Best Face Forward

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I spent the flight home to Toronto from Vancouver with a wet paper mask on my face. I didn’t have a mirror on me, thank goodness, but my face, neck and chest felt like I had fallen asleep on a chaise in Maui. On the gangway just off the plane, I ran into a fashion industry bigwig.

“Leanne you look so great! Were you at the yachting? Your tan is perfect.”

Um, yachting, nope, but thanks for the fancy shout-out. An aggressive sunblock fan, I never tan, except for a special-occasion Malibu Barbie spray version about once a year. I had actually spent the day on a laser quest at ProjectSkinMD, a very chic medspa in South Granville. I admit to secretly feeling very jet-set glam, on a secret beauty mission across the country.

I had done all my homework: For a month before the treatments, ProjectSkin’s Dr. William McGillivray had prescribed a Skinceuticals routine. A flagrant, lifelong step-skipper in my beauty regimes, I was a good girl for the entire prep time. I needed some results and I knew I had to be compliant for the sake of the story.

I used the full slate of Skinceuticals products set out for me by the doctor. Skinceuticals is a science-based line of skincare owned by L’Oreal. Founded by the late Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, this is clinical skincare, used by dermatologists, plastic surgeons and medspas to correct and prevent signs of aging and pre- and post- aesthetic procedures. (My routine and product descriptions follow below.)

Based on a scary makeup-free set of photos taken by the PR folks here in Toronto, Dr. McGillivray determined my 47-year-old skin needed a two-pronged laser approach.

First, to get rid of redness and broken capillaries, he used the VBeam Perfecta ($350 to $800 per treatment; I only did one treatment with each of these lasers; they are customarily done in a series of six or so, a month apart.)

In his own words, Dr. McGillivray says: “Vbeam is a pulsed dye laser regarded as the gold standard for the effective and safe treatment of unwanted vascular lesions such as vessels, birthmarks, scars and port-wine stain.”

The doctor himself has to wield this laser. It is a bright light and a shock of pain: the bigger the broken capillary the nastier the sting. Now, my skin had been numbed with a topic anesthetic, but you really feel this sucker. Luckily, I was deeply motivated to get rid of the red marks, but I was vastly relieved when the twenty minutes of treatment stopped.

Next up was the Clear + Brilliant. This is a gentle (non-ablative) laser for skin resurfacing. Its big brother is the state-of-the-art Fraxel laser, which comes at a price: skin that looks like raw meat for a full week of downtime.

In contrast, Clear + Brilliant ($500 for face, neck and chest) is a “lunchtime” treatment. That is a bit of an exaggeration: you do end up quite red that day (hence my stress in running into a colleague on the plane). It is about a tenth the strength of the Fraxel, and removes only the top layer of skin. It is a wand that punches microscopic holes into the skin with heat in a process called photothermolysis; the skin responds the day after with a sandpaper texture.

This mild scarring washes off by the end of the week, leaving smoother, more even-toned skin. It is good for sun damage, so we did my neck and my chest (which is blotched up with the baby-oil tanning habits of my reckless 20s).

The goals of Clear + Brilliant are to even skin tone, boost radiance, reduce pore size and fine lines, and enhance elasticity by encouraging collagen production to aid in healing. Brown spots are caused by UV radiation and free radicals that produce melanin irregularities. The laser dissolves the melanin. Used in combination with the Skinceuticals regime and CE Ferulic vitamin C, the effect is to provide overall lightening and evening of the skin.

The Clear + Brilliant is an easy treatment: it lasts about 20 minutes and involves a technician moving a wand across your face in both an up and down and an across pattern. It feels a bit like laser hair removal, a series of pings. But as the treatment ends, you realize your skin is generating a lot of heat,and that is where the discomfort comes in.

The technician put on Skinceuticals Biocellulose Restorative Masque (professional use only) to absorb the heat, soothe and reduce the overall redness effect. Biocellulose is an artificial skin barrier that seals in moisture. It is commonly used in wound dressing after burns and grafts.

Amy Chen is the Scientific Communication and Training Leader at Skinceuticals. She explains why how the use of clinical skincare in conjunction with lasers maximizes results.

“Skin is definitely more permeable after a laser treatment. According to our clinical study, skin can uptake up to seventeen times more of CE Ferulic after a non- ablative laser treatment. This result is due to all the micro porous channels we created with laser.” Now, CE Ferulic is the hero product of the Skinceuticals family. It is pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid).

“Pure vitamin C has four major benefits, “ says Chen. “It neutralizes free radicals, it stimulates collagen synthesis, it brightens the skin and it is anti-inflammatory.”

So what was the verdict? I am fair and blush easily, which means I tend to redness and sensitive skin, so I was worried about putting myself through more extreme beauty trials than I was used to But once the sandpaper crust formed (it doesn’t look as bad as it sounds; you can go out, you just feel weird when you touch your skin), the redness was gone. When the sandpaper comes off (I did use the Clarisonic brush to help that along), it is like washing off a dirty crust. Underneath my skin was honestly glowing, plumper and dewier.

If I really were a woman who yachted instead of a single Mum who watches pennies, I would definitely have loved to see how the proper series of six treatments worked. It wasn’t a revolution for my face (having only done one treatment, the banished capillaries snuck back suddenly, a couple of months after the Vbeam, which was genuinely annoying), but it was definitely a refreshing boost.

Products and Routine,

Skinceuticals Simply Clean (morning and night): A foaming cleanser containing 1% hydroxy acids. $39.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (morning, after cleansing): A potent pure vitamin C serum to neutralize free radicals. $159.

Skinceuticals AGE Eye Complex (morning and night): AGE Eye Complex is a highly concentrated eye cream proven to combat glycation (a cell aging process) as well as diminish the appearance of dark circles. It includes reflective pigments to immediately brighten your eyes. $99.

Skinceuticals AGE Interrupter (morning and night): A highly concentrated anti-aging cream proven to combat glycation and volume loss. $162.

Skinceuticals Sheer Physical Fusion SPF 50 (daily): A non-chemical tinted sunscreen,water and sweat resistant. $39.

Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Masque (weekly): A high-concentration of hyaluronic acid designed to rehydrate the skin and help your skin repair itself. $64.

Clarisonic: A brush with oscillatory movements that improves your cleansing results more than six times as compared to water and your hands alone; it also improves product penetration.