I continue to have a great relationship with the folks at Clinical Skin Therapeutics, the clinic that performed my laser hair removal treatments. The staff there is knowledgable and relaxed, happy to help with any questions but never pushy or sales-driven. So when Clinic Manager Kristina Pitre asked if I would be willing to try a relatively new skin treatment, I was all ears.
But once I heard a bit more, I’ll admit I was wary. The treatment – Skin Pen II – was touted as an anti-aging tool, and although I’ll admit to doing the retinoid thing as part of my nightly routine, I still have VERY mixed feelings about anything that bears the anti-aging tag. As I approach 40, I find myself becoming increasingly attuned to the messages older women receive about our faces, bodies, and beauty. Namely that we should do everything in our power to disguise or reverse visible signs of aging, or risk fading slowly into invisibility and irrelevance. (Amy Schumer’s “Last F**kable Day” sketch captures this phenomenon for actresses, but for the general population, too, I think. And, of course, it is riddled with f-bombs so don’t even think about watching at work.) I know that the anti-aging industry is making a mint off of women’s insecurities. I do my best to highlight and support bloggers who write about aging-related topics and the experience of being an over-40 woman in an under-40-focused world. And I would never want anyone who reads this blog to believe that their wrinkles, age spots, or changing bodies are anything to be ashamed of.
BUT (you knew it was coming), here’s the thing about Skin Pen: In addition to offering a non-chemical skin-firming alternative to products like Botox, it is widely used to treat acne scarring. I’ve dealt with acne since I was a teenager, and although I don’t have many visible scars myself I know from talking with others how stubborn they can be and how self-conscious they can make people. And, of course, the ideal solution would be for the world to accept that not all faces look the same. Based on what I’m reading I wouldn’t be surprised if the next wave of the body positivity movement included or even focused on acne. Nevertheless, there are people out there who would worry less and feel more confident if their acne scars could be made less visible. And based on the Skin Pen before and after photos, it seems like a truly viable solution. (More images like this and this can be found on individual clinic pages.)
So I agreed to try out the treatment myself. Again, I don’t have lots of scarring and only had one treatment, so this was more so I could describe a personal experience with the treatment at Clinical Skin Therapeutics. And I’ll dig into that shortly, but first a bit about how it all works.
Skin Pen treatments are also called microneedling: The pen itself has a group of super tiny, thin needles that puncture the dermis, creating minor trauma. Your body responds by producing more collagen and pushing it toward the site. Sounds kinda gross, but when you compare it to lasers and peels it’s considerably less harsh and essentially a way to force your body heal itself more effectively.
“Immediately following an injury, our skin begins the process of dissolving tissue damage and replacing it with new cells and extracellular matrix (ECM). Microneedling allows for controlled induction of the skin’s self-repair process by creating precise, micro injuries in the skin to automatically trigger remodeling without causing scar tissue formation.
Microneedling does not damage or destroy the epidermal layer of cells, but simply disrupts the junctions between the cells and creates tiny ‘microchannels’ that allow leakage of blood serum, platelets and lymph (containing growth factors) for a short amount of time . This brief, mechanical disruption is not sufficient to cause the melanocytes (pigment producing cells) in the lower epidermis to react by increasing pigment production and darkening the skin in a process called hyperpigmentation.”
If you have significant scarring, multiple treatments will be necessary. A single treatment – like the one I received – will give your skin a pretty amazing ethereal glow, but it will fade within a month or so. The tech who performed my treatment told me that she’d recently finished a round of treatments on a superstar high school athlete who’d unexpectedly been voted homecoming queen. The girl came in with deep red pock marks along her chin line, and left with far less visible scarring.
So, let’s see some photos, shall we? I did my best to get similar photos in the same setting and similar lighting. This is my face with zero makeup or products the day before my treatment – you can click to enlarge:
You can see a giant cystic zit under my jawline and plenty of blotchiness, but no big scars.
My treatment was for my entire face and neck and took about half an hour to complete. I won’t lie: It hurt. Not sharp, unbearable pain but a very uncomfortable slightly burn-y feeling as the Skin Pen moved across my skin in small circles. The tech did my forehead first and said it would be the most painful part. She was right, and it became more bearable over time. But it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t mild.
This is what I looked like the evening after my noon-time treatment (click to enlarge):
As you can see, I’m quite red. The ladies at Clinical Skin Therapeutics suggested getting the treatment at a time when I’d have a day or two of low-key, no-photos-or-TV-appearances time for recovery since the redness tends to stick around for approximately 24 hours. I was given a salve to use and told not to apply anything else, including moisturizer or makeup, for those 24 hours. After that, I could apply as normal.
Here’s two days post-treatment (click to enlarge):
You can see that the redness is almost completely gone. What these pictures don’t really show is that by this time, I’d broken out along my chin and jawline. Nothing cystic, just lots of tiny, itchy whiteheads. They faded after another two or three days, and Kristina let me know this was likely a reaction to the super rich hydrating salve clogging my pores.
Shortly after this, I went to New York for a week and wasn’t able to re-create my home bathroom environment for photos. I was told that I’d really see some gorgeous glowy-ness after 7-10 days, and I did … but I’m afraid I didn’t capture it. Here’s what I looked like 17 days after treatment (click to enlarge):
I was having my period at this time, so you can see a sprinkling of zits here and there. (Also a cat hair on my chin. Thank you, Harriet.)
I didn’t see any truly drastic changes, though my neck is noticeably less blotchy. Another plus for me: I’d been having redness, peeling, and constant breakouts on either side of my nose for MONTHS and nothing – including leaving it alone and applying zero product besides moisturizer – had helped. About five days after my treatment, the skin there was still a bit red, but not nearly as raw and it hasn’t broken out since.
Again, I wasn’t expecting drastic changes since I wasn’t treating anything in particular. And for anyone with acne or other scarring, multiple treatments are recommended. I’m glad I was able to experience Skin Pen myself, though, so I could describe the feeling, the recovery, and the after-effects first-hand. If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them and request input from Kristina at Clinical Skin Therapeutics if I don’t have the information you need myself.
If you’re interested in trying a Skin Pen treatment yourself – or any other offering, including laser hair removal – you can get 20% off when you book at Clinical Skin Therapeutics by mentioning Already Pretty. The clinic hasn’t given a hard expiration for this offer, which is incredibly generous, so if you’re not ready to commit right now you’ve got time to consider. Maybe put some holiday gift cash toward a treatment, or suggest a gift certificate to CST from a loved-one. Whenever you go, tell ’em I sent ya. Kristina and her team will make you feel truly welcome, and help you create a plan to address your specific needs.
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*Disclosure: Although I don’t generally do sponsored posts, I am receiving services in exchange for this piece. I’ve made an exception because I have more than three years of experience with CST and recommend them to everyone I meet, and because I felt this information and background would be interesting and useful regardless.