Turning back the clock: HALO/BBL lasers – My Experience at Le 1620

By Shayna Wiwierski

Being a beauty and skincare enthusiast, I am always on the hunt for the latest and greatest to keeping my skin looking and feeling young.

Here are the facts though, as much as we try, our skin will age, and no amount of serums, creams, and tonics will reverse that. They might slow down the aging process, but as you get older, your skin will age as well.

I currently have a seven- to eight-step skincare routine, something I have been doing since I was 16. Right now I’m 34 years old, going on 35 later this year, and am one to take my skin health seriously. I try to drink lots of water, eat right, get Botox, filler, incorporate collagen into my diet, limit sun exposure, wear sunscreen, etc., but I have still seen some effects of aging as I’m entering my mid-30s. Don’t get me wrong, I still have fabulous skin and I feel like I don’t look my age (I certainly don’t feel it either!). With that said though, I do realize that it’s a good time to start maintaining my youthful appearance and that’s why I started looking at incorporating laser treatments into my skin journey.

There are various facial lasers available out there that can help with everything from large pores, acne scarring, improving fine lines, increasing collagen production, firming skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and more. When it comes to finding a laser treatment centre, it’s best to do your research and go to ones that specialize in these kinds of treatments, such as plastic surgery or dermatology clinics.

Last month I visited Clinique Le 1620, which is owned by Dr. Mirko Gilardino here in Montreal. The clinic specializes in plastic surgery and non-invasive medical procedures such as Botox, fillers, micro needling, PRPs and you guessed it, a wide variety of laser treatments!

At the beginning of February, I went for a consultation to explore the different options available for me and what would be best for my skin. I met with aesthetic registered nurse Annie Lorefice and after taking a look at my skin and hearing my skincare concerns, she decided that a BBL (Broadband Laser) and then HALO would be the best option for me.

So, like I said, I am rather proud of my skin. I don’t break out easily, but I do have some pigmentation and redness coming through. The biggest concern for me though was the loss of firmness on the lower half of my face, which I feel like is starting to give me a more “jowly” appearance. Nurse Annie thought that a base pass of BBL would be good to bring out the pigmentation in my skin and then a more thorough treatment with the HALO laser would help with any fine line/wrinkles, loss of firmness, hyperpigmention, and more, that my skin is starting to show.

So, what are these lasers exactly?

In its simplest form, the BBL Laser helps to remove brown spots and reduce redness from the skin.

BBL is a very popular option and is an advanced photo rejuvenation treatment that uses broadband light to reduce pigmentation and give you a glowing appearance. The device emits short bursts of light to penetrate below the skin’s surface, which then targets and brings up the brown spots, small veins, age spots, sun spots, and pigmentation, which will eventually flake off and disappear. The light energy also helps with the production of collagen to plump skin, promote the healthy regeneration of cells, and more.

Since I have some pigmentation in my skin, Nurse Annie felt like a base pass of the BBL laser would be good to do before the HALO treatment. This one did go by quite quickly and the process was a little painful but nothing too uncomfortable. It reminded me of using at-home laser hair removal treatments since the sensation was just a zap and the whole treatment with the BBL took about 10 minutes max.

Moving onto the HALO, this laser helps with skin imperfections, improves collagen production, and helps to treat minor facial flaws like acne scarring, large pores, hyperpigmention, wrinkles, fine lines, and more. It also helps with skin dullness (which I have been finding lately) and will leave you with a beautiful and healthy glow.

The HALO works using two different distinct wavelengths – ablative and non-ablative – which targets skin concerns on multiple levels. Ablative skin treatments help with improving aging skin and works by delivering an intense wavelength of light to the skin, which then removes the outer layer of aged or sun-damaged skin. Non-ablative skin treatments work by stimulating collagen, which then improves skin texture and tone. It also helps with acne scars, fine lines, wrinkles, melasma, and more. When combined, you are getting incredible results that leave you with a more flawless and glowing appearance.

Since HALO is a little more intense than the BBL, I did have to have a numbing cream applied to my face, which took about 30-40 minutes to kick in. From there, Nurse Annie used the machine to measure out my face for a customized and precise application. This one actually didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would (although I was told the numbing cream she used was a lot better than the ones they have had previously). At first, I could feel the machine on my skin, but no real pain. After a few passes it did start to feel hot and slightly uncomfortable, but overall the treatment wasn’t too bad.

