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Day 3 after laser treatment: Peeling and progress — and peeling

While getting to know Christine Tatum, chief executive officer of Denver-based communications company Media Salad, Inc., we quickly found a great person to explain the journey to healthy skin we at illuma Advanced Aesthetics are passionate about helping our clients navigate. Our deal was simple: we would introduce Christine to our services, and she would tell the unvarnished truth about her experiences. You can read her first , second, third, fourth and fifth posts. We all hope from the resulting series she periodically will maintain on this blog that you learn some interesting things to help you achieve your own skincare goals, laugh a little — and that you visit uat illuma to begin your journey.

I spent yesterday gingerly touching my face to apply a little makeup with hideous results. Today, I woke up with skin flaking off everywhere. 

Gross — and yet I was a bit relieved because I could finally see fresh, new facial skin emerging and sense a return to normalcy.I probably have never been so excited to wash my face — or more surprised by how many times I would need to wash my face on this third day after my first encounter with laser skin resurfacing. Thank goodness for cool water and illuma Advanced Aesthetic Skincare’s ultra-gentle and moisturizing Soothing Cleanser  and Spray Moisturizer. Throughout the day, my facial skin would tighten and start to flake, signaling it was all right for me to make another trip to the bathroom. Using gentle (key word), circular motions and only the very tips of my fingers, I removed dead skin from all over my face. I repeated this process several times — maybe eight times in 15 hours — and there was always more skin to remove. 

Until there wasn’t. 

And when there wasn’t, I figured Fran might get a Christmas card from me this year after all. There were so many obvious-to-me things to be excited about! 

For example, my facial skin was just brighter and less waxy. And for the first time since my teens, my forehead was as smooth as a baby’s bum. No more stubborn milia — those tiny, firm, white bumps that may look like whiteheads, but are actually cysts containing built-up keratin just beneath the skin’s surface. Milia cysts — much like the one you can see on my forehead in the upper left frame of my “before face” — are harmless and don’t have any redness or inflammation unless you pick at them. Picking at melia is unwise because these cysts are tough to extract. Leave them for the professionals — like Fran, whose laser zaps them away in fractions of seconds. 

And do you also see the changes in lines and skin toning under my eyes? I’ll get to that stuff next. 

Day 2 after laser treatment — and my face starts to peel

While getting to know Christine Tatum, chief executive officer of Denver-based communications company Media Salad, Inc., we quickly found a great person to explain the journey to healthy skin we at illuma Advanced Aesthetics are passionate about helping our clients navigate. Our deal was simple: we would introduce Christine to our services, and she would tell the unvarnished truth about her experiences. You can read her first , second, third and fourth posts. We all hope from the resulting series she periodically will maintain on this blog that you learn some interesting things to help you achieve your own skincare goals, laugh a little — and that you visit uat illuma to begin your journey.

There are so many things to plan for when scheduling laser facial skin treatments, and you, gentle reader, get to benefit from my lack of foresight.

I have two big recommendations.

One: If you’re using facial recognition technology to access your home, adjust your thermostat, or open apps on your mobile phone, you might want to put all of that on pause until you have recovered fully. I grossly underestimated just how much my face would peel and flake — to the point that it felt as if it were falling off. Let’s just say my devices didn’t recognize me, and I had to come up with some unexpected workarounds.

Two: You really, really want to hang out at home for a few days, so clear the calendar, and stock up the pantry. I did neither of these things. Sending teenagers to do the shopping was easy, so I didn’t screw up too badly there, but my maiden recovery from laser skin treatments conflicted with a high school graduation party I simply couldn’t miss.

Before heading out, I tried desperately to cover my face. Fearful that the scabby “coffee beans” under my eyes would flake off while talking with someone, I liberally applied the illuma Spray Moisturizer. And though this was an evening event, I was determined to use the Daily Defense SPF because I was so rattled at the mere thought of being hit by a ray of light at sunset.

Then it was time to apply some sort of makeup. Oh, what to do? Oh, what a mess. What a complete mess. See the photo for yourself. It’s worth a thousand words, all right. This was not my finest hour — but I knew I could show up looking like a trick-or-treater on this particular doorstep because these friends have known and loved me for decades.

Day 2 after Christine’s first facial laser skincare treatment.

“Welcome!” my longtime buddy said, squinting to take a closer look at my face as I tried to hurry past him to hang out with the dog in the laundry room. “Wait. What did you do to yourself?”

