You’ll probably know by now that I’m a big fan of high tech treatments. Give me a lactic peel or laser over a long drawn-out facial any day. I do like the idea of luxuriating over a 20-step scrub, steam and masking scenario but the reality is if I can do it at home myself while watching Bates Motel then I probably will. And if I’m going to wedge in some precious time at the salon then it better be worth its weight in results - and fast!
The only downside is that the downtime is often not so fast. Too often with poor diary management I’ve forgotten that I’m filming a video the morning after I’ve had my pigment zapped. Or I’ve had to front up to an event with a face full of foundation, apologizing for my red-raw, slightly flaking appearance. Occupational hazard, yes, but still not cute.
When fab French pharmacy brand Avène sent me their latest launch – the new Cicalfate Post-Procedure cream – I felt rather excited because it meant I could finally book in my follow up laser facial with Melanie Grant (I’d been meaning to but had repeatedly pushed it back due to aforementioned downtime). I’m also excited because I’ve used Cicalfate for years – on everything from rashes and random flaky patches to my kids’ bottoms when it was raw with nappy rash. The new iteration of the cream is a lot lighter in texture than the original, and has a lovely melting balm-like texture. Read: much more user-friendly for the face.
I front up to Melanie Grant Skin Clinic in Double Bay on a sunny winter’s day and nearly trip over a man who has stopped in his tracks to admire the floral arrangement in the window. He actually takes out his iPhone and snaps some pictures before continuing on his way. Such is the effect that Melanie’s salon has. It’s a tribute to aesthetic beauty – from huge black and white framed photos throughout of the original Supers (Cindy, Naomi, Claudia et al) to the elegant white on white décor with extravagant sprays of white orchids and boughs of cherry blossom artfully arching over the waiting area.
Melanie’s Skin Health Manager Clare McColl swiftly welcomes me in, gowns me up, does a double cleanse and asks me to sign some consent forms before snapping some photos of my skin so we can track the progress. She then applies a very thick layer of jelly to protect my skin from the laser and Mel steps in to take over. “Today, for your Signature Laser Facial, we’re using a combined modality of Intense Pulse Light, Radio Frequency and YAG Laser to target brown spots, capillaries and diffused redness which evens out the skin tone and unifies the complexion,” announces Mel, as she dons a pair of fetching protective glasses and holds up the laser handpiece, smiling reassuringly. “This is a wonderful treatment for tidying up any tonal imperfections and a really effective option for those who can’t afford the downtime of more aggressive lasers.”
I’m not going to lie. It’s pretty ouchy. The last few lasers I’ve had I was fully numbed for (using numbing cream) but this one is not as deep or intense, so numbing is not necessary, although I do jump every time Mel does a pass over my skin. Next time a couple of Panadol or Nurofen wouldn’t go astray. The good news is it’s over in just five minutes. Mel applies a beautiful cooling gel mask and Clare wheels in the Omnilux LED Light machine to speed up the healing process. She massages my hands with something thick and lovely while I bliss out under the light. An incredibly relaxing 20 minutes later and I’m stepping back out into the winter sunshine – optimistic about my soon-to-be-flawless-albeit-temporarily-pink complexion.
In the car, I slather on a generous application of the Cicalfate Post-Procedure and it feels like I’m dousing a fire. The sting goes out of my skin momentarily and, as I squeeze the cream from the tube, I notice it has an almost green tinge. This melts to clear on contact with my face and conveniently helps counteract the redness of my skin. A few hours later, I top up my application of Cicalfate Post-Procedure, noting how creamy but light it is. Most post-treatment balms I’ve used have left me greasier than a chip. I glide back into the office, my lunchtime ‘tweakment’ apparently unnoticed by my team.
As the days progress I notice all the post-procedural outcomes that Mel and Clare have warned me about. At times my skin feels positively sandpaper-like – and out comes the Cicalfate Post-Procedure. I take to carrying it around in my handbag for on-the-spot treatment. After about three days I notice a few spots darken to the colour of chocolate, which Mel says is known affectionately in the industry as The Milo Effect. It won’t flake off for a few more days as it’s the slow migration of the pigment to the surface of the skin – known as desquamation.
In the meantime, Mel has told me to keep my skin well hydrated, protected from the sun and to avoid any actives like Vitamin A, AHAs etc. I wear my wide-brimmed felt hat all weekend and keep up my Cicalfate Post-Procedure application religiously. Mel says the Cicalfate Post-Procedure is a good option as the ingredients of sucralfate, copper and zinc are all known to support healing while preventing infection. She also likes that it’s free of fragrance and parabens, making it soothing, calming and easily tolerated by all skin types. Being pumped with the brand’s famous thermal spring water means it’s even more soothing for irritated skin.
On day five exactly I cleanse my skin with a cream cleanser then pat it dry gently (as instructed) and notice that the dark spots have flaked away, leaving in their place a clear, creamy and even-toned complexion. THIS is what’s so exciting about laser treatments – they actually work. And fast. Before your very eyes you watch your skin improve as the days progress. And, the best part of it is that the downtime was much less stressful than it usually was. The Cicalfate Post-Procedure cream is light enough to apply a nice mineral foundation over the top and I didn’t feel like a greaseball every time I did. I can’t wait to have another laser facial and I call to book my next one in – safe in the knowledge that I won’t have any awkward red-raw moments in the days that follow. Just happy, hydrated skin.
Story by Sigourney Cantelo. Photography by Alice Mahran. Hair and makeup by Veronika Moreira.
In Association with Avène.