skin deep

‘It Feels Like Somebody’s Putting a Hot Hole Puncher Deep in Your Skin’

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photos Getty Images

My skin-care obsession came from being a flight attendant for a Los Angeles–based private-jet charter company for six years. If you ever look closely at flight attendants’ skin, it’s not great. Since we’re always so high up in the air with all these windows, there’s way more radiation on our skin. I’m consistently jet-lagged, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve slept sitting up. I worked with a lead flight attendant for years, and she wasn’t that much older than me. But after looking at her skin, I remember thinking she looked much older than me. I’m 33. I didn’t want to look like I’m 50 just because I’m overexposed to radiation.

Plus I’m constantly surrounded by celebrities and the one percent who have the money to do whatever they want to their skin. I honestly got very influenced by that. I’d see someone rich and famous come onto the plane wearing sunglasses and a hat. I could tell they just got a peel or some surgical procedure done. And I’m like, Oh, maybe I should be doing that too. 

I started Botox in 2021. I’m still pretty new to it. I still don’t know if I’m on the Botox bandwagon; I’ve gotten it only twice since 2021. I don’t mind a bit of wrinkles, laugh lines, and crow’s-feet — it’s a sign of a happy life, in my opinion. I did a chemical peel during the pandemic at a doctor’s office that was still open. I liked it a lot after all my dead skin fell off.

Still, I had never done any lasers before Morpheus8. They tend to freak me out because I’ve always been afraid of how they’ll interact with the melanin in my skin. I identify as Mexican. My father’s a Russian Jew, and my mom is Mexican and has a red undertone, so I have a dark-olive skin tone. But my skin normally isn’t supersensitive. So even with skin-care products, I’ll try anything because nothing ever bothers my skin. So this is why I was shocked by my skin’s reaction to Morpheus8.

I met this guy at a party years ago who had a company through which he used to sell Morpheus8 machines. My friend got a few Morpheus8 treatments done by him in his house. So when I saw the amazing results she was getting, I wanted to give it a try. I found a med-spa in Silver Lake and asked them how much they charge for microneedling. They invited me to come in for a consultation and were actually marketing Morpheus8 as microneedling. Their Morpheus8 package was much cheaper than any of their other services, so I went for it. I paid around $2,300 for a package of four treatments. And normally it’s ridiculously expensive. It was a really beautiful office, and it was so close to my home, so I just thought that it made sense to go.

They do Morpheus8 wherever you want to see fine lines reduced and collagen production boosted. I opted to treat my face and neck. I’ve tried a lot of different procedures, but this was by far the most painful one of them all. The first three times I tried Morpheus8, the downtime was very minimal. I think it lasted like a day and a half or something. You go in and they numb you for an hour. I was so freaked out by it, so I took a Xanax to try and relax myself a bit. Once the treatment starts, it feels like somebody’s putting a hot hole puncher deep in your skin, even after an hour’s worth of a very intense numbing cream. I never understood how it was only needles being used, because it literally feels like they’re punching out a hole and chunks of my skin was being burned off. The second it starts, it instantly feels like excruciating pain and then it’s over. It took about 15 minutes for the tech to go over my entire face and neck twice. It’s actually pretty fast. I mean, it doesn’t feel fast. When it’s happening, it hurts so bad you just want it to be over.

Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

Right after they finish the session, they put a cooling sheet mask on you, which you basically bleed through. That sounds dramatic — it’s not that bad, but I was definitely bleeding on my face and neck. It’s not a fully red, completely bloody sheet mask, but you can see that there’s blood in the mask when you take it off. Afterward, it healed pretty quickly each time. I would go home wearing a baseball cap, a COVID mask, and my face would be bleeding for the rest of the day. I could still see remnants of the grid on my skin — it looked like a stamp and very shallow little cuts. In the morning, I’d wake up and things would look okay. The redness would be gone, and it didn’t look like any open sores. My skin was a little scratchy while regenerating but nothing too crazy. I mean, there were still some parts where you could see that there was trauma on my skin, but I guess that’s kind of the point of it, isn’t it? I remember thinking, How does this hurt so bad and the next day I can wake up and look fine? Two days later, I was glowing.

Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

During my fourth treatment, everything was exactly the same as every other time. I was in the same room with the same tech and I was numbed for an hour. My tech started going, and I was like, “Wow, this hurts so much more than normal.” And when I say I was squirming in the seat, I mean I was basically sitting on my feet. My toes were tucked under, and I was holding myself up with my hands in the treatment chair. I’d never experienced something like that before, a kind of pain where you just lose control of your body. It felt like a visceral reaction, and I could not keep my shit together or sit still. It was torture. And I don’t understand because I have done it three other times. Obviously, it’s always painful, because it feels like a hot staple gun, but I could sit through it. The second she started, it was so intense that I had to make her stop and pause. I didn’t know why I was reacting this way. The tech said, “Yeah, you’re never like this.” And I was just like, “Is it the same as always?” She said she even lowered the heat and the depth from my previous three treatments.

Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

I had to ask her to stop. I couldn’t even let her get anywhere near my neck. I was bummed. Maybe it’s a stupid pride thing, but I thought that I had a higher pain tolerance and I was able to handle it. I was just annoyed that I had given up; it felt like I quit. And it was a waste of money, but I just could not take it. She kept telling me the laser was at a lower level than we’d ever done before. In retrospect, I’m happy that I trusted my gut and made her stop. I’m not sure if the machine malfunctioned or something, but I never even called them back. I probably should have confronted them about it and been like, “What the fuck happened?” That’s on me. I think before when I’ve asked about these types of things, the med-spas take zero responsibility. One time, I got filler in my cheeks and the woman was poking me in the same spot over and over with the needle rather than going and filling in different parts of my face. It ended up leaving a mark on my cheeks, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get Morpheus8 in the first place: to get rid of it. You sign up for this, and if something goes wrong, what’s the point of complaining? They’re just going to be dicks.

Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

For over a month, I could still see the dots on my face. The bumps were there for so long. Every other time, the surface of my skin looked a bit traumatized, but I could tell the bumps were going to go away — and they always did. After this fourth treatment, there was a point when I was like, Are these bumps ever going to go away? I could especially see marks on my cheeks and neck. It looked like braille on my face. They aren’t really red; they’re just lumpy and in a very specific order, like a grid, especially on my cheeks more than anything. And it was my birthday month and I had these spots all over my face.

It’s been over a year and the spots look different now, but I can still see the scarring. They’re faint and small, and I don’t think anybody can notice it but me. I mean, I can put on a tiny bit of tinted moisturizer and they go away, but you don’t go there to have scarring added to your face. That’s not the point. I started doing Morpheus8 to help with the scarring on my cheeks. And now I’m going to start doing peels to fix the scarring from the Morpheus8. What is the peel going to cause? One bad experience and then it’s just like I have to spend all this time and money trying to fix it. It’s a domino effect.

Photo: Courtesy of the Subject
Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

Granted, the spots are much smaller than they were a year ago. I feel like they’re eventually going to go away. I use retinol and get facials during which they use a nanoneedling tool. It feels like a really low version of microneedling. It’s just going to be a slow process. I’m not afraid of invasive things. I just went and got filler and my lips done for the first time, which was exciting. I won’t do Morpheus8 again. And I wouldn’t recommend it. If you do it, make sure that you don’t have any big events coming up within the next two months in case you have any adverse effects like I had. I would look into where you’re getting it done. Don’t get something just because it’s cheap, which is what I did. And take a Xanax, honestly.

‘It Feels Like a Hot Hole Puncher Deep In Your Skin’