What Does That Machine Do? ...Part 2

Continuing on from last month's article about different types of lasers and what they do, this month I will touch on other Machines used in the Aesthetic world.

Comparing Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion; Both methods remove layers of skin from the surface of the skin. You have to understand how human skin works to be able to understand why you should have one service vs the other or neither. The outer third of most people's skin is made up of dead skin cells and oil (sebum) - think rice crispy square: the dead cells are rice crisps, the oil is the marshmallow (and it looks exactly like that under a microscope). The reason we have an outer layer of dead skin cells is so we do not dehydrate and die. Human skin is the biggest organ we have and it keep our liquids inside us, amongst other things. A 50 year old rancher can spend 10 hours a day outside on horseback and be just fine (although looking like a saddlebags with eyes, to quote a famous movie), doing the same to a 5 week old baby will have the baby end up in ICU close to death; sunburnt and dehydrated. So how much dead skin should we take off without harming ourselves for the sake of fashion?

That rancher will have up to 50% of his total skin depth as dead skin layers, due to the extreme sun, heat and wind exposure he lives n every day. A 25 year old receptionist should have only 20% dead skin layers, since she spend her days inside in a more controlled environment. If she tans and smokes, she is moving her skin health more toward that of the rancher.

Perfectly healthy baby skin shows a surface like tiny scales on a fish or feathers on a bird ...they overlap in tiny domes to seal and create a protective shield against the harsh elements outside our body. When skin cells are damaged, the edges lift up and look more like tortilla chips than feathers or scales. This makes the skin look and feel rough. When we remove the dead outer layer of skin it can be mechanical - microdermabrasion (think sanding paper) or chemical - chemical peel (its an acid). The difference is with sanding paper (microderm) the skin as a whole is shaved down equally - all of the skin cells are "sanded" off, it does not discern between health and abnormal cells; this means if there are areas with a lot of damage (sun, wrinkles, dry, irritated skin) the same amount of skin layers will be removed from these as from the surrounding areas with thinner, but healthier skin. A microdermabrasion is in essence blind and therefore only good if you want to scrape off thick layers of dead skin - the rancher is the perfect candidate, the receptionist is not! Once the outer dead layer of the rancher's skin is removed, he should not need to do this again for many months, until the same environmental exposure makes his skin create a thick build up (protection) of dead cells again. His body is trying to protect itself by creating a "leathery" outer layer - evolution in action...until we humans interfere with nature.

If you want a more decerning method to remove dead skin cells and want to only remove damaged skin cells, you should use a chemical peel. Since the edges of abnormal or damaged skin cells want to curl up a bit, the liquid chemical peel can seep under these cell edges, eat away at the adhesions between cells and lift these off first, without affecting the surrounding healthy cells with their locked down covering domes. Of course if you leave the peel on too long, it will start eating away at all the cells. Both methods can be harmful in their extremes - if the microdermabrasion is too aggressive or the chemical peel too intense or left on too long - too much skin is removed. Taking off too much skin takes away our natural protection against the environment and leads to a very high risk for hyper pigmentation (dark spots) for life. Unfortunately I end up seeing some of these clients after they are injured and it is heartbreaking and devastating for them.

If the youth of our skin is measured by how plump and round the cells are and how thick the live part of the skin is...should we not worry when someone suggests taking the skin thickness down and down and down by both these methods? 

People who do monthly (and often more frequent) chemical peels and microdermabrasion are in essence speeding up their ageing process. They are taking off layers and layers of cells, faster than the body can replenish it (skin turnover is 6 weeks) and thereby allow their body to have very little to no layers of dead cells to protection against the environment. 

They are in essence forcing their skin to have the outer layer of a newborn baby, but their lifestyle is that of adults (smoking, tanning, playing golf, gardening, working a whole day in central heating or AC) and their skin's ability to replenish the lost layers is most definitely not that of a slows down every year we age.

