If there’s anything I remember from my teenage years, it’s my battle with acne. It even landed me in trouble in school – I wore makeup to conceal my pimples and blemishes (liquid foundation and powder, no less) and was reprimanded so many times they eventually called my mother in to have a talk to her.

My teachers tried to convince me that wearing makeup wouldn’t help my case; that I had to let my skin breathe. I didn’t listen and continued to pile on more products and switched products every so often. The result? Nasty breakouts and acne scarring.

It was only six years ago that my skin stopped flaring up but, of course, the scars remain. So when I was asked to review an aesthetic treatment that purportedly treats scars, I was ecstatic.

What it is
The procedure, called Agnes treatment, uses a machine invented by a Korean dermatologist, Dr Ahn. Its primary purpose was to treat acne, but it also helps to reduce the appearance of scars, especially deep-pitted scars.

Note: The above photo is supplied by Ageless Medical Centre and does not depict the writer.

Before Dr Lam from Ageless Medical Centre proceeded with the treatment, she briefed me on the technology behind it – it involves using a microneedle, which delivers radiofrequency waves that, in turn, selectively destroys the oil gland. Dr Lam told me that it also helps to tighten sagging skin, and pointed out that my cheek areas were sagging slightly (horror of horrors – I’m not even 30!). She mentioned that the treatment also improves the skin’s texture, so makeup sits better on the skin.

The procedure
The first part of the treatment is extraction, which was done by Dr Lam’s assistant. But unlike the usual extraction done at the salon, she ensured she removed every blackhead, whitehead and clogged pore. I was told that this would prevent a breakout. She then applied numbing cream to my whole face and gave me painkillers to help lessen the pain. The moment I heard painkillers were involved, I panicked – just how painful was it to warrant painkillers?!

Having been in and out of the hospital since I was young, I have built up a high tolerance for pain and anything that involves needles. But there was one word to describe this: PAINFUL.

Thankfully, the pain dulled after a while and I got used to it (I sound like a masochist, but that’s not the point). There were some areas that had me squirming and jerking when the needle sank in, like the sides of my nose and the T-zone. Dr Lam told me it was normal because those areas are usually more sensitive.

During the procedure, Dr Lam informed me that I had “hidden oil” (basically, my skin is dehydrated on the surface but oily inside), so I could expect some flaring. At that point of time, I didn’t think much of it because dude, there’s a needle poking into my skin. The session was over in a matter of minutes, and she applied a topical antibiotics on my skin before transferring me to the next room for Light Therapy, which helps to speed up the healing process. I was told that Light Therapy is not part of the Agnes treatment, but is something the clinic provides to their clients as a complimentary add-on service.

If you have epilepsy or are sensitive to light, don’t lie about your condition. I have gone for a Light Therapy session at another salon, but this one was so trippy that I had to distract myself by thinking about work so I wouldn’t feel nauseous.

Twenty minutes later, I was good to go after they applied sunblock on my skin.

Dr Lam advised me to go for the drainage, because my face swelled a bit and my skin looked like it was about the flare up. But with meetings lined up the next day, I wasn’t sure if I would have the time, so I told them I would let them know.

How bad was the flaring? I headed to the washroom to find out, and had the biggest shock of my life.

My skin was red and blotchy, and there were bumps. But I remembered Dr Lam saying that the swelling subside by the next day, and I should expect a downtime of one to two weeks. I could see needle holes where she injected my skin, but this would later shrink and close up completely after the skin has healed.

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The aftermath

When I woke up the next day, my face was still red and the bumps didn’t disappear. I freaked out because I hadn’t seen so many bumps on my face in years.

I was told to lay off my normal facial products (other than cleansers) for a few days and just apply the antibacterial cream given to me and sunblock, so I did just that and went to the office – red faced and all.

My colleagues were shocked to see my appearance, but Editor in Chief Claire told me my skin was “glowing” despite the redness and bumps, which made me feel a tad better.

Upon the advice of Senior Beauty Editor Cynthia (because I looked like I was mourning), I sent a photo to the clinic and asked if it was normal. I was advised to visit them for Step 3 so they could help me drain the oil, which was probably causing the flare up, but I was too freaked out, so I turned them down and told them I would monitor it for the next few days.

They checked up on me after a few days and when I told them it hasn’t subsided, they advised me to go on antibiotics, which I refused. After all, being allergic to Brufen, I’ve never had the best experiences with antibiotics.

When I went home, I decided to go against Dr Lam’s advice and apply Skin Inc’s Licorice serum to calm my skin and speed up the healing process. It proved to be a risk that paid off because my skin started to heal faster (it may be psychological, but hey, it made me feel better). What freaked me out was that I could feel the serum seeping into the needle holes after applying it. Which is why I would suggest laying off makeup for at least two week, although Dr Lam told me I could start wearing makeup after a few days.

The result

Despite the flare-up, I must admit that my skin’s condition improved. In about two weeks, my skin became smoother, albeit still sensitive. My scars were less obvious, especially around my cheeks area and forehead. The treatment didn’t make my face baby smooth, but that’s because my acne scars were pretty bad and deep to begin with.

And, as Dr Lam promised, makeup adhered to my skin better. I used to apply thick makeup to cover my scars, but now I can go out wearing light makeup. While my scars are still there, they are less obvious.

I also noticed that I no longer break out when I’m on my period, save for a few whiteheads. So does that mean I’m cured?

My friend asked me how I found the treatment and I told her honestly that I didn’t like the downtime – though I was forewarned about it. Then she told me something that made sense: what was a few weeks’ of suffering in exchange a lifetime of good skin? #truth

Agnes Treatment is available at Ageless Medical Centre, #01-11 Orchard Parade Hotel. Each treatment costs from $850 (excluding medication and skincare product), depending on the severity of the acne breakout. Consultation fees range between $50 and $80, but will be waived off if treatment is done on the same day.

Image: Svetlana Mandrikova / 123RF.com
Text: Hidayah Idris