Our long-time employee, Michele, shared with us about her two experiences with the Co2 Fractionated Laser under the care of Dr. Greg Wells at Ada West Dermatology. Like lots of ladies her age, she was feeling the effects of a youth spent in the sun covered in oil as well as scars from cystic acne. Now Michelle knows better and has made good use of her dermatology knowledge for herself and her two daughters. This Q and A with a Co2 Laser patient will hopefully give you more information about the process. Click here to learn more about the CO2 Laser from our Board Certified Dermatologist, Greg Wells, MD, FAAD.
You might relate to some of Michele’s skin care background or present day skin goals…
- She had acne scars from her teenage years.
- She has sensitive skin.
- She spent plenty of time tanning in the SW Idaho sunshine in her younger years.
- She wanted to renew dull skin, redness, and the subtle wrinkles and sag from aging and sun damage.
What was your skin care like growing up?
My skin wasn’t very oily and it was pretty natural, but I got really big cystic acne, which tended to scar my face a lot. And so I was always really careful of what I put on my face, ’cause I was really sensitive. I was on put on a drying medication for the cystic acne that would dry it out. I saw a dermatologist for probably about four or five years. We really didn’t grow up using SPF a lot at all. We would put oil all over to tan or climb up on the roof and just coat yourself with it.
Coming to work here and hearing about all the damage it’s like sometimes I just don’t feel like people understand all of it. And especially that most of that damage is already done by the time you’re our age. Now with (my) girls, I really push to have them do a lot of SPF at their younger age so that they can reap the benefits of better skin instead of trying to fight it later.
What has been your biggest skin challenge so far?
I felt my skin was dull. Like I didn’t have that nice, shiny skin. And of course, as a woman, whenever you have any kind of redness to it, you wanna put makeup on it, but then the makeup dulls it even more. So then I just felt like I looked old all the time and that was a huge struggle for me.
Why did you decide to get CO2 laser treatment? What were your hopes for CO2 Laser treatment?
I decided to get a CO2 laser treatment because I felt like my skin was so dull and struggling with a lot of the pock marking and the acne scarring and then redness on my skin. I didn’t want to have to put on a lot of foundation every morning. I wanted to look obviously younger. That’s all what we want, right, the fountain of youth? I spoke to Dr. Wells to see if I was a candidate— I was a little worried that maybe I would stay red for a long time or maybe it would affect me differently. So I did have a consult with him to make sure that it was something I was able to do.
I actually was quite surprised of all the other things that I ended up seeing after having it done— like the elasticity coming back in my face. I started noticing a definition in my cheekbones again, because my skin started getting tighter around the face area. And so even the smile lines weren’t as deep. I would say after two months, the red on my nose is gone. Like I don’t have to worry about that at all. There was a lot of positive things that came through it.
What was the procedure like?
So I’ve done it twice. I’m a little scared of needles and so the first time I had it done I didn’t have him put the blocking in. They just put the numbing cream on my face and then I had the CO2 and that was really painful and the swelling on my face was really bad.
Then the second time I did it, I was like, okay, I’ll try the blocking. And you didn’t feel anything. Every once in a while, like if it got really close to the nose or really close to the ear, it would hurt, but maybe an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. And it’s not very long. He just holds the laser down for just a few seconds and then brings it up and it’s hot. Dr. Well’s medical assistant is really good at keeping a cool fan blower blowing on your face the whole time. So it’s definitely not a pleasant experience, but I wouldn’t say it’s so awful that you can’t just make it through. I mean beauty’s pain, right?
Was there anything that surprised you?
The second time around, I think surprised me a little bit because it wasn’t so sore and the swelling wasn’t so bad. And I think what actually the first time I had it done, what surprised me was how long the swelling and the redness took to go down. And I remember thinking, I am never doing this again, but then once my face healed and I saw my skin was glowing, I was like, oh, I’m doing this again. It’s definitely a roller coaster because it’s so scary when you have it done that you look in the mirror and you don’t even look like yourself. You’re so red, and it looks so different. Then, all of a sudden, you see the benefits of it and you’re like, oh, oh my gosh. And then you can’t stop looking at yourself in the mirror or touching your soft baby skin.
How far apart were your Co2 laser treatments?
I had mine done two years apart.
How long did it take you to heal?
Even though I had it done in October (3 1/2 months ago), my skin is actually still healing, but I would say healing to the part where you can put makeup on and actually feel like people aren’t staring at you in public, it takes at least four weeks. But then it’s still really sensitive. So you definitely have to make sure you’re putting a ton of SPF on it. Even driving in the car to work, you could almost feel the heat on it cause your skin is so sensitive still and so raw. You’ll still be healing for months, but the redness and the rawness goes away. You definitely feel it because your skin is soft. Which then of course makes you wanna take care of it more because now you feel like you have this fresh baby skin! Knowing that it’s so sensitive that you’re definitely using SPF and making sure that all the pre-cancers don’t come back. But I would definitely say you start seeing results even more and more and more. I mean it’s January and I still look at myself and see results every day!
Have family and friends noticed?
Family and friends notice the glow almost right after the redness goes down. Everybody’s always like, oh my gosh, what are you putting on your skin? Or people who didn’t know I had the CO2 will come up and ask. And it seems like a lot of the smaller wrinkles around your mouth and around here (between the eyebrows on the forehead) go away as well. A lot of friends and family will ask if I’ve had Botox or something and it was just from the CO2, but the texture of your skin literally is amazing after it’s done. Like, I can’t even tell you like every time I touch my skin, it doesn’t even feel like my skin — it’s so soft and nice. I love it!
What would you tell your best friend if she was going to look into doing the same procedure?
I always say think about out what is happening in your life because you are gonna have a very red face for a while. So you’re not gonna be able to entertain with people or, you know, go on a trip somewhere or be out in the sun. I always do mine in October when the sun is not at its brightest and I’m not out as much. Then there is enough time to heal before the holidays. But I would definitely also be aware that your skin is going to be really sensitive and it could even react to the makeup that you’re used to wearing now because it is really fresh skin.
How do you care for your skin now that you’ve invested in it like you have?
I’m definitely more concerned about putting the right kind of things on it in the right order. Sometimes I think you have so many things on your vanity and you just start slapping ’em on …then you start having a reaction from just mixing them. So I’ve tried really carefully to make sure the things I put on my face are healthy and not going to make me break out or have a rash, especially with it being so sensitive.
Any favorite products?
The Elta MD** is my very favorite cuz it’s tinted and I don’t even have to worry about putting on a foundation in the summertime if I don’t want to. Or you can just put that on and then put a little bit of a powder on. Another one I like is the Neutrogena Ultra Boost. A lot of people use the lotion, but it actually comes in a SPF as well. It almost feels like water on your face. It almost feels like water on your face. So I don’t feel like it’s tacky or I can feel it and you can put it on under your makeup without any issues of it looking chalky or weird. So those are my, probably my two favorite.
**You can purchase Elta MD Sunscreen through Skin Type Solutions ( See “Take the Quiz”)