We Tried It: Christie Brinkley's Favorite Anti-Aging Laser Treatment
What Is It: Clear and Brilliant laser treatments are intended to stimulate collagen production and counteract sun damage, fine lines and dullness
Who Tried It: Sheila Cosgrove Baylis, PEOPLE Bodies editor
Level of Discomfort: On a scale of 1 to 10, it can hurt as little as a 1 or as much as a 5. There’s no discomfort if you use a numbing gel, but it can be mildly painful without, especially as the treatments progress.
When Christie Brinkley told PEOPLE in July that she relies on Clear and Brilliant laser treatments to keep her skin looking young, I knew I had to try it. So I went to Dr. Michele Green, a celebrity dermatologist in New York City, to find out if this could be the key to Brinkley looking so much younger than her 62 years.
I’d been too afraid to do any sort of laser treatment before, but I was willing to try Clear and Brilliant, often referred to as a mini-Fraxel, because it is far more gentle than a Fraxel laser. “It takes five sessions to get the effect of one Fraxel,” Dr. Green, who does not treat Brinkley, says. “But the good thing about it is that there’s no downtime.”
Nevertheless, I was fearful and skeptical before my first treatment — I was worried that it would be painful, that I was going to be beet red and peeling for days, that my sensitive skin would blister, that I was going to be the one person in the world to die from this, or, alternatively, that it wouldn’t do anything. As I sat in Dr. Green’s nicely appointed waiting room, my mind grabbed onto and magnified every laser horror story and rumor.
It turns out my fears were somewhat founded; Dr. Green says the first order of business is to be sure any laser or pulsed light treatment is performed by a well-trained physician — an untrained provider can cause serious and even permanent damage.
“Get the procedure from a board-certified doctor with a knowledge of skin — only from physicians in the field,” she says. “Make sure this is what they’ve been doing for a long time, not that they just took a weekend class and you’re their first person. But when in the right hands, lasers are great for the skin.”
She added that all skin types can benefit from Clear and Brilliant treatments, but I was a perfect candidate. I’m fair, so I have considerable sun damage even though I’ve never been an avid sunbather, and I’m at the age where I’m noticing changes to my skin.
Dita Kosi, Dr. Green’s friendly nurse, reassured me that my total lack of a pain tolerance would not be a problem, and she was right. With the numbing gel, I barely felt the wand rolling over my skin, and what I did feel wasn’t unpleasant.
Dr. Green explains that, like a Fraxel, the Clear and Brilliant laser makes microscopic holes in the skin through heat. “The skin has a microscopic injury, and so it regenerates and makes new collagen. But it’s very, very light with the Clear and Brilliant. You won’t even know that it’s happening apart from a minor sensation.”
After the treatment, my skin was a bit red for about an hour, but it was barely noticeable — you can go to an event a couple of hours afterwards and you can definitely go to work the next day. The downside is the number of treatments needed — most people need about five treatments to see a significant difference — which can get pricey with each treatment costing as much as $500 a pop, though cost varies depending on the physician.
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The Verdict: After completing a round of treatments, I noticed a difference in my skin’s texture and tone. I had fewer age spots, my fine lines were less noticeable and I had a nice glow for a couple of weeks after the last treatment. The results are subtle but undeniable, and investing in my skin this way has encouraged me to wear sunscreen religiously, a healthy side effect. (Who wants to undo all of those doctor’s visits?) I tried the treatment both with and without the numbing gel, and it can be mildly painful without it. I recommend applying the gel 30 minutes before the treatment for princess-and-the-pea types like me who are extra sensitive. Your doctor can provide the numbing gel in office or give you a prescription so you can apply it at home prior to your visit.
Clear and Brilliant is a great first step for laser and plastic surgery-phobes who want to do something more drastic than try the latest cream, but who want to avoid more invasive options like Botox or fillers.