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Out, Spot!

TRIAL AND ERROR

I’ve tried everything. In high school it was Noxzema and Clearasil; in college Clinique astringent and Umbrian clay masks; in my 20s I used ProActiv Solution, which did help for a while, but as always, the zits came back. I went to dermatologists a few times, but they never offered any real solutions. The topical treatments they gave me were so itchy and unpleasant that I never stuck with them. And when it comes to cortisone injections, I’ve never been able to commit to the expense and hassle of going to see a doctor for a shot every time I have a pimple. (I’d be going every day.) I have always been unwilling to try Accutane or any oral antibiotics prescribed to treat acne, because the side effects are too severe. I knew a girl on Accutane whose mouth was all dry and flaky; one imagines she was dry all over. No thank you. As vain and as much of a shopaholic as I am, I suppose in some ways I am still my mother’s daughter. When it comes to spending time and getting hurt, my vanity wanes. But I have finally grasped that all the hours and dollars I’ve spent over the years shopping for products and applying concealer and, yes, picking my zits are adding up — to nothing. It’s time for a new solution.

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.

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