The level of perfection that is expected of a woman’s appearance is so high these days. First, there are these celebrities who preternaturally don’t seem to age or gain weight, even while going through pregnancies and childbirth. Then there are just regular old beautiful people IRL. In my West Village barre studio, I’ve often stolen sideways glances at the packed class and noticed how women are so slim and youthful, with spotless and smooth faces. These days, 50-year-olds look like 40-year-olds in the past, and 40-year-olds look like what 30-year-olds used to look like.
Which begs the unfortunate question, are 30-year-olds supposed to look like 20-year-olds? As someone who’s turning 30 in a few short months, this is certainly a daunting prospect. Even under best conditions (full night of sleep and heaps of serum), I most certainly don’t look 20. When I look at photos from that time, I’m so shocked at how smooth and plump my complexion is. Most of all, I’m wistful that I had almost no issues with dark circles, which have replaced hormonal acne as my arch-nemesis. 🙁
So entered the query: what if natural beauty products can only do so much? After all, the preternaturally ageless celebrities rely on these light & laser treatments to erase their lines, spots, and dullness. Even natural beauty guru Gwyneth Paltrow has admitted to doing Thermage treatment, which she confessed was like getting smacked with an electric rubber band, adding: “I would do it again, because I feel like it took five years off my face.”
Sooo, I did some research on what laser treatments are, and here’s what I found.
What laser treatments are good for: old acne scars, sun spots, sagging appearance, loss of elasticity, wrinkles. Many of those things may have been at least partially caused by too much exposure to things like sunlight. So, it might seem surprising, but other forms of light, such as LED or IPL light treatments, can help to correct photo-damage. And then there is another category of treatment, lasers, which could help you to regain your skin’s healthy glow.
What IPL and LED Stand For
LED stands for “light emitting diode” and IPL stands for “intense pulsed light.” These two are in fact not laser treatments. They offer light treatments on totally different frequencies from lasers, sometimes known as “cool light” frequencies.
LED and IPL treatments are known as mild skincare procedures, and they are often used to generally revitalize the skin, as opposed to treating a specific scar, blemish, or wrinkle. They can generally trigger the production of healthy hormones and proteins within your body. Those materials will then be moved to your cells in an effort to repair any skin damage that you may have.
Since those forms of treatment are so mild compared to aesthetic lasers, they probably won’t improve your skin’s condition significantly at first. However, after you wait a while for your body to repair itself, and most likely after several treatment rounds, you should see your skin start to look better. But if you don’t want to wait that long then laser treatments may be more your speed.
What are Laser Treatments & their expected results?
Lasers are different from LED and IPL machines because they use singular, focused beams of light on a particular frequency. Laser light tends to be quite hot. Depending on the type of laser procedure you have, the laser can basically “burn off” blemishes and dead skin cells. However, your clinician should apply cooling and numbing creams to your skin so that the process won’t be uncomfortable for you.
Of course, there are different forms of lasers. Ablative lasers are stronger, while non-ablative laser machines are much more mild. There are also other lasers, such as CO2 and Fraxel machines, which all have their own distinct advantages and drawbacks.
As for what kind of results you can expect from laser procedures, it depends on your skin problems and the type of laser procedure you undergo. It might take many non-ablative laser treatments to see significant differences in your skin quality. On the other hand, you might see changes after only one ablative treatment, but that doesn’t mean that ablative treatment is necessarily the way to go.
So can laser treatments complement your natural beauty routine? I inquired Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse M.D., dermatologist in Beverly Hills and a Clinical Instructor at the University of Southern California.
“LED and Laser Treatments are non-invasive, drug-free skin care modalities that can easily be combined with natural skincare regimens,” she said, stressing that “they are not ‘toxic.'” She uses the non-invasive Blue Light LED to treat acne, since it’s effective in killing P.acnes bacteria and even preventing future breakouts. Infrared (Red) LED is used to treat inflammation and speed collagen production–cha-ching! Younger looking skin. But for all lasers and LEDs, she notes that they cannot penetrate more than a few millimeters of your skin. So while laser treatments might not sound as holistic as a bottle of organic neem oil, maca cacao clay mask, or a floral tea steam facial, it’s also not tested on animals, carcinogenic, or hormone-disruptive, like the vast majority of the conventional beauty products women still use on a daily basis.
How to Choose One Skincare Treatment Over Another
Choosing your skincare treatment comes down to your own personal preference, philosophy, and budget. In addition, the type of treatment you’ll need also depends on your skin type and issue, which your dermatologist will be able to advise.
The bottom line: Gwyn Pal herself has admitted that it’s a paradox. “I think it’s a mix…You know, I use organic products, but I get lasers. It’s what makes life interesting.” I don’t think a laser treatment is in my agenda any time soon, because my career doesn’t depend on my physical appearance (hallelujah)–and also because I’m still convinced that bright, compassionate eyes and a warm smile are the most attractive things. But will I be visiting an infrared sauna very soon? Yes, indeed. 🙂
More in anti-aging: Anti-Aging Skincare That Will Make You Look 5 Years Younger (Srsly)
Photo: Gwyneth Paltrow via Instagram