That whole New Yorkers are always in a hurry thing is such a cliché, but it's one with some truth to it. No one moves to NYC because they like to take things slow — we are a city of movers and shakers with places to go and a ton of things to do if we're going to afford our extravagant rents. Which is why, when it comes to our beauty treatments, we expect great things. They need to work wonders, better not cost a fortune, and do everything at the speed of light. Pretty tall order, but one the new Skin Laundry laser facials fill with ease. The California transplant, whose first East Coast location opened earlier this year in the burgeoning beauty mecca that is the Flatiron, uses a combination of laser and IPL to help expertly clean, smooth, and clear the skin. What's that, you say? Aren't lasers expensive, time-consuming commitments that require extensive downtime for recovery? Au contraire, dear reader: Founder Yen Reis has modeled her treatments on the laser facials popular in Singapore, which are meant to be done more frequently and as skin maintenance, rather than as intensive repair sessions. "When I was living in Asia, I suffered from hormonal acne — after my third child, I started breaking out," explains Reis. "I experimented quite a bit with laser technology to try and get rid of acne and acne scarring. What I found was that a treatment that was more mild worked better for me, and it really changed my skin." The treatment uses a Yag laser to help "vaporize" pollution, grime, and dead skin, followed by IPL (intense pulsed light), which treats redness and inflammation and kills acne-causing bacteria. But, unlike the traditional therapies with these machines that are done at your doctor's, Skin Laundry uses them at a much lower frequency, which Reis says allows the treatments to be done on a weekly basis without causing redness, flaking, or damage to the skin. Says Reis, "Lasers like the Fraxel are literally burning and traumatizing the skin to encourage rejuvenation. The whole key is that it penetrates and stimulates, so the more it burns and stimulates, your collagen is going to go into overdrive to fix the skin. [With a lower setting,] we don't penetrate it to the point where it will flake or fall off. A little bit goes a long way if you can do it regularly." The treatments are administered by physicians' assistants, and Reis consulted with an advisory board of dermatologists, doctors, and laser specialists who were familiar with the treatment she had done in Singapore to help create Skin Laundry's signature regimen. Prior to my first visit to Skin Laundry, I consulted with a few laser specialists and derms to get their opinion on Reis' approach. None of them wanted to go on the record for this story, but the response I got was that they didn't believe anyone but a trained dermatologist should be administering lasers to patients, and that doing a treatment at a minimal frequency might actually be a waste of money because it wouldn't be doing enough to be effective. Then, of course, there was that whole death waiver story in the NY Post.
I've always been pretty adventurous with my beauty treatments, so I went ahead and booked an appointment, despite all that I had heard. I figured there was only one way to know if this less-is-more approach was beneficial. I walked into the space and immediately felt like I had wandered into a Malibu beach house — the vibe was very chic and relaxed, not like the clinical, sterile spaces I encountered when undergoing laser procedures. The sign-in process is high-tech, with all the forms and info laid out handily on an iPad for you to sign, and instead of waiting around, you are almost immediately escorted into a treatment room where a PA will look at your skin and make sure you don't have any issues that would prevent you from doing the treatment. Your hair is pulled off your face and goggles are applied to protect your eyes. The PA then uses the YAG to do two passes over your skin. Stella, my treatment administrator, soothingly explained each step as she was doing it and what was happening, so there were no surprises. The laser was painless — the closest thing I can compare it to is the sensation you get when you roll a dermaroller over your skin. After the second pass, a protective gel is applied to your face and out comes the IPL for one pass. This doesn't feel like anything at all, merely a bright flashing light (hence the protective goggles) and the slightest sensation of heat. The gel is wiped away, some SPF moisturizer is applied to the face (a must because your skin will be more photosensitive post-treatment), and you are out the door. Total treatment time: 10 minutes. After my first session, I didn't really notice a huge difference in my skin, but six weeks later, after weekly appointments, I'm hooked. My pores are dramatically less noticeable, my skin is breaking out less, and my whole complexion seems to have a glow to it. Aestheticians have been telling me how great my skin looks, and I even saw a faster healing time for any blemishes I did have, as well as fading of post-acne marks. Add to that the fact that it's convenient — I can make all my appointments online, and I am reliably in and out the door in less than 15 minutes — and this is my newest beauty obsession. That said, the treatment isn't a cure-all for everyone. Those with very dark skin — what dermatologists and skin experts categorize as skin type 6 — should consult with a dermatologist prior to undergoing any laser treatments. Says Reis, "The laser penetrates to the dermis to break up pigment, but when [your natural skin] pigment is that strong, the laser is likely to lighten [the skin]. That’s not always the case, but there is no way of testing it, and that's not something we are prepared to risk." And, while the treatment is phenomenal for those suffering from mild to moderate bacterial acne, Reis says it doesn't treat cystic acne. "Cystic acne is something we try not to touch, because it is so complicated. We can help with some of that inflammation, but sometimes, when you apply lasers, it will inflame it even more." Each individual treatment costs about $65, but there are incentives to purchase packages, including an introductory one that offers three treatments for $150, or 10 treatments for $500. When asked how she manages to provide her services at such a low cost compared to the lasers in doctors' offices, Reis tells me it all comes down to how often the machines are used. "The only reason lasers are expensive is that it’s administered by a nurse in a derm office, and usually only utilized five or six times a day, so they are allowed to charge $150 an hour," she says. "We remove all that. We aren’t administering at a dangerous level, and all our staff are trained nurses and PAs — basically, we just remove the high doctor's cost per hour." As Reis points out, Asia has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to skin, and her mission is to educate the U.S. market that lasers don't have to be scary, intensive things. And, that when it comes to great skin, it's all about maintenance. "Everyone thinks everything is a quick fix in beauty," she says, "but it should be something you work at. You really need to commit to looking after yourself to see results." That's a philosophy we can definitely get on board with.