Welcome to January – the month when my skin is at its fairest, making discoloration most noticeable. Whether freckles on my legs or sunspots on my face, they are more easily disguised with a sun-kissed glow. But not so much in winter.

My friend Jennifer has long been a fan of a Foto Facial – also known as a photofacial or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment. The Foto Facial’s claim to fame is reducing sun spots, age spots and brown spots; in addition it can improve rosacia, sun damage, wrinkles and skin elasticity. It can also help with scarring from acne. And guess what? Wintertime – when you tend to spend less time in the sun – is the ideal time to have a Foto Facial.

To prepare for a Foto Facial you need to abstain from spending time in the sun for a few days prior to treatment, and you will be advised to stay in the shade for a period of time following the treatment as well. In-office prep immediately prior to treatment is the application of a topical numbing gel.

Jennifer warned that a photofacial was no walk in the park; she likened the sensation to being burned with a light bulb. Ouch! After three C-sections, I feel like I have a high tolerance for pain. Surely I could handle a little face burning, right?

I made my appointment with the wonderful Mandy Faughn at Cherry Hill Med Spa, and on the day of my appointment I arrived late. I am a stickler for being on time, and I nearly rescheduled, not wanting to throw off anyone else’s appointments. Mandy assured me she could work me in — we would just reduce the amount of time to numb my face. ACK! More on that in a minute.

Mandy explained the Foto Facial procedure to me as she applied the numbing gel. She moved a handheld device over the surface of my face to deliver a hot pulse of light to the areas to be treated. The pulse makes a zapping or snapping noise, almost like a rubber band popping, or a bug zapper. The light is very bright; Mandy and I both wore protective goggles for the treatment.

We spent some time talking about the problem areas on my face. My biggest concerns were brown spots, especially on my left cheek. Mandy and I both feel like the spots are a result of the sun hitting my face while driving my car. I had spots on my right side, but not as pronounced. The spots on my forehead were minor, possibly because I nearly always wear a visor when in the sun.

Another problem spot was a tiny red capillary on the edge of my nostril. Easily covered with concealer, it was not a huge problem, but Mandy said it would be easy to eradicate.

Next, Mandy got started on the treatment; I ended up numbing for about 15 minutes, which was completely adequate for me. The numbing gel took the edge off the pain, which felt something like a rubber band popping me on the face. It smarted, but was nowhere close to excruciating.

The total treatment time, including numbing, was 30 minutes. And as you can see from the accompanying photos, there was no noticeable redness; nobody would know my face had just been zapped. In fact, the only visible change to my appearance immediately following the Foto Facial was that the tiny capillary on my nostril was completely gone!

Over the next few days my skin felt tighter, but it was not uncomfortable. Over the following week the pigment from the brown spots on my cheeks was drawn to the surface – it looked as if I had pepper sprinkled on my face. Those dark spots began to flake off and were mostly gone within 10 days. The flaking was just that – flaking. My whole face did not peel, just flakiness where the Foto Facial device was applied.

I feel like it is important to note that more significant peeling does occur sometimes; in fact, a number of reviews I read mentioned peeling. If you do try a Foto Facial and you do peel rather than flake, try to resist the urge to help the process along by peeling your skin with your fingers. Peeling the skin before it is ready to come off can leave you raw and scabby.