It used to be that the only way to address aging skin was through a nip and a tuck, and largely ineffective, expensive creams. But luckily for the skin care-obsessed among us, technology has advanced significantly in the past few years, rendering the old-school facelift virtually unnecessary. Fillers, lasers, and peels are doing the heavy lifting in the world of cosmetic dermatology. As a beauty devotee of the highest degree, I am ready and willing to try each and every single one in the quest for smooth, glowing skin and inner peace.
Aside from experimenting with just about every product on the market, (you’ll have to rip my beloved $70 Cle de Peau concealer from my cold, dead hands) I also dabble in the occasional fancy lady beauty treatment, like my recent venture into cryotherapy. So when I started hearing rumblings in the air about a new-ish laser treatment called Clear and Brilliant, I knew I had to try it. Plus, Drew Barrymore is a fan. On a non-sponsored Instagram post from May 2018, Barrymore praised the treatment, saying it’s “as light as it gets and is non-invasive.” Whatever’s good enough for Drew Barrymore is certainly good enough for me.
The Clear and Brilliant laser treatment is what’s known as a non-ablative laser resurfacing treatment.
According to Union Square Laser Dermatology, non-ablative laser resurfacing treatments use lasers to “stimulate collagen growth in the skin resulting in a healthy glow, smoother texture and more even color.” Consider it the little sister of a traditional Fraxel Laser Resurfacing Treatment. One of the things that made me the most excited about the Clear and Brilliant facial is that results are immediate and progressive. As soon as your skin heals you can see a difference, and over the course of the next few weeks it gets better and better.
I visited Dr. Yunyoung Claire Chang at Union Square Laser Dermatology and was immediately put at ease by her kind, calm demeanor. She and her staff were incredibly thorough and walked me through every step, answering my questions patiently and attentively. I felt like I was in the best hands possible for my first-ever laser treatment.
After our initial consultation, Dr. Chang and I decided that in addition to the Clear and Brilliant treatment, I was also a good candidate for the AlexTrivantage/PicoWay Laser treatment that targets sun spots, freckles, and age spots. I was thrilled to get a little bonus in, especially since I’ve been battle a few tricky acne scars on my cheeks for the past year.
The first step of the procedure was to numb my entire face with Lidocaine. I have heard that there are some people out there who get laser treatments without numbing cream, but I am not about that life. It is a serious procedure, so why feel pain if you don’t have to?
After about 20 minutes, my face was sufficiently numb. It was time to go to town on my dark spots. Dr. Chang went to work with the AlexTrivantage Laser first, individually tackling each unwanted spot. It was definitely the more intense of the two treatments, and I flinched dramatically every single time she zapped one.
As expected, the dark spots became darker and slightly blistered after the procedure.
After the AlexTrivantage Laser it was time for the main event: Clear and Brilliant. In comparison to the Alex, it was a walk in the park. I lay calmly and quietly for the duration of the treatment. I could feel a bit of a snap on my skin every time the laser pulsated, but it didn’t hurt at all. More than anything, my face just felt very hot. All in all, it took about 10 minutes and I was done. During the procedure, the nurse put an ice pack on the areas that had already been treated, and it felt like the gates of heaven opened up and the divine light of the creator (Beyoncé) shone on my face.
Post-Clear and Brilliant laser
Immediately after the procedures, my face was extremely red and felt tight all over. Dr. Chang applied a soothing vitamin C serum on my skin for maximum hydration. Luckily, it was the evening, so I was able to go straight home and hide in the privacy of my apartment.
Once I got home, you better believed I ice-rolled my face like my life depended on it. After a couple of hours, the redness and hot feeling subsided, though I did notice that a bit of a scab had appeared on one of the dark spots. I very tenderly applied Aquaphor to it, as instructed. A few hours later, I realized that it was, in fact, spaghetti sauce and not a scab.
The next morning
(Ignore my red eyeballs–the result of a lash-tinting experiment gone terribly wrong.)
In terms of aftercare, both of these lasers required relatively little upkeep. While you can wear makeup the next day with the Clear and Brilliant, I decided to hold off for three or four days until the AlexTrivantage Laser scabs were more healed. Aside from Aquaphor for the dark spots, the only thing I used on my skin for about two weeks was an extremely gentle cleanser and moisturizer.
After 24 hours
To cleanse your skin for the first few days after, I recommend using Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water and Bioderma Sensibio Soothing Light Face Cream for Sensitive Skin. It was literally the only moisturizer that didn’t make my skin feel like it was burning up. I know this because the day after the procedure I attempted to use my Glossier moisturizer, thinking it was gentle enough, but nope. My face turned into a fiery hot, red ball of fury until I wiped if off with the Bioderma Micellar Water and used the Soothing Light Face Cream Sensibio instead. Lesson learned! Moisturizer disaster aside, my skin was relatively chill the day after the treatments. It felt dry and scaly, and with the exception of the dark spots, it looked pretty normal.
Over the course of the next few days, my skin continued to feel as rough as sandpaper, and around the three-day mark I realized that my skin was flaking off any time I touched it. I had worried that the dryness would be very apparent, but since I didn’t wear makeup in the days after the procedure, you really couldn’t tell. My one attempt at using concealer quickly proved counter-productive, so I abandoned it.
One week later
After a week, the flakiness and the redness from the procedure had pretty much subsided. My skin still felt rough to the touch, but since I was moisturizing like crazy, it didn’t feel tight or look weird. The dark spots were still a bit darker than usual, but that was about it.
Two weeks later
After a couple weeks I started to see a really fresh glow emerging. Without a doubt my dark spots and acne scars were lighter, and the best part was that they continued to get even lighter over the course of the next month. My overall complexion was significantly brighter and smoother.
Did the dark spots completely disappear? No, but Dr. Chang recommends getting two to three treatments to see the full results.
Given how effective a single treatment is, Clear and Brilliant is worth every penny. It’s definitely a splurge—anywhere from $500-$700 depending on your dermatologist—but if you’re looking to treat yourself to a high-end skincare procedure with results, you’ll be pleased. Radiant and clear skin is only a laser blast away.