Afterwards was a different story though.

Once you are done with the HALO, you are left with a red face since it essentially burns the top layer of your skin. The idea is that over the next week you will shed that layer of skin, revealing a newer, healthier, and more glowing skin underneath. You also see noticeable little white dots on your face, which is the burnt-off skin. I know I’m making this sound scarier than it actually is, but truthfully, I didn’t think I looked that bad. In preparation for getting the treatment I did watch a number of YouTube videos and I thought my skin would look redder than it did.

Now directly after you are done your face will be burning for at least three hours and will also look swollen. Annie mentioned that they traditionally do HALO during the winter months as that’s when people are generally untanned and not exposed to intense sun as in the summer. Also, since the process takes a week to reveal the new you, typically people tend to stay home more in the winter than the summer (I still went out but I didn’t think my skin looked overly too bad.. plus wearing glasses also helped to cover up the really bad parts).

I did document the experience on TikTok and Instagram, but as the days went on, every day was a new experience. The day after the treatment I did find that my skin was looking more pigmented and more of a rougher texture. Day three gave me more brown spots (also known as MENDS — microscopic epidermal necrotic debris) and I felt like the treated areas were almost crusting over. I wanted to just dig my nails underneath and peel off the treated area. It didn’t hurt at all and it didn’t feel overly tight, but it was feeling very dry. I also felt like my face looked slightly more swollen than usual and it looked like I had a really bad sunburn.

Day four is when the dry spots and MENDS started to fall off. I found by the end of the day, my upper lip and chin were pretty smooth. Day five saw more of the dead skin come off when I washed it morning and night, same with day six. I was left with a pretty red face in some areas though and my face did pretty hot throughout the day.

For the after-case instructions, I was told to just use a cleanser and a non-scented moisturizer. She recommended CeraVe, so I used their CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, which thankfully comes in a pretty big bottle as I knew I would be using lots of it. My face was like a dehydrated plant, it would just suck up any moisturizer I was putting on it. It’s also very important to apply SPF a few times a day since your skin is more sensitive to light after the treatment.

My skin was pretty much all healed about a week later but I did notice I had some breakouts coming though in my chin area and I was a little red in some areas. Also, my cheeks did feel like they had some texture to them still. After all the MENDS came off my face I did revert back to my normal skincare routine, which ended up causing some problems with the healing of my skin. When I went for my two-week follow up appointment at Clinique Le 1620 they recommended I use some of their own in-house medical skincare products, which are specially formulated to help skin after these kinds of treatments. I ended up grabbing the following:

  • Chamomile Facial Cleanser, which is a sulfate-free gel cleanser that safely washes away surface debris and impurities from fragile-treated skin. This cleanser contains brown algae to remove pollutants, peptides to hydrate, chamomile to soothe, and ginger to help ease discomfort.
  • Vitamin K Creme, which is a capillary-strengthening treatment with Vitamin K to help prevent and heal bruises. This helps to diminish facial redness and improve the appearance of dark circles.
  • Vita Soothe, which is a serum that nourishes skin and facilitates recovery. It contains antioxidants lipochroman and vitamin E to defend against environmental aggressors, as well as glycolipids and essential fatty acids to nourish skin.
  • Radiant Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Tinted Mineral Sunscreen, which is an antioxidant-enriched mineral sunscreen that protects from UV rays, blue light, and pollution. It has a hydrating, non-greasy formula that melts impeccably into the skin and also has a sheer tint to reduce any skin redness.

Now, looking back at the before photos, I definitely noticed a lot of the pigmentation and spots on my skin. When I look at my skin now, all of those spots are gone and I’m left with a flawless canvas that is glowing, radiant and more clear, has smaller pores, and more smooth skin.

Now that we are about a month out, I can definitely see why people get this treatment and why it’s so beloved by many. It has totally brought a renewed appreciation to my skin and I definitely feel more confident. It’s also nice that I don’t really have to wear foundation or anything on my face to have a flawless appearance. My skin just looks so clear and flawless. It’s really incredible how this laser got rid of any pigmentation, spots, and just overall gave me a smoother and more glowing appearance.

As for upkeep, Clinique Le 1620 recommends to get this treatment done every year or so for upkeep. It is a pretty pricey procedure, so although you probably could do it more than once a year (depending on your skin concerns), I would save up to get it done every year for the best results.