There was no avoiding this so I headed into the brightly lit kitchen. Eyes widened. There were just a couple of winces. I looked better than I thought.

A smart lawyer friend with absolutely flawless skin beckoned me to sit beside her. She was grinning as widely as the Cheshire Cat — but not quite as widely as Certified Laser Specialist and illuma Advanced Aesthetics Co-owner Fran Valdiris, who sold me on all of this skin rejuvenation stuff.

“I know what you’ve been doing,” I could swear she purred.

“Oh, really? What is that?” I asked — all of a sudden gobsmacked by the realization that she was into this torture.

“Be glad because you’re looking like the crypt-keeper’s wife, so you’re turning a corner and should see new skin tomorrow maybe,” she said matter-of-factly. “I do this to myself, too, and it’s totally worth it — but I don’t go out in public.”

I was instantly fascinated and shifted into interview mode. My friend’s legal specialty includes the evaluation of medical devices. If there’s anyone who is going to ferret out effective and safe practitioners and skin lasers, it’s her. She was pleased to hear I had taken the time to ensure illuma uses only machines that have received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration and are made in the U.S., too.

“I look at it like this,” she said. “I’ll spend lots of money on clothes, shoes, makeup and on and on, so why wouldn’t I spend it on my face? I wear that 100 percent of the time. I’m just strategic about how I go about all of this. I think of it as preventative maintenance, like changing the oil or rotating the tires, but for my face. These treatments are also pretty well tried and tested — and, like all things, skill matters. When you find a good person, keep ‘em.”

It was a lovely party. As I bid everyone goodnight, my lawyer friend mouthed five words from across the room: “Do not forget to moisturize.”

The day after a first laser treatment

While getting to know Christine Tatum, chief executive officer of Denver-based communications company Media Salad, Inc., we quickly found a great person to explain the journey to healthy skin we at illuma Advanced Aesthetics are passionate about helping our clients navigate. Our deal was simple: we would introduce Christine to our services, and she would tell the unvarnished truth about her experiences. You can read her first , second, and third posts. We all hope from the resulting series she periodically will maintain on this blog that you learn some interesting things to help you achieve your own skincare goals, laugh a little — and that you visit uat illuma to begin your journey.

Hate is a strong word, and my parents taught me never to hate anyone. However, on this day, I intensely dislike what illuma Advanced Aesthetics Co-owner Fran Valdiris — the Certified Laser Specialist, Registered Medical Assistant and Licensed Aesthetician with more than 13 years of experience as a laser technician and more than two decades of professional experience in the medical field — oh-so-sweetly convinced me to do to myself. 

She is definitely not getting added to my holiday card list. But I’ll give Fran this much: she sure predicted the pain I am experiencing one day after having my first laser treatment for face and neck.

Christine Tatum at 8 a.m. on the day after her first facial laser skin treatment

Over the next few days, Fran explained just before I left her office, my recovery initially would force years of skin damage to the surface, and I would see what she euphemistically called “the coffee beans.” These are small, round, brown and scabby sores, and, apparently, the more damaged your skin, the more coffee beans you make. They appear in full force for first-timers, Fran said, because subsequent laser treatments should be reviving much healthier skin. “Coffee beans” flake off in four to five days. 

I have made a great number of coffee beans. I also have moved on from being Christine Tatumato to looking like a balloon. I am swollen, so I take Fran’s advice: get some good rest, try to sleep while inclined, take extra-strength ibuprofen or Tylenol as directed, moisturize treated skin heavily — and stay out of the sun for crying out loud.

Christine Tatum at 10 p.m. on day after her first facial laser skin treatment.

I learn from this day a couple of things: 

  • The body’s ability to heal itself is amazing — and fascinating. I am sharing selfies I snapped at 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. In that 14 hours, the redness of my skin and my facial swelling subsided significantly. The coffee beans are more pronounced and angrier, but I also can feel them drying and tightening because yes, they’re on track to slough off in just a short time.
  • Skin moisturizer is my friend. As in we are super close because I can feel my skin tightening into what I expect in just a couple of days will become one heckuva a peeling mess. I must confess I have not always been consistent about moisturizing my face daily — and this experience is a painful reminder of how dumb I have been. Moisturizing skin helps keep it hydrated, healthy and refreshed — especially as we age. The oil glands that kept our skin healthy and vibrant in youth basically wind down a bit. Moisturizing daily provides much-needed supplements for loss of oil production. 

