Department

I'm So Vain

Beauty is only skin deep—but that’s what makes a medical spa so enticing.

January 2011

Red spots. brown spots. soft squiggly lines. deep straight lines. i see them all when I peer into the mirror. I really shouldn’t be surprised: At 31 years old, my skin is no longer the smooth, unblemished canvas it once was. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with me per se. Most people would hardly notice the dark line that skirts my upper lip. No one except my husband has ever noticed the brown blotches on my cheeks. Those little red spots that don’t go away—I’m the only one who sees them. And although the profound furrow that appears between my eyebrows when I frown has affectionately been dubbed “Lindsey’s angry line” by my friends, I don’t think anyone looks at the resulting wrinkle as a sign of age like I do.

Well, almost no one. 

Dr. Tahl Humes definitely noticed. She even pointed out a few things I hadn’t yet seen: Defects (one eyebrow muscle is, apparently, larger than the other) that now taunt me in the low light of my bathroom each morning. Of course, as the owner of Vitahl Medical Aesthetics in Cherry Creek, it was Dr. Humes’ job to see my flaws—and tell me how I might remedy them if I wanted to.

Medical spas have proliferated over the past decade—in the Denver area alone there are at least a dozen—but I never thought I needed their services. Even if I did, I had always been a little wary of treatments like Botox, fillers, and lasers. Is it safe? Will it hurt? But then my vanity began to kick in and I got…curious. Could a medical spa shave off a few years? I decided to schedule an hour-long consultation with Dr. Humes.

In a small room with two chairs and a full-length mirror, Dr. Humes listened to my concerns (I brought a list with me), looked quickly at my “problem” areas, executed a test of my eyebrow strength, and, in her fast-paced chatter, proceeded to explain my options for refreshing my face.

First up: Botox, the fountain of youth in a syringe, is a prescription medication that a physician injects into muscles to reduce their activity, causing moderate to severe wrinkles to soften. With just 24 units (about $336) of this magic syrup, my angry line would melt away—for three to four months. I had to admit I was intrigued. Dr. Humes continued, illustrating Botox’s true effects by alerting me that she had used the treatment on herself. A few years older than I am, she had no hint of an angry line, no squiggles crisscrossing her forehead. I asked her to frown. The skin between her eyes barely moved. Hmmmm. I still wanted to be able to frown—after all, part of my job is to manage deadlines and sometimes I want to look a little mad—I just wanted the wrinkle that remained when I wasn’t frowning to go away. Dr. Humes explained that Botox would probably only soften my deeply embedded crinkle, not make it disappear.

But that was just a limitation of Botox. The doctor had other guns in her skin-care arsenal—most notably, something called the Pearl. A 15-minute laser procedure ($1,000 per treatment), the Pearl would be my ticket to not only fewer deep-seated wrinkles, but it would also be effective in reducing my melasma—those super-irritating brown patches on my cheeks. The laser, in simple terms, burns off the top layer of skin, taking with it wrinkles, sun damage, and uneven textures. The downside: five days of an ultra-inflamed, red face that must be kept moist with Vaseline. Ooookay, I thought.

The doctor had other options, of course—intensive peels, photo facials, and clinically tested skin-care products—but her recommendation was clear: A combo of Botox and Pearl treatments was my best bet for curing what was aging me.

I considered it for a few days. Really thought about it. Talked it over with my co-workers (they were almost universally opposed to the idea). And then I chickened out…of the Pearl. I almost backed out of the Botox, too—I hate needles and I feared sporting that waxy Hollywood look; however, in the name of research, I stepped up. And, I have to say, I liked it more than I thought I would. A lot more. The results are, in simple terms, pretty damn cool.

The “procedure” lasted all of 20 minutes and the sting of the needle was less painful than a flu shot. Plus, Dr. Humes went easy on me, only injecting about three-quarters the amount she typically would. The upshot is that my angry line is much less noticeable. And although I can still frown a bit, the skin between my eyes and the middle of my forehead is visibly smoother and younger-looking. At least, I think it looks different. Not one person—not even my husband, who I purposely didn’t tell—has mentioned my revitalization. But that’s OK. I didn’t do it for anyone else. I did it for me (OK, and for this article). And while I do like the results, I probably won’t run back for more—at least not right now. At 31, I can deal with my signature furrow. But, I have to admit that in five or 10 years I might be a lot more eager—and willing—to try whatever the doctor orders.