Every January as we enter a new year, we resolve to improve ourselves. Be it diet, exercise, organization or professional goals, we pick a habit we want to change and make a promise to do so. Come February, we have more excuses than motivation. It’s so cold anyway, so the (fill in the blank with your resolution here) will just have to wait.
I’m turning 40 in February, so my resolutions – and ability to keep them – have a different meaning this year. Being healthy and happy are on the top of my list, but looking my best is important too. So when I met Alicia Bjornson, co-owner of Island Retreat, for a consultation, I explained what I was looking for. I wanted to approach the new year and a new decade with great, youthful skin. After asking me some questions about my skincare regimen and typical reactions to products, she recommended an anti-aging chemical peel and microdermabrasion. “It’s a result-oriented treatment,” Alicia explains. Since my only knowledge of a peel was based on a Sex and the City episode, I scheduled it for a Friday afternoon so I wouldn’t have to go back to work looking like Samantha. Alicia explained that my face would indeed be red and peeling throughout the weekend, but that by Monday the side effects would be minimal. So I cleared my weekend, left work a bit early and returned to the med spa a few weeks later.
Located in Old Almy Village in Portsmouth, Island Retreat is a serene and intimate space. Inspired by the beach, the décor is subtle and relaxing. Alicia is just as soothing. Her calm voice and gentle demeanor provide the perfect bedside manner.
Though Island Retreat is less than a year old (it opened in June), Alicia is a career professional. Her background includes working for a physician performing glycolic peels, hands-on work at a well-known medical spa and extensive training in lasers, equipment and cutting-edge procedures. Along with co-owner and medical director Christopher Hummel, D.O, she brought the best of her experience and knowledge to create a specialized spa.
She leads me to her treatment room, and I get comfortable on the spa bed under a blanket. Alicia tells me that the Jessner Peel is a cocktail of lactic and salicylic acids that help reduce fine lines and treat acne. By peeling off superficial layers of skin, the face is able to produce new collagen growth, leaving it tight and smooth. Those are the magic words, because I give her the green light to put these acids on my skin. She ap- plies two layers and a neutralizer, which lasted for about five minutes, watching carefully the whole time for the reaction. I’m not going to lie – this burns. No pain, no looking fabulous at 40 I remind myself until she wiped it off. Next up is microdermabrasion, which Alicia performs with a crystal-tipped devise that helps to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells, followed by a calming seaweed mask to hydrate.
The spa has a menu of progressive treatments that are designed to produce results. From dermal fillers like Botox and Juvederm to lasers that remove hair and treat veins and pigmentation, the spa’s mission is to provide medical-grade outcomes without actually going under the knife. “If you’re looking for a change that doesn’t require surgery, our procedures are aggressive enough where you will see a difference.”
Before I leave, Alicia gives me a packet of pharmaceutical grade product samples to help hydrate and exfoliate, and some instructions for when I do peel. Though the side effects aren’t nearly as bad as Samantha’s blistering red face on SATC, I’m thankful that I don’t have to leave the house for a few days. In five days the burning, peeling and slight discomfort are all worth it. My face looks as fresh and polished as Baby New Year. My skincare products penetrate deeper than they ever have, and my cosmetics go on with such ease. And, not only do I get to kick off a bright new year with literally new skin, I get a renewed sense of confidence as I enter my big year.