Skin-Care Tips

This Two-Step Laser Treatment Helped Reduce My Rosacea and Resurface My Skin

Photo: Getty/Evgeniya Sviridova / EyeEm
When I set out to write this story, I had planned on telling you, dear readers, about the latest-and-greatest in-office innovation skin-care innovation that was happening. Because in truth, despite there having been a pandemic and our ability to be in the real world without care having waned, there has been an influx of new procedures and new technology to help our skin.

Here's the only problem: Laser season tends to coincide with cold and flu season, so for a myriad of reasons, I never got to try and test everything I would have liked—but I may have peaked early. The Moxi laser combined with BBL—a one-two punch for resurfaced skin from medical and aesthetic laser company Sciton—revolutionized the way I look at and feel about my skin. Here's everything to know about this procedure.

Step one: BBL

BBL stands for broadband light, and this type of laser has been around for decades. It's used to help with the appearance of acne scars, rosacea, and sun damage, and it reduces the appearance of these things by utilizing phototherapy for those with fairer skin tones. However, because phototherapy functions by seeking out more pigmented spots in the skin—think a patch of redness or the ghost of a pimple past—and eliminates them, it's not a good option for people who have more melanin-rich skin to begin with. Instead, people with darker skin tones should opt for a non-ablative laser, such as Clear and Brilliant.

"BBL gives us a whole host of different wavelengths," says Sharon Grasso, an esthetician and founder of Permanent Touch Cosmetics. "It goes from a 420-nanometer wavelength, which...can kill bacteria and kill acne, all the way up to an 800-nanometer wavelength, which is a wavelength that uses infrared light energy for skin tightening, and then everything in between."

By utilizing lasers consistently over time, you're also able to help flip on the collagen pumps within your skin. We lose one percent of collagen each year beginning in our twenties, so finding ways to replenish this can help make our skin appear plumper and more lifted. "One or two treatments can knock off the surface pigment, but it takes cumulative treatments to get deeper into the skin. The message to our body is: 'Reproduce collagen...send out the new collagen cells.'"

One study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that repeated treatments of BBL light therapy help to promote the gene expression that's typically associated with younger skin. We don't have a great vocabulary to talk about this at the moment (and there's nothing wrong with aging or with gaining wrinkles), but essentially what this means is that skin remains intact and unchanged by the biological processes that slow as our body takes on time (i.e., collagen and elastin production). And having this kind of robust gene expression can help fend off skin-related diseases as you live a long and happy life.

As the esthetician works the laser over your face, you feel little stamps of heat on your skin. It makes your skin feel a bit hot to the touch, but otherwise, there's little to no downtime.

Step two: MOXI laser

Following the BBL laser, Grasso treated my skin with a new laser called Moxi. It's a fractionated, non-ablative laser that can be used on all skin tones. According to the brand, it was created as a tool for "prejuvenation." It's really meant to be a preventative tool that helps to resurface hyperpigmentation, textural, or uneven skin tone.

The Moxi laser operates at a 1927 nanometer frequency, and creates channels in the skin that help erase the damage we incur over years of living our lives. "We have five layers of the epidermis, and within those first five layers, there's lots of pigment and large pores," says Grasso. "With Moxi, we can treat all of those things by drilling thousands and thousands of little microscopic channels in the skin, without ever breaking the skin."

In doing this, the skin responds by creating collagen and plumping as well, and it also can be customized based on three levels depending on your ultimate goals. "One is almost like a skin polishing," says Grasso, while levels two and three target issues that are deeper within the skin.

To get Moxi, you do have to have your face numbed, which can be a strange feeling. The laser operates by seeking out water in the skin, and since our bodies are pretty much made of the stuff, the sensation can sting. (I found that it kind of felt like PacMen scavenging my skin). Another thing to remember is that Moxi can be coupled with different treatments—like BBL—so that it gets you where you want to go more quickly.

What to expect post-treatment

When you hear "no downtime lasers," that doesn't exactly mean you're going to be skipping off to the prom immediately following your treatment. All lasers function by creating wounds in the skin, and your skin then responds by producing collagen to "heal" those wounds. The results you get are dependent upon this process.

When I woke up the day after having the treatments, my face was puffier than it's been in quite some time. I was told to ice my face to help reduce some of the minor swelling, and in a day or two, I was back to normal.

For the next week, my skin felt like sandpaper. Seriously, I could have refinished your kitchen cabinets with my face. But every time I washed my face over the next few days (with a gentle cleanser, which pros recommend post-treatment), that dissipated. By the end of the week, my skin looked brighter and healthier than it had in years.

After any laser treatment, your skin is raw and more susceptible to the elements, which means you're at a higher risk of incurring new sun damage post-appointment. With that in mind, be sure to schedule the treatment for a time when you won't be outdoors for long periods. And also, remember to stock up on sunscreen and apply it liberally and often.

Want to learn more about what lasers could do for your skin? Check out this Dear Derm episode with Mona Gohara:

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