How would the young baby do if we put it naked in a bar with smokers, then naked in the garden for hours, then naked on the golf course, then naked in our office for 8 hours - that is exactly what the human face is forced to endure if its owner does high frequency chemical peels and microdermabrasions.

It cannot protect itself, because we removed all its protection.

If you sand down your furniture every few weeks, you will literally have no wood left at some point, the same with doing too frequent an amount of chemical peels.

It is best to invest in the correct skin care that will feed the skin; well fed skin can continue to act like the part we really want of a baby's skin - it will automatically slough off the dead and replenish the live layers at a high rate.

In my own MediSpa we put our main emphasis on feeding the skin the correct types of vitamins, in the correct absorbable metabolic form to optimize the regrowth of skin - we try to maintain the self correcting system of young skin, despite the chronological age of the person. It has been proven to work by the very forward thinking Physician who designed this skin care line (not me, unfortunately) - the focus is on helping the body make the live part of the skin is very much not shaving and peeling the skin down from the outside and and creating a thinner and thinning skin complex. 

Do I prescribe chemical peels and microdermabrasions in my spa? Yes, I do, very often, but we use it in conjunction with methods that emphasise thickening the live layers of the skin. Next month more on Micro-needling and other methods of helpingourskin grow its live parts thick and healthy. As always, we are Hummingbird MediSpa, where Beaty loves Science.

Feel free to call us at 403 529 2006



What Does That Machine Do?

A very good friend said to me recently she isn’t always sure what each machine in the Spa does and what the different procedures do. How does a person know what to ask for?

That is a good question and I remember how confusing it was for me even as a physician and a surgeon when I was first introduced to this wonderful and quirky world of Medical Esthetics

A very good friend said to me recently she isn’t always sure what each machine in the Spa does and what the different procedures do. How does a person know what to ask for? That is a good question and I remember how confusing it was for me even as a physician and a surgeon when I was first introduced to this wonderful and quirky world of Medical Esthetics. 

Let’s start with Lasers

Very few Lasers used in the Esthetic world are really Lasers, most of them are merely very bright flashing lights (Intense Pulsed Light or IPL).

Level 3 Lasers: IPL does not break the skin and are Level 3 “Lasers.” They flash into the skin at different depths based on their individual colors. It is the same principle as the light spectrum with a prism. Each color IPL has a different ‘target’ based on what that frequency light can vibrate and if you vibrates something fast enough, it breaks; you explode it... sounds dramatic; and when used correctly the results can be dramatic too. Blue IPL vibrates at the same frequency as mitochondria in bacteria so Blue IPL makes mitochondria in bacteria explode (it blows up the whole bacteria) which means you can use Blue IPL to kill bacteria in the skin of a person who has Acne.

Blue IPL will also shrink oil glands permanently so there is less oil overproduction for the person with Acne. Both are wonderful things for someone suffering from Acne. 

Red IPL targets young melanin found in the walls of active hair follicles - it blows up that group of hair follicles so they cannot grow hair again. We have multiple hair growth phases, so each new growth phase’s follicles has to be treated to reach a permanent hair loss state. 

Green IPL targets old melanin (age spots, sun spots, hyperpigmentation) and hemoglobin (found in blood ...think small blood vessels). Green IPL will make already produced melanin break up and come to the surface of the skin, which then peels off. When the pigment comes to the surface of the skin it looks like dark coffee grounds sitting on the skin and the effect is called “coffee grounding”- this is a good thing, it means your Green IPL treatment was successful. This makes your sun spots become lighter in color - temporarily only! The sick melanocytes which produce too much melanin lay too deeply in our skin layers to be reached by IPL ...see Pixel, Fraxel, MicroNeedling next month. Green IPL also targets hemoglobin which means tiny blood vessels (little visible capillaries, red skin, Rosacea) can be cauterized shut because the IPL cooks (denaturates) the hemoglobin and shuts the little blood vessel. Dramatic right! Yes it is, but the body will regrow those tiny blood vessels unless we permanently heal the skin....see Pixel, Fraxel, Micro-Needling next month. Level 4 Lasers are surgical instruments and break the skin. They are (should be) used less often, because they are more potent and need more specialized techniques and more careful handling. 

