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Out, Spot!

TRIAL AND ERROR continued...

Recently I was searching the Internet and read about Isolaz, a new procedure developed by scientists in Pleasanton, CA, in which a dermatologist “vacuums” and lasers your skin and, supposedly, banishes your blemishes for good. I became filled with the kind of hope I had when I bought my first tube of benzoyl peroxide, and decided to book an appointment with celebrity dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt.

“Cystic acne,” pronounces Brandt, a man with a Willy Wonka vibe — high-pitched laugh and wild attire. The first time I see him, he’s wearing lime-green Prada eyeglasses and a checkered jacket, and his bottle-blond hair is moussed into peaks. He recommends one session a month with the laser for four or five months. The Isolaz is the only FDA-approved “photopneumatic” device, meaning it combines pulsed light (“photo”) to kill acne-causing bacteria with vacuum suction (“pneumatic”) to physically extract oil and grime from deep in pores. Over time, treatments cause the skin’s sebaceous glands to shrink, which means reduced oil production and tighter, cleaner pores. Results are long-lasting, and the treatment is painless, he tells me. Visions of clear skin dance in my head ... the years of being the only grown woman at a dinner party with an erupting volcano on her cheek are over. At $500 a session, they’d better be.


First a nurse positions a steamer over my face, just as a facialist would. After 20 humid minutes, I’m rosy and sweaty, and Brandt wheels in the Isolaz machine, which looks like something you’d use in an alien abduction. He puts on protective goggles and approaches me with a hose that has an attachment very much like the kind I use to suck dust off my drapes. But true to his promise, the procedure doesn’t hurt. It takes less than 10 minutes and feels kind of like little electric hickeys all over my face. Afterward my skin is red and irritated, and Brandt tells me to use a special cream from his own line for post-laser calming. He also tells me to use his Poreless Cleanser, two prescription topical medications, moisturizing lotion, and sunscreen in the morning. I ask him if he's joking. He isn’t.

I assume that nobody really follows a regimen this intense, so I wait for the redness to wear off and my skin to become magically, flawlessly clear. (I’ve been to Madonna’s dermatologist! Surely I deserve to be acne-free.) I use Brandt’s products, but I neglect to get the two prescriptions filled. Days turn into weeks, and still I am a pizza face. My high hopes start sputtering. Finally, I fill the prescriptions and start dutifully cleansing, applying my Clindagel, then my sodium sulfacetamide lotion, then moisturizer, then sunscreen every single morning and repeating the whole thing every night (minus the sunscreen). By the time my next Isolaz appointment rolls around, I am as zitty as ever but much more frustrated.

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