ADULT ACNE LASER TREATMENT
Written by Kiersten, contributor
When I was a teenager, I had perfect skin. I used to babysit for a woman who would ooh and ahh over it and ask me what I used to get such a flawless complexion. It was a little bit creepy and I didn’t quite know how to answer because, really? I didn’t do much. My secret was that I had no secret.
Once I reached my 20s, this was no longer the case. That’s when I started breaking out. It was like some kind of karmic punishment for blissfully skipping over the zit-filled teenage years. I tried everything to get rid of it. Everything. I’d shell out any amount of money for the latest hyped-up acne cure. It was this never-ending cycle of high hopes dashed by utter disappointment as the flare-ups reoccurred. My self-esteem, already tenuous at best, was completely decimated. Every pimple was further evidence that I was hideous, that I was doing something wrong, that I should just lock myself indoors and not emerge until my skin was blemish-free.
After trying a myriad of over-the-counter treatments, I went to a dermatologist for the first time when I was 24 where I was diagnosed with mild acne. I remember being completely incredulous–“Mild? Pfft. Really? You think this is mild?” Maybe on the doctor’s fancy scientific dermatological scale my acne was mild. But on Kiersten’s emotional acne scale of dysmorphic thought and beating myself upness (yup, that’s the name of it–it’s patented too), my acne was The Worst Acne Anyone Has Ever Experienced. I remember back then telling my husband that I had never seen anyone with worse acne than I had–that mine was literally the worst. I’ll admit, I even had frequent crying fits over it, wondering why I was cursed with this–what had I done? Anytime someone mentioned their own or someone else’s acne in conversation, I immediately thought it was some kind of covert jab at me and I’d stew over it for days. In short, I became a complete nutter. A paranoid, acne-obsessed nutter.
Acne is different from a lot of other physical flaws. You might have a crooked nose or a wonk eye, but no one blames you for that. But with acne, there’s a stigma. People seem to think it’s your fault. I remember reading a message board about Teen Mom (don’t judge me!) and people were criticizing Maci for having a bumpy forehead–“She needs to stop worrying about guys so much and spend some more time washing her face!” “Doesn’t she know she’s on TV? Why doesn’t she do something about her acne?” Because, you know, it’s totally within the power of the acne sufferer to just make the breakouts disappear, right? Oh, wait, you mean I have to wash my face? All these years, I wasn’t washing it at all! Oh, so that’s why I’ve been breaking out!
More than the breakouts themselves, my problem is the hyperpigmentation I get after a zit goes away. Sometimes I have a red spot for up to a year afterwards. I kept complaining to my dermatologist about these–I called them scars, she reassured me that they were not. Finally, she suggested I might consider laser treatment to get rid of the few actual scars I had, as well as those pesky red spots. She also suggested that the laser treatment could cure my acne. I enthusiastically agreed. Lasers, after all, are the future.
Fast-forward to a few months later. I was in a chair, about to undergo the first of two CO2 laser treatments for acne that I had paid $2000 for. I was optimistic, but beneath that excitement laid an almost imperceptible feeling that this was wrong. That feeling came to the fore as soon as the cosmetic surgeon zapped the first problem area on my face. The pain was the worst thing I had ever felt in my life. What I didn’t know was that the nurse who anesthetized my skin thought he was doing a light treatment while the doctor planned on doing the treatment at the highest level possible–essentially burning off the skin on my face. I have a high threshold for pain and a German sense of stoicism that usually keeps me from crying in front of people, but I immediately started to quietly weep as the doctor zapped my skin, again and again, like a firey knife scraping away at my face. As the procedure went on, I became nauseated from the acrid smell of electricity and burnt skin that filled the room. I just wanted it to be over, but it seemed to be unending.
It was then that I realized how stupid this all was. I was going through all this pain, through a risky procedure that could leave me scarred even worse than when I started, for what? I was so vain, so obsessed with my acne that I lost all perspective on everything else. Sure, I have breakouts, but they’re the angry, deep ones that lie so far beneath the skin that no one probably even knows they’re there except for me. And even if other people could see them, they’re probably too preoccupied with their own flaws to notice mine. And if they do notice? So what! I had spent the last two years on a medication that made me dizzy and dried out, a topical treatment that bleached my bedding, and now I was undergoing an incredibly painful procedure that would produce minimal results in even the best case scenario–what was I thinking?
I walked out of that room in a daze, shocked from the pain and sick from realizing what a horrible mistake I had just made. I had had surgery twice in the year prior to this laser treatment and recovering from this was far, far worse. I had to slather my face in Vaseline twice a day, which dripped onto my clothes and chest, leaving me feeling slimy and gross. I couldn’t shower for a week, which didn’t help either. I got a serious infection, first diagnosed as staph and then, after a (painful!) tissue sample, pseudomonas aeruginosa–if you’ve never heard of it, I invite you to Google it. It’s pretty scary. Likely, I got it from the cosmetic surgeon’s office. In case you were wondering, I cancelled my second laser treatment.
So in the end, I was out $1000. The red spots that were supposed to go away after the procedure were still there. My entire face, in fact, was beet red for several weeks. And it didn’t take long for me to start breaking out worse than I ever had–essentially, I had paid to make things worse. But you know what? I finally gained some perspective on my acne. And that, as they say in Mastercard commercials, is priceless.
Read about acne treatments that I have tried!
Written by Kiersten, contributor – @ohkeeka on Twitter
* This is a personal post.