Posts Categorized: beauty

Exploring Skin Pen II

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.

From the Skin Pen website:

“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:

before1_sm before2_sm before3_sm before4_sm

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):

dayof1_sm dayof2_sm dayof3_sm dayof4_sm

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):

2daysafter_1_sm 2daysafter_2_sm 2daysafter_3_sm 2daysafter_4_sm

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):

17daysafter_1_sm 17daysafter_2_sm 17daysafter_3_sm 17daysafter_4_sm

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.

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Aging Gracefully


Audi made this request:

I’d love to see you do a piece about embracing our bodies and faces as we age. It bums me out to see so many attractive women succumbing to the pressure to look “younger” through cosmetic surgery and Botox and all that. You’ve written a lot about loving your body the way it is now, rather than the way you imagine it will be in the future — how about the other tack; loving your body now and not the way it used to be when you were younger?

I love my body now, at 38-almost-39, more wholly and truly than I did when I was younger. I seem to become more comfortable and more confident as I age, not less. And I know that to be true for many women.

But I also feel myself becoming more attuned to negative messages about aging: Fine lines, dull skin, loss of muscle tone, gray hair, all these trappings of a mature body that society has deemed shameful pop up on my radar now more than ever. Some of these traits are starting to show up in my own body and some are yet to arrive, but the messages about their insidiousness are penetrating my consciousness now when they used to just bounce away like so much noise.

Just as the diet industry exists to make us feel like we’ll never be thin enough, just as the cosmetics industry exists to make us feel like we’ll never be pretty enough, anti-aging products exist to make us feel like we must, must, MUST remain young-looking forever. And while we can choose to change our body masses through food and fitness, choose to highlight certain aspects of our faces with makeup, we can’t truly control how the passage of time will affect our physical forms. Botox and facelifts, anti-aging creams and treatments, these things encourage us to pretend to be other women, younger women, women we simply are not. Encouraging women to take actions that will “turn back the clock” encourages them to feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable in their bodies, encourages them to postpone contemplation of age and aging, encourages them to feel bitter and envious when they encounter young or younger-looking women.

That said, I can’t completely disregard all anti-aging measures, just as I can’t completely disregard all weight loss programs or cosmetics. I would never say that all women who go on Weight Watchers are betraying themselves or all women who wear mascara are sell-outs, and I’d never say that all women who dye their gray hairs are cowards. It’s about choice. Each woman must choose how she presents herself to the world, physically, emotionally, stylistically, wholly. The important and often-overlooked step in making decisions about changing your body is asking WHY: Why do you want to dye your hair? Why do you want to spend $150 on a pot of eye cream? Why do you want to appear younger? You may find that the answers have more to do with your peers, your family, relentless advertisements for anti-aging products, or messages from movies and TV than your own inner musings. Consider carefully before taking action, and ask these questions of yourself:

  • WHO gets to decide what my body should look like as it ages? WHO has given me helpful or harmful feedback about aging? WHO do I consider to be an older body image role model?
  • WHAT bothers me about my aging body? WHAT can I do to make peace with it? WHAT aspects of my physical self will always make me feel proud, no matter my age or their conformation?
  • WHERE do I feel safest talking about aging? WHERE can I find images of or information about the aging process as it pertains to women? WHERE do I turn when I have questions or concerns?
  • WHEN did I become aware that my body was showing signs of age? WHEN do the positives of anti-aging products or procedures outweigh the negatives? WHEN will I feel comfortable allowing my body to be an older body?
  • HOW can I find balance between societal notions of aging and my own beliefs? HOW do I want to describe my beautiful self now that I can feel my body changing? HOW do I want to see myself and feel about myself 10, 15, and 20 years from now?
  • WHY is looking younger important to me, and to others, and do those reasons differ? WHY are younger-looking women valued more by our society, and is that relevant to me?

Our bodies are in a constant state of flux, no matter our ages. Some changes are easier to track than others, and the changes that begin to appear after a certain chronological age may seem more pronounced and alarming. But that’s because of the constant stream of alarmist messages that’s piped into our collective consciousness.

It’s also because women who struggle with body image generally begin their struggles early on. We look back at photographs of ourselves at age 16, 17, 18 and remember HATING our lovely, developing bodies. We look back and wish we’d appreciated what we’d had when we were younger. But the hard fact is this: Until someone builds a time machine, we can’t go back and shake our teenage selves out of that self-loathing. Until someone discovers the fountain of youth, we will never again look like we did as young women. So we must leave the past, and embrace the present. Loving your body is about loving it NOW, as it is today. Your today-body is just as beautiful as your yesterday-body, just in different ways and for different reasons. Identify those ways and reasons, and you can move yourself toward aging gracefully.

Image courtesy Peter Dahlgren

This is a refreshed and revived post from the archive.

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Already Prettypoll: Hair Fantasies

Aaaaand speaking of hair … I’ve written posts encouraging women to lop off their locks, but I know the pixie isn’t everyone’s hair fantasy. I also know that hair fantasies aren’t always possible. Yes, hair grows back … but maybe you’re a corporate lawyer who can’t have mermaid hair. Or maybe your infant insists on yanking any available strands, so cascading waves are off the table for the time being.

But let’s say you could do anything at all to your hair today, and have it go back to its current state tomorrow. What would you do? Chop it off? Color it wildly? Trade short hair for long? Go natural? Share your hair fantasies.

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