Three weeks ago I took a giant leap out of my comfort zone. Completely dissatisfied with the way age is affecting my face, I decided to embark on a skin treatment program that would involve several months of sticking with an exacting, twice-a-day regimen. As an added bonus, the first three to six weeks would be characterized by extreme redness, itching, peeling and burning.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I mean, who wouldn't jump at the chance to walk around looking like a burn victim for a month or two? Especially a woman like me, whose job involves seeing people--lots of people--every day. But I'm a graduate of the no-pain-no-gain school of life. So after some sweet-talking by my favorite cosmetic surgeon, I plunked down my credit card, took home my bag of bottles and tubes, and plunged in.
Four days later, I woke up, looked in the mirror, and started to cry. What the hell had I been thinking? Thankfully, the doctor's office surprised me with a support call, and I was relieved to hear that what was happening was normal.
Ten days later, I looked ten times worse. My face was red, sore, burning, itching. Yawning hurt. Smiling too often induced unsightly peeling. I pretty much kept my mouth shut about the discomfort. After all, I'd brought it on myself, hadn't I? A second support call (this time from my doctor's wife!) and a pep talk from my friend Maryanne (who had encouraged me to do this after experiencing positive results herself) lifted my spirits.
Wednesday was my first office visit. I arrived feeling confident that things were progressing nicely and sensing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. After announcing his pleasure at the degree of my redness, he gleefully announced, "Let's speed up the process!" and told me to double the dosage. What could I expect next? "More peeling, but you'll get through this phase faster." I could hardly contain my excitement.
And what timing! Saturday I was co-hosting a party celebrating my parents' 80th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary. How could I face a roomful of people--three-quarters of whom I hadn't seen in at least 10 years--with this face? Emboldened by panic, I asked, "Can the speeding-up part wait a few days?" After explaining my dilemma, he smiled kindly and said, "Sounds like it's time for an escape!"
Escape? What a concept. Turns out that if you stop using the treatment products for three days and slather on a blend of moisturizer and cortizone cream instead--voila! Your skin returns to normal. Without reversing the progress you've made. No one at the party noticed a thing. And I could smile without my skin cracking!
Last night I got back on the wagon with mixed emotions. I dread the return of the peeling. But this little break revealed positive changes in my skin. And now I'm convinced that putting up with the next few weeks will be well worth the trouble. Isn't that what "escape" is all about? Getting away from an experience that feels overwhelming so you can regain your perspective. If only it was always as simple as dabbing on some cream.