As a teenager and through most of my adult life, I had a horrible habit of picking at my zits. It's a nervous tic, I pick at anything I can claw at when I'm nervous or excited and thanks to that awful habit and terribly oily Asian skin, I've got marks on my face from it.
Now that 37 is almost coming to a close and I head deep into "upper 30's" territory, I've started really investing in my skin, most of all the skin on my face. I've been more conscious of what I slather on it, I spend a little bit more on makeup brands that aren't full of awful chemicals, and I've started seeing an awesome dermatologist.
Last week I went in for my first of two Fractora treatments. It's not a chemical peel but it's another resurfacing treatment that's been proven to have better, long-term results and doesn't require more than three or four treatments if your skin's really bad. Since my scarring is minimal I'll only need two which is a relief because holy shit it hurt like a MF. And I have a high threshold for pain too.
Anyway, I know this is a huge difference from what I normally post but I couldn't find many articles or recaps out there for my own reference so hopefully my experience will help other people who are considering doing this.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not speaking on behalf of my dermatologist or Fractora or medical professionals. Everything I have on this blog is from MY perspective and my own personal experience. So the results of my treatment will be different from yours or your friend's.
Here we go!
After checking in at the dermatologist and getting the "before" pictures taken, I had numbing cream glopped all over my face and waited for about an hour for it to set in. By the time I washed it off, I couldn't feel my lips.
One of the technicians rubbed pure alcohol all over my face (it's REALLY hard to inhale, btw and I kept coughing) then I had some cool air blown at me. That cool air is constantly blowing through the procedure to keep your skin cool.
First off, I've clearly forgotten how to do my yoga breathing - where you deeply inhale and exhale through your nose into your belly instead of your chest. For my next session I am going to focus entirely on that instead of the intense pain on my face. Anyway..
So Fractora is a treatment where a grid of tiny pins prick a few millimeters below your skin's surface and introduces heat into those layers. I'm dumbing it down like crazy for you, if you want a more detailed explanation go here.
"Prick" puts it mildly. It felt like my face was getting stapled and the areas that hurt the most were (in order of "I started to cry" to "oh that wasn't so bad):
- Upper lip
- Nose bridge
- The crease between your cheeks and nose
- Jaw/jaw bone area
- the further into the center of your face
- Eyelids (realy the outer corner under your eyebrow)
- Fleshy part of the nose
- Cheeks (but I have chubby cheeks which are, finally, coming in handy)
My doctor did two passes over all those areas focusing on the problem areas more. The second time was just torture and I was shaking so badly because I guess I was super tense and trying my best not to start sobbing. The numbing cream didn't completely numb my face, but I don't even want to think about how bad it'd feel without it!
By the way I want to thank the nurses/technicians for being SO encouraging and so sweet. Everyone was in the room, I guess to observe but it was nice having all that support in there. Next time I'm asking for the stress ball and blanket sooner than later.
During the procedure I could also smell what I guess is burning skin. Because of the heat that's passing through the needles but thanks to that cold air it didn't feel hot till after the air was turned off and we were done.
The whole thing didn't take more than maybe 20 minutes? 30 tops. I was SUPER red and but not quite puffy yet and I looked like I'd sat in a tanning bed for much too long. Other than that, nothing hurt, my face just felt hot.
I was not allowed to leave the house for 48 hours. With literal holes in my face, and this being a season of hacking and coughing and colds, I would be prone to infections. That aside, I looked frightful and there was no way I wanted anybody to see me so it was not a problem to stay home.
My face actually felt fine, I did have to take Tylenol just so the pain didn't bother me much but I didn't need the ice pack they gave me. The cold I'd been fighting off did decide to just kick my butt though so trying to blow my nose without rubbing at the skin was .. interesting.
Things did get a little crusty, especially around my chin and the surface of my skin felt a little rough in places but not terribly so. I stared noticing a couple of teeny whiteheads pop up but I didn't think much of it and they seemed to go away by the end of the day.
That night, I had to prop myself up on pillows and keep my head elevated as I slept so reduce swelling but when I woke up the next day, I was a little less red and not as puffy.
Still with me? Great.
Woke up, washed my face with a mild facewash like I was instructed. Put on the first of 4 BioCream applications for the day, started on work.
My face started to itch but I figured it was part of the treatment so I just ignored it and went about my day. Things were also looking a lot redder today and I could see the grid of pin marks scabbing over on my forehead and round my face.
By the evening the scabs were starting to completely show up and they looked like teeny, very orderly blackheads. There was still a lot of redness and some itching around my cheekbones and brow and a few more whiteheads had popped up but again, didn't think anything of it.
So according to everything I've managed to look up and according to the instructions, the redness should have mostly subsided by now. Except, each time I applied the BioCream to my face, my skin would get really angry looking and more of these little whiteheads (some were getting bigger now) started popping up.
Made a call in to the emergency number and my dermatologist recommended I go get some Cerave face wash - it's super mild, apparently, and gentle enough to use on a newborn therefore gentle enough to use on my currently extremely sensitive skin.
The face wash seemed to help, and things would calm down after a couple of hours (and a Benadryl) but as soon as I applied the cream again, there they were more bumps. Was told to wait a day and see if it subsides.
I just got back from a very quick dash into Walgreens to pick up Cerave moisturizer. When I woke up this morning, things had calmed down considerably though my skin had gotten dry overnight and though it wasn't read, it was flakey. After washing my face I applied the BioCream and wouldn't you know it - RED RED RED again. Made another call to the emergency number and was told to skip the BioCream for now and get some milder moisturizer.
I quickly covered my face up with some powder foundation (boy did that make things itch) and tried my best to just play it off like "hey yeah my face does look like that, what of it?" and picked up what I needed. Came home, took a shower, washed my face off again and applied the new stuff.
The itching was a little less intense, there was still some redness (I'm now beginning to think that maybe that's just how it's going to be for now each time I apply moisturizer) but it isn't as angry looking. The moisturizer isn't as intense or rich as BioCream but it'll do for now. I just want to be able to leave the house to go do my job tomorrow!!! I'm supposed to be able to put on makeup after 72 hours (so technically, I can today) but I don't know if it'll be enough to cover up the scabbing and not scare people I see.
Aside from all this, I swear I am already noticing a difference. My scars seem to be shrinking bit by bit though all the materials I've read about Fractora indicate that results will develop over time and could take up to four weeks to REALLY show. So maybe it's psychological, maybe it's actually happening but I am so excited to see how this improves the texture of my skin.
I go back for another treatment in the new year. In the meantime I'm going to keep practicing calming breaths so I'm not as tense that go-round.