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'It Looked Like I Self-Harmed': Sun Spot Removal Leaves Woman With Permanent Scarring

Sarah* had hyper-pigmentation on her neck that had bothered her for years.

So when the 43-year-old's friend Anna* recommended a therapist to her, who she had used personally, Sarah decided to give IPL a try to treat her sun damage.

Treatments are typically performed in skin clinics, doctor's offices and medi-spas, yet Sarah's therapist, Lisa, worked from a home salon. After visiting her for a patch test which Sarah said was 'fine' she made an appointment for a full treatment a month later.

"The first treatment a little uncomfortable as I had only had a little one zap patch test before. So when I got home my neck felt like I was sunburned but nothing too bad," Sarah told 10 daily. 

IPL treatment (which stands for Intense Pulsed Light) helps reverse the signs of sun damage on a cosmetic level. The process induces controlled wounds on the skin, prompting it to heal itself by creating new cells. Image: Getty

"That evening, I could see little blisters were forming so I sent a message the next morning to ask if it was normal to have blisters which I was assured it was and can happen."

Following this Sarah's blisters began to burst but healed okay, so she persisted with her next appointment.

"This time it was really stingy and quite uncomfortable but Lisa assured me everything was fine," she told 10 daily.

She said my right side was more painful because it was my driver's side and the treatment was going deeper into my skin. I of course just believed what I was told, I didn't know any differently.

Sarah went home with a painful neck that felt like she'd been sunburned again, but this time it was much worse with her neck feeling tighter and tighter as the night went on.

"The next morning, I woke up and my neck was really dark and discoloured. It was really blistered and the blisters were oozing water," she said. 

Sarah didn't follow up with Lisa again, being concerned she would think she was being dramatic, instead applying a disinfectant over the coming weeks.

"It all healed up and I was left with some horrific scarring that wasn’t going away," Sarah said. 

Sarah developed blisters on her neck that would burst. Image: Supplied

Sarah decided it was time to call Lisa, who told her to visit her at home and gave her Bio-Oil which is used for scarring.

Lisa assured Sarah the scarring would get better over time but unfortunately, there was not much else she could do at this point and suggested she see her in a month so she could 'even up' her neck with more IPL.

"She went over it again and it was not painful at all like the last time. I even thanked her for being extra gentle with me after she told me she would do it on a lower setting," Sarah said.

Again, I got home and the next day I had blisters between the scars and the original scars looked more pronounced and white.

Sarah contacted Lisa again who this time recommended an organic liquid that could potentially bring back the pigment in her skin, which she used for six months.

"To be honest it did nothing and if anything I think it made more hyper-pigmentation come out around the scars," she said. 

In this time Sarah's friend Anna had begun seeing another therapist and showed her pictures of Sarah's scarring.

"She was absolutely horrified and told Anna to tell me to come  in and have a consult with her," she told 10 daily. 

The burn marks on Sarah's nick got worse and worse. Image: Supplied

The second therapist told Sarah she should take legal action and speculated that Lisa had the setting on too high, leaving her with hypo-pigmentation and while she didn't want to work on the scarring, recommended her to an ex-colleague for a consult.

"The news wasn’t good. I was told no amount of skin needling would help and they recommend I see plastic surgeon Dr Anh to explore options for surgery," Sarah said. 

After arranging an appointment, Sarah was told the scarring on her neck could only be fixed by going into hospital for a costly surgery and was given a quote and treatment plan.

Sarah was left with hypo-pigmentation, patches of skin that are lighter than your overall skin tone, as a result. Image: Supplied

Sarah got in touch with Lisa, who put through an insurance claim to pay for her surgery. Yet as Sarah had signed a waiver before the treatment, the insurance company would not honour the claim and it was at this point that Lisa ceased contact.

Not being able to afford the surgery, Sarah called the office to inform them she would have to cancel the treatment.

"Dr Anh then said she would do the surgery for free. I was shocked at her kindness and generosity," Sarah said. 

I have had one surgery which involved cutting out the white hypo-pigmentation scars and stitched them up along with a laser and am awaiting another.

Sarah said after being left with scars that looked like she had attempted to harm herself, her neck is '100 per cent' better and she is looking forward to undertaking her second surgery.

"I’m not as self conscious of the scars now, as I don’t get people looking at then like they did before," she said. 

"Hopefully I will be able to put this whole ordeal behind me and just get on with life." 

Sarah said after her ordeal she has sworn off at home salons and advises anyone who is considering cosmetic treatment to ensure they see a registered professional.

* Names have been changed to maintain privacy.

Featured image: Supplied