WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11: “Oh Helen, you’ve got something on your leg.”
“Ouch. Nasty muffler burn you’ve got there, Helen.”
Sigh. Comments from the uninformed masses about my birthmark — my ex-birthmark I should add.
My brother once told me matter-of-factly, after one too many episodes of CSI, that it would be a very useful tool in ID-ing my body — should this need ever arise.
My birthmark and I have been together through thick and thin — through my first day at school, through first dates and, our last and most intimate of ‘firsts’, the first time I underwent a laser treatment to get it the heck off my leg!
So now, after 27 years together, it is gone. Totally gone. No creams, no pain, no side effects. I had the sucker lasered off.
I know — this seems like a terrifying undertaking. It all sounds a bit like one of those overly-inventive methods a James Bond villain would use to try to finish off 007. But nothing can be further from what actually takes place at Bermuda’s Elan Clinic.
First of all, instead of a bald headed cat stroking evil genius (Bond reference, anyone?), I was greeted by one of the clinic’s nurses who puts you at ease right away.
She explains she will be using an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) device (aka ‘laser’), which can also be used to rid people of unwanted, ‘red’ acne scars, freckles, sun spots, diffuse redness and fine lines. During my first meeting she examines my offending mark and ‘powers up’ the laser.
I immediately begin to get nervous and stammer that I thought it was “just a consultation” and that I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for physical pain.
She smiles (she has obviously encountered wimps like me before) and tells me I can expect to feel a slight “elastic band snap sensation” which will be lessened by a pre-chilling from the laser itself before each pulse. Part of the consultation process, she explains, is to try out different settings of the laser to determine which is most effective.
She hands me some protective eyeglasses should a laser beam go astray and the process begins…and then it’s over. Literally that quickly. Three one-second ‘zaps’ of the laser on different settings and I’m done.
She applies a soothing cream over the treated areas and I’m sent on my way. No post-op pain killers needed.
Immediately I notice that all three rectangular-shaped test spots begin to turn slightly pinkish (over the brownishness that is my birthmark). It feels like mild sunburn. Each spot is a varying gradient of pink due to the different settings used for each.
In the days following the consultation parts of my birthmark begin to turn darker and darker and, in a panic, I email the nurse to ask if I have developed hyperpigmentation or, in other words, that I haven’t just made my birthmark even worse. She explains that this is totally normal following an IPL procedure and that this is a good sign as the area will eventually flake off to unveil fresh skin underneath. And this is exactly what happens.
Four weeks after the treatment I am back at Elan Clinic with a rather stripy looking birthmark — depicting various degrees of success. From that we determined which setting had essentially worked the best and then re-treated the whole birthmark at that setting. The nurse explained that I needed to have this done three times to ensure the entire area of the birthmark was exposed to the laser.
Today, three sessions later, I couldn’t be happier with the results. The area is a few shades lighter than the rest of my leg but I’m told that, after a few exposures to the sun, it will soon tan to match the surrounding skin.
Now would probably be a good time to mention that all lasers have risks of burns, hypo/hyperpigmentation, wounds, scars, and eye damage. Just a simple Google search will reveal some real horror stories. Therefore it is important to do your homework regarding which clinic you choose to carry out the procedure. The laser technician should be a licensed professional with certification in laser physics from a laser training institute.
To find out more go to www.elanclinic.com or call 296-7439 located at The Mount, Penthouse level, 10 Cavendish Road, Pembroke.
See part II of this article next Wednesday.