If you’ve ever booked introductory skin treatments at a spa, such as traditional facials or microcurrent therapy, you know they can be pretty relaxing. Short of any extractions, you’re set up to be comfortable: heated bed, blankets, pillows, and a soothing steamer. In fact, it’s completely understandable if you fall asleep — and wake up to glowing skin. However, the more visible results you want, the more invasive the treatment generally needs to be. Unfortunately, some of these types of treatments can be downright uncomfortable.
That’s why providers of laser and injectable treatments tend to be well-versed in all sorts of techniques for quelling discomfort. Ask your licensed provider what options they have to minimize pain, suggests Sonia Batra, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. You could also try squeezing stress balls, advises Elizabeth Hale, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Complete Skin MD™ in New York City.
However, these techniques don’t necessarily guarantee a pain-free experience. Add that to the fact that people have differing pain thresholds, and it’s difficult to predict which treatments will feel tolerable (and which are pushing it).
If pain is a major concern for you, rest assured: Some treatments have a reputation for causing less discomfort than others. We’re highlighting some of them below. Read on for five medical aesthetics treatments that deliver results — all with minimal discomfort.
Lasers notoriously have a reputation for being painful. But don’t rule them out just yet. The newest versions, like PicoWay®, are able to outsmart discomfort — mostly because of how speedy they are. “A picosecond is one trillionth of a second, so it can be a [hundred] times quicker than previous laser pulses,” explains Dr. Hale. Not only does its speed cut down on pain, but the laser also bypasses the superficial layers of skin and goes straight to the dermis. There, it breaks up pigmentation and spurs collagen production, giving you a one-two punch of treating wrinkles and dark spots.
“You can treat with [little to] no downtime, which I’ve never said before about lasers,” says Dr, Hale, who notes that some patients don’t even need numbing cream. “As far as the post-care, there’s [typically] not much to do except avoid makeup for 24 hours.” And it doesn’t require taking a day off. Instead, PicoWay® usually takes 15 to 20 minutes and can be done on a lunch break or after work, says Anne Chapas, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Union Square Laser Dermatology™ in New York, NY. You may experience some redness or irritation in the treated area, but nothing that would cause you to want to duck out of work early.
If someone told us a skin-tightening treatment could feel like “a warm massage,” we’d sign up in an instant. And that’s exactly how Dr. Batra describes the sensation of radiofrequency, a treatment that uses a low level current of energy to heat and tighten the skin. “For skin laxity and firming, I use the Venus DiamondPolar™ and OctiPolar™ radiofrequency treatments,” she explains.
Both of the aforementioned devices contain temperature monitors, which ensure that the wand remains warm — never painfully hot. And, because the wand is constantly moving over skin, it doesn’t stay in one place long enough for the heat to build up and cause discomfort. “These are safe for all skin tones, do not require any anesthetic cream, and have minimal downtime,” adds Dr. Batra.
Clear + Brilliant®
Consider Clear + Brilliant your introductory course for lasers. “It’s optimized for preventing and addressing early signs of aging, including skin texture, firmness, elasticity, and pore appearance,” says Dr. Chapas. “It has been one of our favorite energy devices, as it provides less invasive and affordable treatments with minimal downtime.” As with any laser, this treatment can be mildly uncomfortable. However, many report that it’s more tolerable than other resurfacing lasers. Translation: This is an ideal laser for beginners and scaredy-cats alike. (Plus, providers typically offer numbing cream.)
Afterwards, patients typically notice an improvement in skin appearance and radiance right away, with more results visible over the next week or two. Some laser centers, such as Union Square Laser Dermatology, often combine Clear + Brilliant with a topical antioxidant treatment, which allows for optimal product absorption and even brighter results.
Another laser Dr. Hale is fond of is LaseMD. “It’s a minimally-invasive, fractionated resurfacing [laser] to help with superficial pigment,” she explains. It evens out skin tone, brightens, and improves skin texture, so it’s a good option for a range of patients. In terms of discomfort, this laser claims to be much gentler than many others (though Dr. Hale still applies a numbing cream beforehand). After LaseMD, you may notice pinkness and dryness for a day or two — overall downtime for this laser is generally minimal.
Injectable Wrinkle Reducers
There are many reasons injectable wrinkle reducers are becoming increasingly common. These injectable treatments can temporarily smooth the appearance of moderate to severe lines on the forehead, as well as crow’s feet and the elevens — all without causing too much discomfort. The needles used to inject the substance are tiny and feel like a little pinch upon insertion, says Dr. Batra.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]
All three dermatologists we interviewed recommended it as a good option for those concerned about excessive pain. “The results are impressive in terms of deep wrinkles and etched lines that come from muscle action,” adds Dr. Batra.