Moisturizing facial skin also typically requires one to touch one’s face — and that is the last thing I want to do right now. illuma Advanced Aesthetics also anticipated this about my post-treatment recovery and gave me a bottle of its Spray Moisturizer. Just a couple of uses of this stuff, and I became an instant fan. What a life saver! This generous and soothing moisturizer applied and dried easily — and without leaving a heavy residue. 

Unlike the makeup I found myself trying very unsuccessfully to wear the next day. 

One hour after my first laser treatment: What did I do?

While getting to know Christine Tatum, chief executive officer of Denver-based communications company Media Salad, Inc., we quickly found a great person to explain the journey to healthy skin we at illuma Advanced Aesthetics are passionate about helping our clients navigate. Our deal was simple: we would introduce Christine to our services, and she would tell the unvarnished truth about her experiences. You can read her first and second posts. We all hope from the resulting series she periodically will maintain on this blog that you learn some interesting things to help you achieve your own skincare goals, laugh a little — and that you visit uat illuma to begin your journey.

I finally have a sense of what it must be like to fall asleep face first in a mound of fire ants.

I mean really, just look at this photo. I am Christine Tatumato. 

This was far worse than the worst sunburn of my life — which happened when I was 15 and helped land me in this predicament. Talk about full circle. 

“‘That has to hurt,’ my son said. ‘You must really want to remove those wrinkles.’ And, ‘Oh, my,’ was all my daughter could muster.”

On my way out the door of illuma Advanced Aesthetics, co-owner Fran Valdiris — the Certified Laser Specialist, Registered Medical Assistant and Licensed Aesthetician with more than 13 years of experience as a laser technician and more than two decades of professional experience in the medical field (I really had to keep repeating her professional credentials in my head …) — handed me a list of instructions about how to care for my searing face and neck. I immediately reviewed them and couldn’t imagine how sadistic someone would have to be to break these general rules: 

  • “Avoid using ice. Use cold washcloths or compress only.” (No worries there, Fran. The mere thought of something, anything touching my facial skin — I wouldn’t have cared how cool — was horrifying.)
  • “Avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours after treatment.” (Ha! No twisting my arm there.)
  • “No heat exposure (hot tubs, sauna, steam room) for seven days or until after skin is completely healed.” (Who in the world would invite more heat exposure?)
  • “No sun or UV exposure for two weeks after treatment.” (Holy moly, yet another thought to make my burning skin crawl.)
  • “No use of any exfoliating products or manual exfoliators for two weeks or until skin is completely healed.” (Who goes home and exfoliates after this?!) 
  • “No skin treatments or injections for two weeks or until the skin is completely healed.” (I was happy to see Fran and her business partner, Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist Brittany Otto, insist clients pace themselves …)
  • “Sleeping at a 45-degree angle will help to avoid excessive swelling.” (Wait. Excessive swelling? What excessive swelling?) 

The ride home was uneventful only because I made no eye contact with drivers pulled up next to me at intersections. However, walking in the door and facing my teenagers was a different story. Their jaws literally dropped. 

“That has to hurt,” the boy said. “You must really want to remove those wrinkles.”

“Oh, my,” was all the girl could muster. 

And then the doorbell rang. What?! We were not expecting guests. I specifically had arranged my schedule to avoid sunlight and steamy cups of coffee. How could someone possibly be ringing the doorbell? 

Alas, it was a three-man furniture delivery team thinking they were providing extraordinary and excellent service by stepping up their schedule. Under any other circumstances, I would have agreed. 

I opened the door — and immediately suspected these guys play a lot of poker. Their eyes widened for a split second, but no one flinched or otherwise acknowledged the painfully obvious. They behaved as if they see dancers who starred in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video all the time.

“OK, fellas, so I have a new variant of COVID-19,” I said matter-of-factly — and we all burst out laughing. By the time they left, they were wishing me well and asking how they could get their own sun spots, crow’s feet, acne scars and moles removed. 

It was a curious and fun way to make new friends before I hunkered down for what skin resurfacing veterans casually call “the Weekend Peel.” 

