I’ve had acne scars for most of my life. On some days, I feel self-conscious about it. On other days, I’m like, “Whatever, your life, your rules.”
So whenever someone tells me to try out an acne scar treatment for a review, I would be like, “Sure.”
Sometimes, it works and makes the scars less obvious. Sometimes, the only change I see is glowing skin for the next couple of days, which I wouldn’t complain about because I know how difficult it is to treat scars (damn my itchy hands that popped pimples when I was younger).
So when I found out about an acne scar treatment programme at The Clifford Clinic, I thought, “Why not give it a go?”
What I didn’t realise was that, when The Clifford Clinic said it’s an acne scar programme, it means it doesn’t involve just one treatment.
Before you start your first treatment, you’ll have a consultation with Dr Gerard Ee who will advise which treatment(s) best suit your skin’s needs. I was told to try a combination of two treatments, Infini and Secret RF, for my boxscars and rolling scars.
The Infini treatment “utilises a patented microneedle system that allows it to have a penetration depth of up to 3.5mm below the skin. With other conventional laser and radiofrequency (RF) treatments—the maximum reach is only 1.5 – 1.75 mm below the skin.”
In layman’s term, the needles are longer, so it better penetrates the skin and hence, is purportedly more effective in resurfacing acne scars by promoting collagen growth to plump up the skin, reducing the appearance of scars.
During the consultation, Dr Ee cautioned that the treatment is pretty painful and that he would administer local anaesthesia. I was told that I could get the treatment on the same day, but I opted to reschedule because I would have to attend CLEO Most Eligible Bachelors Finals Party later in that week and come on, do I really want to go for one of our biggest events with a swollen face? No.
As a kid, I was admitted to the hospital pretty often because of a pre-existing condition, so my pain tolerance is higher than average. This is important to keep in mind as I describe the level of pain of the treatment.
Dr Ee pre-empted that there would be redness that would last for a few days, so I ensured my appointment was set as late as it could be because there was no way I was going back to work with a swollen face.
I went for my appointment at 4pm and after registration, I was told to wash my face in one of the rooms.
Micellar water, eye and lip makeup remover and antibacterial face cleanser are provided, so don’t worry too much about bringing your own skincare products (though you could use your own makeup remover if you wanted).
Using their cleanser was important because the antibacterial properties of the cleanser ensure your skin is “clean” enough for the needles to penetrate without causing infection or reaction. Just so you know, the room that you wash your face in looks super atas, like a hotel room—even though it only had a mirror, a sink, and a cabinet.
A while later, a nurse came by to the waiting area to apply numbing cream on my face. While I was in the waiting area, I saw at least two other people getting numbing cream applied out in the open as well—to save time and so you don’t have to keep going in and out of the rooms. So don’t feel awkward about a nurse slathering cream on your face beside a stranger!
The nurse applied two rounds of numbing cream to ensure maximum efficacy. If you’ve never had numbing cream on before, here’s the lowdown: it makes your face numb, but not to the point where you can’t even feel a finger on your skin. It lessens the pain but doesn’t get rid of it completely. You still need a bit of sensation on your skin so in case anything doesn’t feel right, you can flag it up to your doctor.
I was ushered into the treatment room about an hour later, where I received injections for local anaesthesia jabs, administered by Dr Ee. As someone who has a high tolerance for pain, I got to say this with all honesty: the jabs were painful. He injected on three areas on my face: the cheeks and the forehead. I was fine when the needles went into my cheeks but when he injected my forehead… OMG. I was too stunned to react because it was so painful.
He let my skin rest for a minute before starting the treatment. “It’s going to be quite painful,” he warned before going in for the first “punch”.
Nothing. I felt nothing.
The local anaesthesia jabs were much more painful than the treatment itself. He said that this was the first level, and that he would increase the level once he has gone over the whole face.
I realised it was most painful when he went over my deepest scars—the ones on my temples. It was a pricking + burning sensation and I’m pretty sure my leg jerked every time the needles penetrated that area. It also hurt when the needles hit the bony area just above my brows, but the pain was still bearable.
This isn’t too bad, I thought—until he increased the level.
