When I was a young girl, my best friend came in the form of a previous enemy. A fellow redhead, we spent the first of our infant academic years suspicious of, and disdainful toward , each other. In retrospect, we probably thought the sea of tanned blondes that made up our juvenile south Dublin classroom would only make room for one pale, freckly oddity. Long story short, the third year of school saw us forced into a smaller class, sitting next to each other by rule; this was followed by the next 12 years of us sitting next to each other by choice. We were peas in a pod and did very little without each other.
As a result of this connection, each development and change in our lives were directly comparable to the other – by our families, our social circles and ourselves. She ‘shot up’ when I stayed tiny (it was the only growth spurt she ever really took so actually, once again, it balanced out in the end – we have both remained vertically challenged); she excelled academically while I stared out of windows, dreaming of the stage; her wit sharpened as mine muted due to a growing self-consciousness. The cruelest of all the differences, however, were the contrasting skin journeys that our teenage years brought.
Mother nature decided that I was to gain only freckles on my pale complexion, regardless of what I consumed, experienced or indulged. The same lady rewarded years of eating rubbish whenever I wanted with a clear bright glow every morning. As I clocked up more years, I partied hard and always fell asleep with my fully made up face on the pillow. Cleansing happened at some stage the following day, just prior to the shower (prior to the return to the pub). I travelled the world plonking thick factor 50 sun cream on my skin as order of importance… whenever I remembered, that is. My skin was invincible and because of this, it required no love or attention.
My sister-from-another-mister had a vastly different experience. From early teens, skin breakouts became a regular concern. Within a very short space of time, the ‘occasional’ breakouts turned into constants, and she was troubled by sore, raw, unkind acne. Her mother spent years finding new doctors with whom to consult, new creams to apply, and new medicines to take. Unfairly, very little worked and she battled daily to control the flair ups. She became the queen of concealer and cosmetics. Having to deal with the unhappiness and self-consciousness that comes with wearing your teenage woes on your face, she learnt all the masking tricks. Along with conscientiously following every programme or course of medicine prescribed to her, she made concerted efforts to do what she could herself to give her skin every chance of improving. She avoided her much-loved crisps, she removed greasy food from her food diet, she cleansed like her life depended on it and adopted a diligent, finessed beauty routine that those French women would be proud of. Nothing was taken for granted.
From Then to Now
Fast forward 20 years and our skin stories are once again tales of disparity. Having left the harsh years of acne behind her, my friend remains as diligent in her skin care as she was at the peak of her woes. She tries every new product or treatment on the market; she invests in what she knows to work; she never forgets her rituals and routines; she notices every change and addresses it immediately. She has the skin of a porcelain doll.
Having left my careless years somewhat behind me, I came up for air, looked in the mirror, and found that I had in fact been left with the skin I deserved. Turns out you can’t eat what you want, act how you want, take your skin for granted and assume it will always glow back at you. Turns out Mother Nature wasn’t quite the cool, forgiving chick I had once believed. Actually, she was a bit of a witch, luring me into that false sense of facial security. The same happened in relation to assuming my waist line would remain waif-like after allowing me develop an appetite for hearty meals that rugby players might benefit from, but that’s for another story…
So here I found myself approaching my mid-thirties faced with a reality check as plain as the skin on my face: multiple and deep lines, constant dryness, broken veins, major pigmentation, and pock marks resulting from aggressive facials that I bought into over the last few years in an effort to regain the smooth complexion of that careless twenty-something. Some facials were brilliant and left me with moisturised, happy skin (temporarily). Some were disappointing and left me with little more than a lighter wallet. Unfortunately, all of the efforts were ultimately proving futile as my skin was taking a further turn for the worst. Monthly breakouts were becoming more exaggerated and painful. Over time, the gaps between breakouts were becoming shorter; the hormonal spots took longer to heal and I was left with redness and scarring, particularly around my chin. Along with this I also began regularly suffering from stress-induced spots. Basically, the situation was ugly.
As is often the case when you become particularly disheartened with some part of your appearance or life, I was obsessed with all of the glowing skin radiating from the faces of others, daily. In particular, I was taken with the skin of a TV presenter I worked with regularly. I watched the incredible evolution of her skin into something close to an airbrushed magazine cover. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and regularly commented on how amazing her skin looked whilst pushing my nose right up to hers to get a good look. It was truly a thing of healthy-looking beauty. Evidently, she grew weary of my creepy running commentary – she offered up her secret weapon in the form of dermatological nurse, Peggy Stringer. She passed on her number, I made the call in January, and from that moment on everything has constantly been getting just a little bit better.