The big day: My first laser treatment

While getting to know Christine Tatum, chief executive officer of Denver-based communications company Media Salad, Inc., we quickly found a great person to explain the journey to healthy skin we at illuma Advanced Aesthetics are passionate about helping our clients navigate. Our deal was simple: we would introduce Christine to our services, and she would tell the unvarnished truth about her experiences. You can read her first installment of this series here. We all hope from the resulting series she periodically will maintain on this blog that you learn some interesting things to help you achieve your own skincare goals, laugh a little — and that you visit uat illuma to begin your journey.

I showed up at illuma, still not entirely sure of what I had gotten myself into. Yes, I read up on cosmetic laser treatments, my providers’ professional qualifications, and some of the specific skin conditions I wanted addressed — but I am confident now that pretty much no one knows exactly what to expect of their first time under the light sabers and lawn mowers of facial skin resurfacing. 

My goal was — and still is — simple: I want to remedy some of the common, annoying skin problems that tend to crop up with age, such as melia, skin tags, xanthomas, angiomas, hyperpigmentation and broken capillaries. Lucky me, I had them all! (Notice my use of the past tense.) Something else I noticed only in hindsight is that my 50-year-old facial skin had dulled, even appearing a bit waxy — as seen in the photo of oh-so-naive me just before my first laser treatment started.

“I am confident now that pretty much no one knows exactly what to expect of their first time under the light sabers and lawn mowers of facial skin resurfacing.”

There are few better sherpas to guide someone through this process than illuma Advanced Aesthetics co-owner Fran Valdiris, a Certified Laser Specialist, Registered Medical Assistant and a Licensed Aesthetician with more than 13 years of experience as a laser technician and more than two decades of professional experience in the medical field. She is plainspoken and direct because there is no sense in hiding that this is going to hurt. 

“Today and tomorrow you will hate me,” she said, as she applied a cream that numbed my face to the point I found it more difficult to smile. “But in a few days, you will like me again, and in two weeks, I will be back on your holiday card list. 

“Did you remember to take the recommended dose of Ibuprofen or Tylenol? We really do want you to stay ahead of any discomfort.” 

In other words, buckle up. 

My first session incorporated four therapies — none of which I could see in action because to do so would have blinded me with science. Protective eye shields are a must. 

BroadBand Light, or BBL (TM). This handheld device triggers a non-invasive, skin-rebuilding process that can be the foundation for, and used in conjunction with, all other treatments. BBL eliminates age spots, small facial veins and vessels that cause redness. It also makes pores less noticeable — as I firmly can attest because I haven’t seen my nose look this clear or smooth since elementary school. The pulsing light energy BBL transmits gently heats the upper of layers of skin, and heat absorbed in targeted areas of concern stimulates skin cells to regenerate. The number of treatments needed varies according to the issue being addressed and the outcome desired. BBL’s producer, California-based Sciton, describes the sensation of having this therapy as the feeling of snapping a rubber band across the skin. That’s a fair description. I would add only that in my case, it felt as if Fran were popping those big, thick rubber bands that are perfect for holding together the TV remote with the broken battery compartment lid. The discomfort didn’t last long — and given that I have experienced the joy of childbirth, I was able to keep it in perspective. 

MicroLaser Peel. Fran matter-of-factly called this laser treatment the “lawn mower” — and I concur, only there is no wonderful smell of freshly cut grass. Instead, there is a slightly unpleasant odor from the removal of a very thin layer of damaged skin and facial vellus hair. MicroLaserPeel is one more tool in Fran’s arsenal to treat mild wrinkles, scars, keratosis, sun damage and pigment irregularities. Removing the top layer of damaged skin also eliminates damaged cells that can make skin look tired and aged. As old skin dries up and peels off (oh, I can’t wait to show you those photos …), new skin shows improvements in tone, texture and color evenness. Depending on the depth of treatment, many people report they are comfortable enough to return to work (OK, and be seen in public) in three or four days. That was true for me, too. 

ProFractional Therapy. This procedure uses a tiny laser beam to treat thousands of pinpoint areas in the skin — and the sound of it running across my face and neck reminded me immediately of the rapid-fire clickety-clack of a typewriter. This is the laser that essentially zaps into oblivion fine lines, deeper wrinkles, scars and sun-damaged skin, but the real benefit it brings to skin rejuvenation is the stimulation of collagen production that adds firmness and vibrance throughout the 4-6 months after a treatment. Because only a fraction of skin is treated directly by the laser, surrounding, untreated tissue promotes a speedy recovery. While the procedure itself is easy enough to tolerate, recovery — especially when Profractional Therapy is combined with other treatments — takes a few days. “Immediately following the procedure, you may experience mild redness and a sensation resembling a sunburn,” laser maker Sciton says of this treatment, adding, “There will likely be some swelling that will subside within several days following the treatment.” 