While it wasn’t excruciatingly painful, it was uncomfortable. Thankfully, this process only lasted for a few minutes. In fact, it was over before I knew it. If you were to ask me to rate the pain factor, I would give it a 7/10.
By the end of the session, my face felt hot. I also looked bloated and red—like I got sunburnt—but if you looked closely, you’d be able to see the needle marks. Not that anyone other than your bae or your cat would be staring at you that closely.
I was given an antibacterial cream to prevent infection and a serum to aid healing. I was told to use my own cleanser, the antibacterial cream for three days and the serum until it finishes (it’s a small bottle that can last for about seven days). I was reminded to lay off other skincare products until I finish the course. Although the receptionist told me to use only two to three drops of the serum, I used three to four each time because the antibacterial cream made my face dry and dehydrated (I have oily skin). I also put on moisturiser after I was done with the antibacterial cream because I could practically feel my face cracking. I used a gel moisturiser, which was lightweight and gentle. I wouldn’t advise applying a heavy cream as it can clog your pores. Of course, sunscreen is extremely important because you’d want to protect your sensitive skin from sun damage.
If you know me, I’m very particular about sun exposure. Since my face was red and raw, I decided to put on a cap and a face mask to work because, maximum protection.
It was business as usual at work when I removed my cap and mask, but some people did ask why my face was so red.
I was advised that it would take about three days for the redness to subside. My skin is more sensitive, so it took around four days before the redness subsided.
Around Day 5, I also saw black dots on the cotton pad as I was removing my sunscreen. I thought the pollution level in Singapore had gone up, but it turned out to be the scabs.
By the sixth day, I still had a pinkish tint on my cheeks, as if I had gone for a run, and the swelling had subsided.
While I was told I could put on makeup about three days after the treatment, I didn’t want to risk it in case of infection or breakout, so I waited for a week before I put makeup on.
My scars looked less deep and my face looked more even-toned, so yay!
I was told I would have to wait for at least a month to see a difference since the collagen takes time to regenerate, so I was pretty impressed that I could see even a small change during that short period of time.
Here’s my skin about a month after the treatment, with only Dior Capture Dreamskin Cushion in 000 (non-tinted) on.
I was supposed to go for the Secret RF session a month after Infini but I was going to DisneySea for a press trip and didn’t want to see Mickey and Minnie with a swollen face, so I arranged for an appointment about one-and-a-half months after Infini.
Secret RF treatment
Secret RF is described as “a revolutionary non-surgical treatment that uses fractional radiofrequency (RF) and micro-needles for the treatment of depressed acne scars”.
It’s similar to a Fractional CO2 laser but while the latter uses laser beams, it uses “micro-needles with a radiofrequency to penetrate into the deep dermal layers of the skin.” This, in turn, allows for deeper collagen stimulation and has a better effect of cutting through scar fibres.
Like Infini, it involves the application of two rounds of numbing cream. This treatment doesn’t involve local anaesthesia, so it’s supposedly less painful. “If you can handle Infini, this is nothing,” Dr Ee said.
He was right, this one is definitely less painful. I would rate the pain factor as 5/10. Plus, it took only 10 minutes.
However, it left more noticeable needle marks on my skin for a week and the redness also took a longer time to subside—about a week. I noticed that my face wasn’t as red this time round but it looked more swollen.
I had an event to attend two days after the treatment but thankfully, with a cap and a bright lip colour, I managed to pull off the glowy post-workout look—although you could see needle marks quite obviously if you stood next to me. My skin started scabbing about four days after the treatment, and the scabbing fell off about two to three days later.
It’s been only a month, so I haven’t seen a drastic change compared to the results after Infini, but if you asked me to compare my scars pre-treatments and post-treatments, I can see a significant difference.
Sure, my scars are not completely gone—I can’t expect miracles with only two sessions over three months—but my skin looks smoother. I was also told before the treatment that with Infini, one can only see obvious results after three months, so this was a good start.
I was also told that Mark Lee had taken four years and four Infini sessions (on top of other sessions) before he got the smoother skin he has now. So, if you’re willing to spend the time (you’ve waited enough anyway) and money, this could be a treatment you’d want to try.
-The Clifford Clinic Special-