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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.”

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