Yeah, I’ll say

To laser and fill, or not to laser and fill?

While getting to know Christine Tatum, chief executive officer of Denver-based communications company Media Salad, Inc., we quickly found a great person to explain the journey to healthy skin we at illuma Advanced Aesthetics are passionate about helping our clients navigate. Our deal was simple: we would introduce Christine to our services, and she would tell the unvarnished truth about her experiences. We all hope from the resulting series she periodically will maintain on this blog that you learn some interesting things to help you achieve your own skincare goals, laugh a little — and that you visit us at illuma to begin your journey.

I wasn’t looking for this kind of cleanup of my 50-year-old face; it found me. I am Christine Tatum, a busy wife and mom. I am also a longtime journalist and owner of a communications consulting company in metro Denver, so, when I am not shuttling teenagers to shopping malls and music lessons, I help other business owners promote their services and products. 

But never before with photos of myself.

“I wasn’t looking for this kind of cleanup of my 50-year-old face; it found me — and I’m so glad it did.”

I mean really, I am not exactly model material, and while I do a fair amount of public speaking, I consider myself lucky to make an engagement on time with matching earrings. I wash my face. I apply sun screen. I wear a little makeup. I am just not one to obsess about aging or to get all worked up about the lines beginning to appear under my eyes and on my forehead. In my line of business, those wrinkles are evidence of the continual squinting and furrowed brow of eagle-eyed editors. 

So, when Brittany Otto and Fran Valdiris, co-owners of illuma Advanced Aesthetics, asked my team to build a website for their new practice, I must be honest about my first thought:

“Oh, no. Aren’t these the outfits responsible for that woman who looks like a wildcat? And the people whose lips are on the verge of exploding? And what about all those folks who can’t raise their eyebrows anymore?” 

I simply didn’t know enough about all of this stuff — the laser resurfacing, the skin tightening, the Fibroblast Plasma Pen — and I wasn’t sure I wanted to, either. 

But then Brittany and Fran showed for our first meeting, and they looked completely normal — pretty and radiant even — and all of their facial muscles seemed to work just fine. Even better: they quickly demonstrated a passion for, and command of, skin care, both in terms of treatment and prevention. And as the wife of a psychiatrist, I especially appreciated their interest in helping clients feel better about themselves by addressing some of the common skin problems that often undermine confidence,  increase anxiety or exacerbate depression. They include: 

  • fine lines and wrinkles, 
  • pigmented irregularities,
  • loose and sagging skin,
  • vascular lesions,
  • acne and acne scars, and 
  • excess hair growth. 

Aesthetic skin care, I have come to understand, can be a lot like orthodontia or tooth whitening. It can be like a lot like having a personal coach, gym membership, Pilates instructor or a nutrition consultant. It isn’t absolutely necessary — but it can help mightily to achieve great health outcomes. This thinking about cosmetic lasers and dermal fillers might explain the markets’ rapid growth in just the last few years. The global cosmetic laser market was valued at more than $1.81 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach more than $5.4 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research. Similarly, Fortune Business Insights reports that the global dermal fillers market is expected to hit $6.64 billion in 2027, up from $3.73 billion in 2019. 

Still, there is great reason to be circumspect about cosmetic lasers and dermal fillers — and the companies shaving and shaping skin with those machines and syringes. Who hasn’t seen the ducky lips, unnaturally protruding cheeks and frozen foreheads reminiscent of the Stepford Wives? Let’s face it, a lot of bad results have convinced people like me to steer clear of advanced aesthetic skin care.

When Fran and Brittany asked if I would help them document the process of facial skin rejuvenation for current and potential clients — especially the middle-aged mamas out there — admittedly, I needed a little time to think about their offer for reasons I will explain in future posts about my foray into their professional world. But yes, I decided to make the leap and to let the smart, knowledgable and caring aesthetic skin care practitioners at illuma see if it would be possible literally to shave years from my appearance. 

I am so very glad I did — even though I felt as if I had been stung in the face by a mound of fire ants after my first procedure. I’ll get to all of that next — and I salute Fran and Brittany for wanting someone to tell their honest story so folks considering aesthetic skin care can have better understanding of what they might be getting themselves into