Six months into my 47th year, I hit perimenopause. Or I should say perimenopause hit me. It came as a shock (absurd, I know). But I didn’t have the usual symptoms my friends had bemoaned – no missed periods, no hot flashes – in fact, I was still bragging that my cycle was as regular as a Rolex. I assumed I was sailing through life symptom free and that I was somehow magically skipping this step in a woman’s life.
Instead, it started with crushing fatigue that made a flight of stairs seem insurmountable, followed by waves of anxiety and depression (both new to me) that had me rushing to a therapist, a racing heartbeat with a side order of palpitations (I’m chronically anemic and ran to the doctor to test my iron), then my cycle, while still regular became so intense … well, I’ll spare you that. And finally, two months into all these changes as though to ring the death knell on female youth came the night sweats.
During these initial months – call it Peri 101 – it felt as though an evil alien mastermind was at the controls and I was its puppet. And strange as it may sound it took several frustrating trips to the doctor to figure out that I had entered this stage of life. Why had these symptoms seemed so foreign to me? My only guess was not having had children I wasn’t used to the extreme hormonal shifts that suddenly appeared.
Months later, I’m coping just fine, thank you. But the realization that I was no longer “young” yet not really “old” had struck deep. It’s been called “the change” for a reason. It’s an unavoidable transition. While I couldn’t fight nature, it was time to take control over the areas of my life that I could. And while how one looks shouldn’t be the main priority – beauty is only skin-deep, yada yada yada – looking one’s best sure can brighten one’s outlook. Aside from the aforementioned changes, the other part of your body that gets knocked around by perimenopause is your skin. Pigment changes such as brown spots, redness, broken capillaries for starters, then fine lines and skin laxity (sagging skin) round out the problems. Bottom line: I wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror. My skin looked dull, even a little dirty – and I don’t mean that in a trendy Fifty Shades way either.
I thought it time to call in an expert – enter Dr. Lisa Kellett, a Toronto-based dermatologist whose clinic, DLK on Avenue, is a go-to for people wanting to look their best selves.
“ResurFx treats a number of issues at the same time. Because when you age, you don’t age with one problem,” says Kellett. “You don’t just get brown spots or fine lines or skin laxity. It kind of is all encompassing. So [ResurFx] is nice because it treats everything at once as opposed to coming for three separate treatments.”
Each treatment starts with microdermabrasion, which sloughs off the dead skin layer known as the stratum corneum, which not only makes the surface of your skin look better, it paves the way for Part 2: the IPL. The IPL (intense pulsed light), unfettered by dead skin, can penetrate deeper to maximize results – which are evening skin tone, essentially eradicating brown spots and red spots like spider veins and a little bit of rosacea. “You’re treating the scaffolding of the skin – collagen and elastin – things that give it structure,” adds Kellett. The final part, which is where the treatment gets its name, is ResurFx, a resurfacing laser that causes the ablation of tissue, which means it burns off the top layer of skin making it look better and smoother while also stimulating collagen.
“It’s not going to make you 20 years younger but it is going to make you look like a fresher version of you,” says Kellett. “It’s perfect for people between the ages of 40 and 55, in that ballpark who aren’t ready for surgery. They don’t want anything drastic but they want to look better, they want to look fresher, they want to look more well-rested, but they still want to look like themselves.”
The initial plan for most patients – after being assessed by a dermatologist – is three or four sessions. I sign up for three, one month apart. I love the microdermabrasion; it feels good to have the dead skin vacuumed away, especially over the harsh winter. But I won’t lie – the next two parts, the IPL and resurfacing laser – isn’t comfortable. Nothing I can’t handle, but I’m glad when it’s over.
When I look in the mirror, I’m burned all right, and it stings like sunburn. The clinic gives me ice pads to cool my skin and, within an hour, the redness has toned down and the burning sensation has gone.
By the next day, I’m good to go. But it’s a few days later that I visibly see the difference. A particularly bothersome brown spot is more than half vanished, and my cheeks have a renewed creamy tone. If my skin looks so much better after only one treatment, what would three bring? People who didn’t know what I was up to were complimenting my skin. Now I wonder what would four or five treatments do. It’s an addictive thing, and apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way.
“It’s a funny treatment because people see such good results they want to do another one,” Kellett admits with a smile. After my final session, she reassesses my skin and notes that while my cheeks look good, my acne scarring needs more work. That’s the skin story of my life – acne has plagued me long past teenagedom and well into adulthood. More times than I can count, I’ve had to apply foundation with a spatula before a big night out, yet it comes as a surprise when Kellett informs me that because of the loss of collagen and less skin laxity, acne scars become more obvious. Sigh.
But that’s the beauty of ResurFx: it can be tailored to each woman’s needs.
As for cost, it’s $1,300 a session but, in the end, ResurFx saves you money. “From a cost perspective, it’s cheaper for people because they aren’t coming for three separate treatments,” Kellett explains. “You need multiple sessions of the IPL and the exfoliation and you need multiple sessions of the resurfacing so if you add all those sessions you’re looking at 18 sessions versus three or four of this.”
I’m hooked. I will definitely be back once or twice a year for maintenance. Speaking of maintaining, I’ve vowed to make my overall health a priority as I go through this life stage. Relief is in sight after all – many of my troubling symptoms should diminish once I enter menopause.
All I can do now is fasten my seat belt for the bumpy ride ahead. Perimenopause may be upon me, but that doesn’t mean I have to look like it, too.