The Beauty Extremist: Does pain = beauty?

Lou Teasdale finds out the hard way

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By Lou Teasdale 

It's been four weeks since I cried in an Uber after an Infini facial at the PHI Clinic on Harley Street. Let me explain...

The facial is a non-invasive treatment that combines radio frequency and micro-needling to stimulate collagen production at deep levels of the skin, for a lifting and tightening effect. Dr Tapan Patel at the PHI clinic says, "Infini is one of my most popular anti-ageing treatments at PHI Clinic. The majority of my patients are recommended to have three treatments for optimal results but are so happy with their results after just one session that they don't come back for more. Whilst the treatment can certainly not be called pain-free, our aim is to make our patients as comfortable as possible during the treatment." And I agree – I don't recommend this for anyone with a low pain threshold.

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I realise at 32 I don't necessarily need quite as many treatments as I'm embarking upon for this Beauty Extremist column, but I certainly am feeling at a point in my life where literally try anything, safe and within reason, with the promise of younger looking skin.

I also struggled with acne as a teenager and it has left me with some scaring around my chin area that I'd really like to address. I need to find something that actually combats it a bit more that your average facial and actually improves the areas I'm unhappy with.

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On my arrival at the clinic two receptionists and one nurse gave me extremely worried looks – they know how painful the treatment could be. "I'll be ABSOLUTELY fine," I reassured them, thinking to myself I must be the most laidback customer they've ever had pass through their bright white clinic halls.

Once in the room the nice nurse said it might "smart a bit". I've never heard that expression, but given the context I assumed she was meant a slight scratchy feeling at worst, rather than the micro-needle actually entering the skin. She assured me it would take twenty minutes max. Great, I thought – nice and quick, that's what I like.

Although, before the actual treatment could start, they would need to numb my face for an hour and twenty minutes. That's a long time to lie on your own with your face wrapped in cling film waiting for thestuff to kick in.

Numbing complete, Dr Patel came in and spoke to me much like the midwife did when I gave birth, with a reassuringly soft voice. Offering a 'we're going to get through this together' type encouragement, which I would normally find annoying but it turns out I needed it. The machine she was stamping on my face sounded like a hole punch.

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Assuming it would get easier I told the Dr that the 'level' of pain was fine and to crack on. Three more stamps and I felt myself backtracking on that bravado and asking for a small break before venturing from chin area to cheek area, which I didn't feel would be bearable.

As I mentioned, I have a lot of acne damage on my chin, so it's an area I'm acutely unhappy with. We agreed to go hard there, using a longer needle to go deeper into the skin to break down the old acne scars, before finishing off the rest of my face on an easier setting, which involved a shorter needle entering the skin. As promised it was all over in 15 minutes, which, as facials go, is extremely quick. Thank god.

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When the Dr and I were in that awkward shuffling around finishing bit, finding your phone, pretending to listen to aftercare advice, it suddenly came over me; I don't know why, I'm totally fine, but I am going to cry.

Once I was in my Uber, the floodgates opened. To put it into context; I've had a baby and I didn't cry, I've had other vanity surgeries and I didn't cry. In fact, I pride myself on being good with pain, so I can only put this episode down to shock. After all, the Infini is a non-invasive facial, not surgery. So I guess I just really wasn't expecting it, it wasn't quite what it said on the tin and it certainly did not feel 'non-invasive'.

My Doctor had told me that all patients should expect 4-5 days downtime, however, patients may experience micro-dot scabbing which can take up to around 7 days to clear. I had no choice but to cancel all (important) plans for the evening, and instead morphed into tearful patient, popping painkillers and removing meetings from mydiary for the rest of the week. It was quite clear I was going to look a little bit scary for a few days.

The recovery stage felt similar to the time I was really badly sunburnt in Australia and my whole face was one giant, tight, dry scab that no amount of moisturiser could help. It took 5 or 6 days to really feel better and look normal, and once I was at the 'micro-dot scabbing' phase of recovery I could easily cover it up with makeup.

My Doctor explained just over 50% of patients would see a result after the first treatment, although this is accumulative and the best results would be six weeks after the third treatment, with extra maintenance once a year. Well, guess what? After one treatment my skin feels the best it has EVER felt. BETTER than when I was 21. I have noticeably fewer lines, and minimal redness even on my chin. My cheeks feel plumped, my skin feels fresh all over and my pores are much tighter.

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A photo posted by Lou Teasdale (@louteasdale) on

I dreaded the results being this good because I really don't ever want to go through the treatment again, unless I can convince them to knock me out beforehand and I can find a week when I don't need to do anything/see any people. But, even with all that in mind, I actually think I will book in for another session. Sure, it's not an entirely lovely experience but it gives great results.

As it turns out, on this occasion, pain actually does equal beauty. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

The Infini Skin Tighting Treatment is available at the PHI Clinic, Harley Street. Prices start from £500. 

Risks and side effects: Risks associated with INFINI are pigmentation and breakouts, however these are very rare and easily treatable.

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