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Discomfort in Aesthetics

Why you feel pain more intensely at times, and the ideal time to book your aesthetic treatments

By Kristin Carlson, Medical Esthetician

Four weeks after my son was born, I planned my first post-baby treat for myself: an appointment at the med-spa where I worked with my fellow esthetician. Growing what would be a 9-pound baby boy wreaked havoc on my skin with hormonal breakouts on my chin, jawline, and even my neck. He was worth it, but I couldn't wait to get my skin back in shape post-baby. It was a treatment I had had many times before, so I knew what to expect. What I didn't expect was the amount of pain involved in that treatment I'd had so many times before. My doctor later pointed out that the fluctuation of hormones post-pregnancy was the probable culprit for my sensitivity.

Here is some medical background on why we may be more sensitive during certain times and the optimal time to schedule your aesthetic treatments.

Estrogen is responsible for collagen production, hydration, thickness and overall health of the skin. Our estrogen levels fluctuate throughout our menstrual cycle, during and after pregnancy, and with perimenopause and menopause. Some studies have shown these changes correlate with how intensely a woman feels pain. According to one article, estrogen helps to plump, thicken and protect the skin. Because estrogen levels decrease around your period, your skin might be predisposed to pain and sensitivity.

The same reasoning can apply to postpartum women. Estrogen levels also drop dramatically after giving birth, possibly explaining my sensitivity to my routine skin-care treatment after my son's birth. On the other hand, when estrogen levels are higher, for instance, mid-menstrual cycle, and in menopausal women, pain tolerance tends to be higher.

Additionally, conditions such as stress, anxiety, heightened emotional state and even depression are known to increase pain. An article in states there are many studies to support this theory. Pain is regulated by our nervous system. The brain controls how we perceive pain. If you're stressed, anxious or depressed, the brain's ability to filter pain signals is affected and pain is increased.

So, what does this mean in regard to scheduling your treatments?

Schedule your more sensitive beauty treatments (waxing, laser, microneedling, injections, etc.) mid-menstrual cycle (in the weeks after your period). If you are post-pregnancy and nursing, remember you may be more sensitive to your usual appointments than average.

Although there is conflicting information on this subject, one thing is sure: We all want to get the most enjoyable experience out of our aesthetic treatments. The expression “No pain, no gain” should not apply to your beauty routine.

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