(303) 770-0417

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.” 

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