A new laser treatment promises the same results as Botox – but withoutneedles
by Flic Everett
BOTOX shot may have become as normal as a haircut in certain circles. But plenty of women are still wary of injecting toxins into their faces and desperate to avoid the tell-tale tight, shiny skin look.
So the idea of an alternative with the same effects, using nothing more than light, could be a godsend.
Intense Pulsed Light treatment (IPL) promises to rebuild sundamaged skin, fade wrinkles and work wonders on pigmented skin and even acne. Botox-free actress Anna Friel is a huge fan, recently enthusing: ‘It’s the best thing around.’
IPL is similar to laser treatment, but uses different wavelengths of light, rather than just one beam. It penetrates several millimetres into the skin to target hidden damage, via short flashes of bright light from a computer-controlled flash-lamp.
It all sounds a bit Deep Space Nine, but anything that can reverse sun damage and soften wrinkles without freezing the face gets my vote.
At Loved beauty salon in Bramhall, Cheshire, owner Helen Lewis says that their IPL Ellipse machine is increasingly popular for rejuvenating skin. ‘After the age of 28, there’s hardly any new collagen production,’ she says. ‘So your skin gets thinner. IPL encourages it to produce collagen.’
The treatment may, she adds, encourage hidden sun-damage to the surface, but after around seven days any pigmentation should vanish. At £178 a session, it’s cheaper and longer-lasting than Botox.
Before my treatment, Helen introduces me to the Beau Visage machine — a camera wired to a computer showing hidden skin damage.
It may not be visible yet, but once the camera’s picked up on the excess melanin from sun damage, the dilated veins and pigmented areas, you see what you’re up against.
I’m dreading the results. Helen takes three pictures and grim shots of me looking like a mottled corpse flash up on screen. I don’t smoke or sunbathe, but I seem to be packing a fair amount of freckling and very unpleasant thread veins on my nose.
The Ellipse treatment takes place in a normal treatment room with a hand-held device similar to an ultrasound
scanner. After cleansing my face, Helen rubs on a goopy gel, then places damp cotton wool pads over my eyes to block the light.
It makes me feel as though I’m about to be re-animated as a cyborg. Yet once the IPL starts, I can think flicking sensation on my skin.
‘It feels a bit like an elastic band pinging off your skin,’ Helen says. And it’s exactly like that. Certain areas, like my cheeks and chin, are easily bearable, but round my lips and nose it’s eye-wateringly sensitive.
I’m aware of brief, intense flashes of red light and begin to worry my whole face will be bright red for weeks. There’s also an alarming smell of singeing. ‘Don’t worry,’ says Helen. ‘That’s just a few facial hairs being zapped.’ Not my eyebrows, hopefully.
The treatment takes under 15 minutes, so you could have it done in a lunch hour. Although three sessions are recommended, I’m promised just one should make a significant difference to my skin tone and appearance.
At first, I can’t see any difference, but the next day I have dark circles around my eyes and tiny new moles and pigmentation have appeared on my skin. But the lines between my nose and mouth — which I hate — are noticeably reduced.
Over the next few days, the pigment gradually fades, and while I may not look like Anna Friel, I can’t deny that after an extremely stressful few months — and far too much wine — my skin looks better than it has in years.
It’s not the show-stopping ‘ohmy- God, what happened to your face?’ look: it’s a subtle lightening and brightening effect — perfect for spring.
You can’t go out in the sun for a few weeks afterwards — but having seen what damage the sun can do, that’s fine by me. I’m never leaving the house without a parasol again.