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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