (oral spironolactone - wish I had found it 20 years ago - I went from having an overwhelming skin care routine to being able to just sleep in my makeup and it makes no difference.) So it has just been really frustrating to jump almost straight from worrying about acne for so many years to having really horrible age spots. I just want to have nice skin for a few years of my life

So I went for a regular follow up appointment with my dermatologist in July and we talked about options for dealing with the spots. He has always been really nice about saying he doesn't think they look bad, which I appreciate, since I don't want to feel like someone is trying to push services on me. We talked about a mélange mini peel or IPL. I did some research on this site and IPL seemed less scary to me, notwithstanding all the horror stories. The tipping point was also that the doctor operates the IPL machine, but the peel would be done by an esthetician.

I went in for my appointment this morning. My doctor carefully reminded me several times that my freckles would be removed along with the age spots and I was like yes please! Most of these are not freckles!! Who knows which is even which at this point. Ugh. I hate them all!

So it took maybe 2-3 minutes and maybe 20 zaps total. It was very quick. I was only in the building for 30 min. Oh and the weirdest thing is when he did my chin I could feel it in my lower teeth. I guess because my teeth are heat sensitive and it was flashing through. That wasn't really painful, just surprising.

I would say it hurt about a 5/10 while he was doing it (where 1 is like a paper cut and 10 is like that instant when you catch your pinky toe on a door jamb and lie on the floor screaming and trying not to vomit from the pain.) I jumped a little every time. I believe it was the same machine he used when I had my laser hair removal done a few years ago, so it was about what I was expecting - painful in the moment, but not so much so that you don't want to go back. He kept offering to give me a break but I had him power through because that is my pain preference. I basically think it hurt about as much as getting your thighs waxed, but for less total time.

Right after it was done my pain level felt like a 2/10 - basically like how it feels if you slap your own bare thigh good and hard and the stinging kind of lingers afterwards. I thought it felt more like a slap than a sunburn. After about an hour while I was driving home it felt a little worse, maybe 3/10. That lasted about an hour.

After 4 hours it felt totally fine. My face was splotchy red at first, which you can see in the pictures I took at about the 4 hour mark. It has been about 8 hours now and all the redness is gone. All that's left now is everywhere I had a freckle or spot it's about 3x as dark as it was and very slightly raised.

The way it looks right now is kind of how my skin already gets after I have been doing something outdoors (regardless of how much sunscreen I apply!!), which is why I wanted these spots GONE. So, while it doesn't look ideal, and I'm definitely going to put makeup on before I go anywhere, it looks better than I expected. Maybe they'll be darker tomorrow. Or maybe it looks more dramatic for people who didn't start out with such defined freckles.

In any case, I am cautiously optimistic! There were three spots I hated the absolute most - one under my right eye, one on the right side of my nose, and one area with a bunch on the right side of my forehead by my hairline. I can already see that he definitely got the one under my eye and the ones on my forehead. Fingers crossed for the nose.

I was planning to post pictures, but I am uncomfortable with the privacy policy, which states "Once I click submit, I understand this content will appear publicly and cannot be removed." That seems unusual.

I will try to update every few days. Reading the reviews on this site was absolutely the number one thing that made me feel comfortable about trying this procedure, so hopefully this will help someone else!

Days 2 & 3

At the end of Day 1 I ended up going out to dinner with my husband and I put a fair amount of makeup on. I used my sort of full coverage foundation and it did not really cover the dark spots, but I felt like I looked fine and good enough that I could go to work. I had asked for three days of working from home this time because I wasn't sure what I would look like (Wed/Thur/Fri + Sat and Sun off seemed like enough time just in case.) Next time I may just go in the afternoon after work and go back the next day with a little extra make up.

On Day 2 my spots looked about the same. They had darkened up within 2-4 hours and I don't think any new ones have gotten dark or that anything has gotten darker over time. I had to go out into the world to do some things in the afternoon and I barely put any makeup on (which is my usual going to the grocery store MO.) I just used my drugstore mineral pressed powder on my face. I feel like when I get a little bit of sun, even with reapplying spf, my freckles/spots turn almost this dark anyway, so I was like meh whatever, this is good enough to stand in a checkout line and go to the gym.

Today is Day 3 (counting procedure day as Day 1 since I went first thing in the morning) and it looks the same to me. No change. No flaking. No new spots. No tingling, itching, or discomfort. I think some of the spots have maybe shrunk a little. In particular, the spot I hated under my eye looks like it's sort of dissolving away.

So far so good, but I would love to see some of these spots fall off!!!

Also regarding freckles, I just felt like my doctor was being a little dismissive like "oh those are just freckles on your face" when I know that some are freckles and some are age spots. They may well be the same thing from a medical perspective, but I feel like freckles are a cute little sprinkling in the areas where you've always had them, and age spots are like OMG WHAT IS THAT THING UNDER MY EYE NOW??? My freckles were smaller and darker and the age spots were lighter and bigger. So the goal wasn't to eliminate freckles, but if they go away, I do not care. They are not a big part of my visual identity to me.

Days 4, 5, 6

I thought the spots would flake off like dead skin, but I don't really notice when they come off. They are like little black very flat scabs. Every day there are fewer. Almost all of the black spots towards the center of my face are gone now. There are still quite a few around the edge of my face, mainly my cheeks and the area that had a lot of damage on my forehead.

I assume that once the black spots have fallen off, that's as good as it's going to get in that area. I think I am going to have to have at least one more IPL session because there is still a lot of pigment left that I wanted to have removed in the center of my face. It is not even a 50% improvement I don't think.

The doctor did say that people usually do a series of 3, but I was hoping I might be happy with the results after just 1 session to save some money. I'm going to have to take some pictures to compare. The camera always picks up way more flaws than I thought I had.

One Week Later

The last of the darkened spots came off yesterday in the shower, so my skin seems to have healed up within a week. Now that they are gone I can see the results much better. I think it actually might be a 50% improvement. It definitely did improve a little after I posted my last update.

There were three areas I really wanted to improve. The spots on my forehead, which were the result of one specific bad sunburn are almost totally gone. It's a huge, very noticeable difference! My forehead came out the best of anywhere, I think maybe because that area was not freckled, just sun damaged. The spot under my eye, which I have hated for at least 10 years, is improved by about 50%. The spot on my nose... unfortunately escaped being treated. The doctor only fired twice at my nose, once from each side, so maybe he somehow missed it, although it's right in the middle on one side, so I don't know. Ugh. It also took away probably 50% of the spots going down each side of my face. There were a ton of those, but they didn't bother me as much.

Now that some of the darker, smaller spots are gone, I can see larger patches of lighter sun damage if I get up close to the mirror when I am not wearing any makeup. I'm not sure yet whether those bother me or not. Once I put my makeup on (tinted moisturizer & pressed powder) I think it looks pretty good!

I am interested to see what will come back over time. My doctor said once you have the spots removed, they do eventually come back from continued sun exposure, and that most of his patients are more unhappy about it after they have had them removed once. I'm not sure if the exact same spots come back or if you just get new ones in new places.

I think I need one more treatment to get the result I was looking for. I just have to decide whether I want to get it done in October/November, or wait about 6 months till I have to go back in for a prescription refill. I may just use a bleaching cream for a while again. That would probably be enough to get me through winter and I just use the Ambi fade cream which is only like $4 vs $300 for another IPL treatment. That is what I used before my wedding and it did make a significant difference, although obviously not as much as the IPL!
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