Jan 11 2011

Face freeze.

Published by at 12:45 pm under Beauty,Health

You know how people are always telling you to wear sunscreen? Even on your face and under your makeup? Well, those people aren’t blowing smoke, or talking to hear themselves talk. Wearing sunscreen is a good friggin’ idea. Leaving aside the daunting prospect of skin cancer, sunscreen is good from a strictly cosmetic standpoint.

I’m one of those people who never spends too much time in the full sun. I don’t like going to the beach, particularly, I never went tanning, and I never had access to a pool regularly. Except two summers ago, my sister and brother-in-law gave us their Intex pool – the kind with the blow up ring on the top? But this one is the super-size model that is big enough to actually swim in. And that summer, I decided that I wanted a TAN. Why? WHO KNOWS. The only sunscreen I used was SPF 4, and I was in the pool every single day. And I never burned! And I came out of that summer with a fantastic tan! Except…when the tan faded, I was left with two brown splotches on my upper lip that made me look like I had dirt on my face, unless I caked makeup on them. Which I did, all winter.

When summer rolled around again, I was still caking makeup on my “dirt spots”, but in summer it’s a lot harder to keep things covered up, since you’re sweating a lot and also since I was swimming a lot again (using SPF 50 this year, no messing around). These spots were starting to bother me, because, let’s be honest, I’m vain.

When I went back to my dermatologist in December for my check up, I asked him about the spots. “Sun damage,” he ruled. “It’s really important to use a good sunscreen. I can remove them, if you like. I just freeze them off. I can do it now, but the skin peels and you might be flaky for the holidays”. I decided I’d rather not be “flaky for the holidays”, and made an appointment to get the freezing done in mid-January. My appointment was yesterday.

First of all, let me just say that if this is a procedure you’re thinking of doing, I would recommend NOT doing it in summer or anytime where you’re planning to be outdoors for an extended period, because it’s recommended that you avoid a lot of sunlight while you’re healing. Second of all, if you have a low pain tolerance, you may want to opt for the slower-acting but pain-free bleaching cream alternative, because I’m not going to lie: getting liquid nitrogen sprayed on your face HURTS.

So, here’s how it went for me:

  • Get put in an exam room, wait around for 10 minutes.
  • Doctor comes in, acting as though this is just another normal checkup, asking if I’m happy with how things are going, etc.
  • I remind him that I’m here to get the sun damage treated.
  • He looks at the chart and says “Huh, nothing in the chart about that”.
  • I repeat our conversation about freezing that happened in December and he’s like “OK, no problem” and starts looking at the spots.
  • He picks up a metal can with a spray nozzle on the end and says “Keep your eyes and mouth closed”.
  • I shut my eyes and mouth.
  • He starts spraying one spot with the liquid nitrogen. It’s cold. Then, it stings. Then, it really starts to hurt. I make a small sound, because I have to keep my mouth closed so I can’t holler like I want to. Tears start to leak out from under my eyelids.
  • He starts on the second spot. This one hurts, too. A lot.
  • He notices a third spot that I guess he wants to treat, too, because the wonderful sensation of freeze/burn pain starts again.
  • He tells me I’m done, and I open my eyes. I start sniffling because I’m a big baby.
  • He says, “Yeah, brings a tear to your eye, huh?”
  • I kind of nod, and refrain from pummeling him. He must see that I am UNHAPPY because he beats a hasty retreat, leaving the nurse to tell me that if the skin blisters, I should put polysporin ointment and cover it with a band-aid. She also tells me that it would be a good idea to avoid sun exposure as much as possible until I heal.
  • I refrain from asking how in the world I’m supposed to fit three band-aids on my upper lip.
  • I go home.  The treated spots are starting to darken up.
  • I wake up the next morning (today). The treated spots are three times as dark as they previously were. If I cover them with makeup, they look like they did before the treatment…or rather, they looked like they used to when I wasn’t wearing makeup at all.
  • I decide that I’m not going anywhere unless I have to, because it looks like I have a chocolate milk mustache.
  • Did I mention I’m vain?

The big question – was it worth it – is not one that I can answer until I’m done healing, which might be a couple of weeks away. It certainly was more painful than I was expecting, so that’s a big downside right there. I understand that the skin darkening may get worse before it gets better. I do have several blisters (water blisters, although blood blisters are also possible with this treatment), but as long as I don’t drain them I don’t have to worry about how to fit band-aids over them. And also, I have no idea if this is actually going to work. I could have gone through all this and end up looking no better than before.

Knowing what I know now – about the pain, especially – I think if I have to treat sun damage again, I’ll try the bleaching cream first. The freezing method might be faster, but I think slow and steady might just be less bother in the long run.

However, I have started looking around for a really good facial sunscreen. Since I have problems with acne as well, I don’t really want to just slap some Coppertone on my face. I’m going to try Eucerin Everyday Protection Face Lotion (SPF 30) first, because it’s gotten mostly good reviews and it costs around $10. If I don’t like that, there are others on my list, but they are much pricier. I guess the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true, because let me tell you, no tan (no matter how fabulous) is worth getting liquid nitrogen sprayed on your face. Or skin cancer.

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