Level 4 Lasers are true Lasers like most of us understand the word laser - it is a potentially dangerous, focused laser beam and are strictly speaking only allowed to be operated by trained Physicians. This is not part of medical school training, it is additional training for Esthetic Physicians. Level 4 Lasers are potentially more harmful if use use incorrectly, but also deliver more dramatic results than Level 3 Lasers - if used correctly. For you, the consumer, it means you should ensure there is a Physician involved in the protocols, training and operation of these Lasers. This group has 2 types of Lasers: 

Ablative Lasers (solid beam Lasers) and Non-Ablative Lasers (solid Laser beams broken into smaller beams called Pixels or Fraxels). Ablative Lasers (solid beams, think fireman hose) are eg CO2 Lasers and YAG, and like a fireman’s hose blowing a strong stream of water, it can take out many things in its path. A fireman can also turn the fire hose spigot to a smaller stream (but it is still a solid stream). We use these Lasers for Tattoo removal (very fine setting) burning off moles (stronger setting), removing unwanted tissue etc; it burns /cuts /destroyed tissue until it’s dead! 

Non-Ablative Lasers like Pixels and Fraxels are more like a strong shower...the solid stream of water is broken into little streams and hits less intensely than the fireman’s hose. Don’t be misled - it’s still a potent shower. With Level 4 Lasers we can reach the deepest layers of the skin - doing this with an ablative Lasers in a tiny area (mole) is fine, treating the whole face/ a large area with an Ablative laser is like using a bulldozer on a lawn and removing all the soil to rock bottom - bad idea. The Non-Ablative Pixel or Fraxel Lasers is like aerating a lawn - you can aerate the whole lawn (you don’t want to bulldoze the whole lawn). These Pixelated /Fraxelated beams burn through every structure in its path - it is after all a true laser; the good thing is these structures we shoot through strategically (overproducing melanocytes, overactive oil glands, thick scar tissue) will be replaced by newer and younger of the same (healthy melanocytes, normal oil glands, baby collagen). The Ablative group are sledge hammers, the NonAblative group are stilettos. Both have their niche - you don’t demolish a building with a stiletto, nor do you carve a statue with a sledge hammer. Buyer beware, ensure there is a qualified, experienced Physician in control of these Lasers, to decide when a stiletto is used and when a sledgehammer. We see so many injuries and scars due to these Lasers operated by people not qualified to do so, please do your homework and ask the right questions before being lasered. It is hugely distressing for these clients and very hard to treat. Many brands of machines can produce IPL beams, Pixels, Fraxels, YAG etc. Just as many coffee shops make coffee, whether they call it a skinnytall-dry / cappuccino / latte / macchiato / americano /espresso.... once you understand the basic ingredients (coffee, milk, water, sweetening) the rest is just (eyeroll) fancy smancy man-made names for different coffees. Now that you know your coffees (types of Lasers), the next qualifier is the manufacturer and the operator. We all know different coffee shops makes different quality coffees....Timmies is not the same as an Italian Bistro as a comparison. (Many of us lover our Timmies, it is just an example not a slam to the Timmies). Similarly IPL machines from different manufacturers will produce different quality IPL beams. Lastly you can get a great barista at a coffee shop with so-so coffee and a terrible barista at the most amazing boutique coffee shop... usually not, but it can happen. It’s the same in the world of Lasers - the brand names used by spa staff when they talk to you are sometimes just lingo, and at times it’s used to try and confuse or make things sounds super fancy - so unnecessary and fake. When you go to a Spa or Skin Institution, whether they call it Rose or Lily or Orchid - the real question is: it IPL (Level 3, skin intact, moderate level) ....or Ablative (Level 4, skin pierced, solid beam, small area treated only) ....or Non-Ablative (Level 4, skin pierced, Pixelated or Fraxelated beams, huge areas can be treated)? Once they answer that, you can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. You cannot compares a Pixel to an IPL.



Coolsculpting Procedure and How it is Used

CoolSculpt is a non-invasive, permanent method to destroy the fat cells in selected areas by using a cooling technology. The research is medically based, which makes it a very reassuring treatment option for people – it has been tried and tested and comes out the winner every time for reducing all those unwanted bulges and even tiny bumps. The origin of CoolSculpting came about when physicians noticed the loss of volume on the thighs of women doing extensive horseback riding in extreme cold weather for long periods of time; similar findings were noticed in the cheeks of children sucking on a popsicle in one side of the mouth for an extensive period of time. The prolonged exposure to cold in these areas lead to freezing of the fat cells which makes them burst and thus destroys these cells. Researchers at Harvard Medical School then investigated this phenomenon further and the CoolSculpt technology was born. This method allows us to target an exact area and deliver a smooth, pleasing result. As humans we each have a fixed amount of fat cells, we are born with them and genetically each individual might have a bit more in their hips/belly/thighs/jowel/arms. The amount of cells stay the same, the cells just get bigger or smaller depending on our weight. We cannot regrow fat cells, it is a medical fact. This means when fat cells are destroyed or removed, they never grow back – hence the permanent effect of these treatments.

A very high-tech CoolSculpt machine is used and different sized applicators – depending on the body area and the volume of fatty tissue that needs treatment – are applied to CoolSculpt a specific body part. The results are truly breathtaking and ongoing improvement of the treated area takes place over the course of 2 – 3 months. A large number of people notice immediate results and to think that more reduction takes place over the next few months makes this a highly sought after method to treat unwanted bulges and bumps. At Hummingbird MediSpa we have Advanced CoolSculpt trained staff who can do a professional evaluation of your areas of concern and our Medical Director, Dr Burger, reviews each case to ensure the most effective possible treatment is provided for each client. Call us at 403-529-2006 to book your CoolSculpt Consult. There is no fee for this service. We look forward to seeing you and helping you Reveal Your Inner Beauty.


Collagen: What Is It and How Do I Get More of It?

In the beauty industry we see clients every day who have ‘found’ a magic product to apply to their skin which promises to deliver collagen to their skin. These are outright lies, every single one of them as it is impossible to do. The infuriating thing is how consumers are mislead by using their desire to improve their skin quality against them. To be able to separate the lies from the truth, it helps to understand what skin anatomy looks like. Then understand how the skin works and maintains itself. Then apply what manufacturers ‘sell’ you and it is usually quite clear if what is “promised” is possible or nonsense. Everything related to skin health, development and disease starts on the bottom (deep layers) and moves to the top (surface). If you understand that principle, and keep thinking of this upward and outward motion, then how to manage and manipulate and improve skin makes sense and it easy to pick out the lies from the truth.

Let me make it more visual: Skin cells are formed in the deep layers of the skin as round little balls and new ones are formed every day. The new cells push the ones before it upward and this repeats every day. As the cells get older and move upward, they start attening out until they die and then peel o. From being born in the deepest layers as a round juicy skin cell until peeling of on the surface as a dead at skin cell takes on average 6 weeks. The deep layers of skin are seeded with ‘core cells’ - melanocytes and broblasts as the most well-known ones. These “core cells“ lie in the deep to prevent them from harm (bumps, scratches, dry atmosphere, chemicals, dirt, UV exposure etc), which would happen easily on the surface. The less essential parts are on the surface - think of the outer or top layer of skin as rice crispy square.....dead skin cells (rice crispies) held together by oil (marshmallow) to form a layer that helps keep us hydrated (keeps our liquids inside) and keeps the dust and bacteria from the outside world on the outside. Between the deep layers with the core cells and the top layer of dead cells is the live part and structure of our skin. How do these stacks / layers of balls stay in position and not just slide around? Imagine scaolding outside a building: the same as the vertical slate of a scaolding; collagen bers stretch like tiny bers in an upright position from the deep base of the skin towards the surface - they give tensile strength to the skin. The horizontal slats of the scaolding are elastin bers - they give elasticity to our skin. These 2 groups of bers (horizontal and vertical slats) have openings between them which are lled with the tiny balls of live skin cells. The “scaolding” gives structure, strength and elasticity to our skin. Remember those core cells in the deep? Fibroblasts are the only cells that can grow collagen. Please read that sentence again. The turn-over time for collagen is about 2 years...then these bers are ‘naturally’ replaced, because the previous ones reached the end of their lifespan. Unfortunately as we age, are in the sun, surrounded by smoke and pollution, do not use the correct skincare etc; the ability to replace collagen drops down, so not all the collagen bers are replaced when they die o aka ageing. We can stimulate Fibroblasts to grow more collagen and more frequently (than every 2 years) by physically stimulating them. How do you physically stimulate a cell that sits in the deepest layers of the skin? You cannot ask it nicely or give it more food (skin care) - the only thing your skincare does is create a suitable environment for collagen to grow in IF and WHEN the Fibroblasts start the formation process. To physically stimulate Fibroblasts you have to physically touch them - a Level 4 Laser (IPL is Level 3 - an Intense Pulsed Light - it is not a true laser) or a needle or any injury that cuts through your skin and which we do not want. The rougher the physical contact, the bigger the chances for thick wound collagen (a scar). We have sophisticated means to achieve the exact collagen we want. Processes like Micro-needling and Level 4 Lasers (Pixel, Fraxel etc)have a micro-needle or micro laser beam that physically touches the Fibroblast - in response it grows an ALIVE collagen ber from the deep upward. These would be LIVE bers stretching from the depth of our skin to the surface, it is a very specialized process in a very specific environment. Now let’s look at the products ‘promising’ the consumer their product ‘will grow more collagen bers’. How do these manufacturers make/create these collagen bers? Please remember they need to be alive to do their just is not possible. How do they keep these bers alive in a bottle and for how long, do we then get half height bers or quarter height only as the product sits on the shelf or in our home? How are we supposed to get long live bers into our skin through the dead rice-crispie square layer which is designed to keep things out, especially big things like bers? How do these bottled bers know to go into an up-down position in our skin and stay there to mimic our own collagen structure and function? The answer is easy - it cannot and it does not. Skin Collagen cannot be created except by live Fibroblasts; collagen bers has to grow in amongst stacks of live cells in a very specic environment inside a live human being. The other claim we hear often, is a client who bought a “product line for ingesting which will grow collagen in their skin”. These are supplements and shakes to drink which supposedly help a person grow more collagen in their skin. There’s a small obstacle in the way of this, called stomach acid. When we eat meat, we are eating huge amounts of collagen - muscle bers are mostly collagen.

My Senior Laser Technician calls this sales attempt “broth”, which is spot on - ingesting anything that has to go through our digestive tract is assuming itself to be ground meat (as a solid) or broth (if it is a shake). If these methods were truly successful then none of us would be looking at other methods than eating to grow more collagen in our skin, because we would have achieved it from our regular diet. It is easier to try and put back a knocked out tooth than to put bought collagen into our skin with a product that is ingested or applied. If we remember that collagen is alive and grows from the bottom up inside our skin, then anyone trying to sell you snake oil will be knocking on the wrong door. As always, for your skin needs, we are more than happy to help and advise you. For the highest standards of qualication contact us at Hummingbird MediSpa Ph 403 529 2006 or


Environ Medical Facials

Environ works for everyone. It is tailor made for each client's unique skin conditions and is highly recommended by surgeons and dermatologists. It is backed by extensive research and has been shown to reverse much of hte structural derangement that occurs with years of ultraviolet ray exposure.


Intensive ionic treatment infuses vitamins, including cancer-preventing Vitamin A and C+, deep into the skin. A mild chemical peel may also be added and upgraded to include eyelids, lips, neck or chest.


For more information visit: