Walking in for my appointment with Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy, a celebrity dermatologist, I feel the exact same type of excitement-jitters I felt when I was a kid waiting in line for Santa Clause at the Liberty Tree Mall (shout out to Danvers, Massachusetts). That’s because dermatologists are my adult version of Santa Clause.
While my makeup bag is filled with a handful of select cosmetics, my medicine cabinet overfloweth with skin care products. I love skin care. I have always been that girl who brings a tote bag of SPF to the beach and offers to “get your back” when all you want to do is sunbathe. Watching people refuse to reapply stresses me out.
So naturally I’m thrilled when I find out I scored a personal consultation with Miami-based aesthetic dermatologist Dr. Jegasothy. I have so many questions.
She’s in Los Angeles for a brief visit, and I walk into the Beverly Hills offices where she’s holding appointments. I take my seat by the fireplace(!) and fill out the new patient form. Then my name is called and next thing I know, Dr. J. is handing me a magnifying mirror and asking about my biggest dermatological concern.
Now, let me just say, even if you’re weird like me and love going to the derm, there’s no way to have a consultation with an aesthetic dermatologist without feeling the crushing weight of the passage of time.
After all, this is a consultation about aesthetics. Meaning right out the gate Dr. J. is pointing out the tiny wrinkles starting to form on my 31-year-old forehead. I actually have never noticed these before. In my mind, my forehead looks like Nicole Kidman’s. But in this lighting, staring into the magnifying mirror, suddenly my face looks like an old-timey treasure map.
“But you don’t need Botox yet,” Dr. J. assures me. That’s a relief? I think? The word “yet” hangs in the air. “You have excellent skin,” Dr. J. goes on. I stare harder into the hand mirror and suddenly my forehead morphs back into Nicole Kidman’s.
I like my tiny treasure map lines. I have an expressive face, and these little lines play an important role. But I do have an “aesthetic dermatological concern.” My under eye circles.
While they may not be obvious to others, sometimes they are the only thing I see when I look in the mirror. I layer on concealer in the morning, but to me my dark circles make me look like Tom Brady on game day. Well, technically, as Dr. J. explains, these are not dark circles or bags, but rather, “shadows that are caused by your thin skin. Your prominent blood vessels are right under the skin, and they’re showing through because of your fair features.”
Full disclosure: I’ve gone to two aesthetic dermatologists before, and both of them recommended I get under eye injections. But this always felt like too dramatic of a suggestion. Not to mention, these fillers can cost around $1,600. One dermatologist I went to last year even suggested I have ocular surgery. That stung.
“You have distinctive features, and you shouldn’t change anything about them. All you want is to lighten up the shadows under your eyes,” Dr. J. tells me. “So I don’t need fillers?” I ask. “No, you don’t need filler. There’s nothing to fill.”
Just as Beyoncé’s “Flawless” starts to play in my head, it gets cut short when I hear the phrase “Fraxel laser.” Record scratch.
Uh, say what now? Dr. J. is explaining what treatment she does recommend for someone with thin under eye skin, like me. “Fraxel laser is your best option,” she says. “The Fraxel laser treatment drills thousands of microscopic little holes in the skin. It only has a one-day down time. During that 24-hour timeframe the doctor will give you a set of Retinol, Vitamin C, and skin lightners to apply every 4 hours for 24 hours. The Fraxel laser itself causes the skin to grow collagen, which thickens the skin.”
I go through a range of emotions when I hear this. First, fear. Laser is a scary sounding word, and “Fraxel” isn’t exactly friendly. Then, interest. I’ve never heard of this treatment before. The idea of lightening up my dark under eye circles is intriguing. Next, shame. Why don’t I just have the natural-born confidence to walk out the door with under eye shadows and live my damn life?
Although, it’s worth pointing out that I feel shame for showing interest in a cosmetic procedure, but I don’t blink an EYE at spending $$$$ every year on under eye creams and concealers. It’s a double standard that I’ve set for myself.
But before I even entertain the idea of Fraxel laser, there’s one question I need to know: How much does this thing cost? The waiting room had a roaring fireplace, after all. So I brace myself…
“In my office in Miami it costs $350 for under eyes,” explains Dr. Jegasothy. Now, while $350 isn’t penny candy money, it’s actually very affordable when compared to almost every other aesthetic dermatology procedure, which can often cost upwards of $1,000. “It’s the most popular procedure I do on my patients who are under 35,” Dr. J. adds. “Other than the lips.”
Without realizing it, I touch my fingers to my lips. “Your lips thin out as you get older, so you might be headed in that direction, but they’re pretty now,” says Dr. J. “I have some filler left, but are you ready for that today?”
Am I ready for lip injections? For me, personally, no, I’m not ready for that. And TBH, probably never will be. Even if I wake up one day and my lips look like the hyphen sign on the keyboard. It’s just not for me.
And it should be noted that here at HG we embrace both natural aging and exploring our options when it comes to anti-aging. Aesthetic dermatology is entirely a personal choice.
I walk out of my consultation with Dr. Jegasothy feeling informed and surprisingly NOT crushed by the passage of time. Out of all the dermatologists I’ve met with and interviewed over the years, Dr. J. suggested the least amount of procedures, and that made me feel good.
And while I like my little lines and my “full for now” lips that are destined to thin out, I am Googling “Fraxel laser for under eye circles” as I wait for my Uber outside the office. Because I do have insecurities, because, well, I’m a human person alive in this world.