My first consultation with Peggy was nothing if not eye-opening. She’s straight-talking. She told me that I had too many lines for my age, my spots were acne and the redness around my nose might be Rosacea. Also, she said that although she’s sure my mother told me my freckles were lovely but I wasn’t born with them and therefore they were pigmentation i.e. sun damage (and not in fact ‘kisses from the sun’ as I was told by the nice old dears on the bus). She did soften the blow by telling me my newly shaped eyebrows looked great. Every cloud…
Her honesty and straightforwardness was – and remains – utterly refreshing. My skin is damaged and I need to face up to it. The initial consultation consisted of Peggy taking photos of my skin (see image with the sticker on the forehead!), reviewing the issues, discussing possible solutions, providing breakdown of suggested treatments and prices, followed by advice to make no decisions now but rather go away and think about how committed I was to the process. She also said that, although she was happy to work toward good results prior to my wedding, I needed to make the decision to invest in my skin care long-term and not just for one day. Basically, Peggy hit me with the facts and there was very little sugar coating. For the girl that spent a decade neglecting her skin, this was the lady to call her out. Based on Peggy’s evident knowledge and skills, as well as the impressive case studies that she was able to share, I committed to beginning the prescribed programme immediately.
Having enjoyed a number of kind comments about my skin, as well as witnessing the evidence daily in the mirror, I am truly convinced in not only Peggy but also the products and the process. For this reason, I thought I’d share the experience. I always looked for a ‘magic’ cure – I even took a course of very strong prescription tablets for a number of months when things first got very bad, but I now know the ‘magic’ is in the combination, the bigger picture.
After my initial free consultation, I immediately began to use the Jan Marini 5-step programme. Peggy swears by these products and, for a lady with well over a decade working in the industry, I was happy to take her word for it. Initially, I stuck just to the Bioglycolic Face Cleanser morning and evening, and the Bioglycolic Bioclear Lotion in the evenings. Peggy told me that I should continue using my own moisturiser until it ran out – she doesn’t believe in wasting products which was joy to my (newly Chanel moisturised) ears. The cleanser caused my skin to tingle, as did the lotion at night. Initially, my skin was terribly dry and tight, flaking regularly, but soon this became manageable. I had been warned that this might happen ahead of time – and I’m someone who likes to feel something working – so I was happy to live with it.
My next two consultations involved treatments and this is where I really began to see results. Glycolic Skin Peels and IPL Photo Rejuvenation were order of the day. Following a double cleanse, Peggy applied the peel to my skin, which gave me a mildly stinging sensation, but it felt weirdly satisfying. The idea is to start with a low strength and increase to a stronger strength as you progress. After the peel was removed, a lovely moisturising masque is applied to help soothe my skin and take down any redness.
The next step is the LED Light Therapy machine – the essential element. I would love to tell you the science behind it but I don’t claim to understand it. I can just tell you that you get little plastic goggles and it feels like an important, futuristic-style undertaking. Again, it’s over in a few minutes.
To be honest, I’m never quite sure what’s actually happening during my treatments, as I’m always thoroughly engrossed in conversation with Peggy. She’s fascinating and funny; a very good combination for someone so close to your face on a regular basis. Also, because she knows I’m getting married at the end of May, Peggy always follows the application of my peel with a trip around to my right side where she removes my engagement ring and treats my hands. I kid you not, they end up feeling like they have been kissed by angels and buffed by the Gods. I spend a little too much time rubbing the backs of my them against my cheeks as I drive home, as if in an 80s love song music video where my hands are my love interest. But back to the face – below are images of my progress so far. As Peggy keeps telling me, there’s still a bit to do, but I am completely thrilled with the progress. After just the first treatments the reduction in freckles is mind-blowing; it made me realise that they can actually be quite ageing – not the look I’m going for, ever.
The first of the image is from January, the next, February and the last March. (Re. crazy eyes – I was filming earlier on the each of the days and so my makeup was somewhat applied with a shovel which made it look particularly odd once the remainder of the makeup had been removed!)
Although I’m not delighted to show my face in just such an extreme close up, I thought for the purpose of illustration they make a useful visual. You can also see exactly how in need of threading the brows are too. I guess we’re paintings that need regular oiling, us ladies. I heartily recommend Peggy to help you maintain your masterpiece.
Monkstown Laser Skin Clinic
23-24 The Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin