Enjoy this guest post, courtesy of Whole Health Insider — Natural Health Research You Can Use
Last year, more than 204,000 eyelid surgeries, 202,000 liposuction procedures and 126,000 facelifts were performed in the United States.1 And those numbers don’t include the millions of additional less invasive cosmetic procedures performed in 2012—including Botox; injectable fillers like Juvederm, Sculptra and Restylane; chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
Clearly, as a society, we are obsessed with maintaining a fresh, youthful appearance. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. But we don’t have to tell you that most of these cosmetic procedures—particularly the invasive surgeries—come with a variety of risks and side effects, not the least of which is unsatisfactory results that are often permanent.
Fortunately, advances in noninvasive cosmetic procedures have come so far that we don’t need to resort to needles or scalpels to achieve some pretty spectacular results. Here are five that we recommend looking into if you want to refresh your appearance without the risks associated with anesthesia or surgery.
Thermage (or ThermaCool) uses radiofrequency energy to tighten skin that has lost elasticity, improve skin texture and minimize pore size. This procedure started out as a noninvasive alternative to face, neck and eye lifts, but more and more plastic surgeons are using it to tighten up loose skin on the upper arms, buttocks and other parts of the body.
Collagen, a major structural protein found in the dermis layer of your skin, gives skin its strength and integrity. But as we age, collagen fibers start to break down, causing fine lines, wrinkles and sagging.
Thermage works by heating the collagen in the dermis, which tightens it in a manner that has been described to be similar to shrink-wrapping. At the same time, the procedure promotes the development of newer, firmer collagen fibers.
You can expect to see subtle results immediately, and they continue to improve over a period of up to six months as the body creates new collagen. Better yet, the results from just one treatment can last up to three years. There is little to no recovery time, and no bruising, scarring or bleeding. Side effects rarely occur, and include temporary and minor redness or swelling.
One study hails Thermage as “the gold standard of treatments designed to tighten skin in a noninvasive fashion.”2
Another study that followed 12 people who underwent Thermage body treatments found that average waist circumference and skin laxity scores decreased at follow-up visits one, two, four and six months after treatment.3
Much like Thermage, Exilis uses radio omnilux frequency energy for tissue tightening anywhere on the body. The added benefit of this device, however, is fat reduction. Prior to the advent of Exilis, the only way to reduce fat volume (aside from diet and exercise, of course), was liposuction—an expensive, risky and highly invasive surgery.
Exilis works by heating the deep tissues where clusters of fat cells are stored. This causes an increase in the metabolic activity of those fat cells, resulting in their breakdown and shrinkage. Exilis can re-contour problem areas, all while tightening the skin, reducing fat and boosting collagen production. Even the FDA has recognized this device’s benefits, granting it approval in 2009.
As with Thermage, no recovery time is needed, side effects are minimal and desired results can be achieved in as few as four sessions (spaced out over several weeks).
One study evaluated the safety and efficacy of Exilis using 60 volunteers who underwent four to five sessions over two months. Circumferential measurements were taken after each session, and again at a two-month follow-up.
They found that a single treatment resulted in an average circumferential reduction of -1.2 cm in the abdomen, -1 cm in the buttocks and -0.8 cm in the flank area. At two-month follow-up, the reduction in abdominal circumference was -7.2 cm, -5.8 cm in the thighs and -6.1 cm in the flank area.4
Omnilux New-U is a FDA-cleared, handheld red-light device that, unlike radiofrequency devices, you can buy over the counter and use in your own home.
In one study, 31 people received nine treatments using the Omnilux. Researchers evaluated improvements in the skin around the eyes at nine and 12 weeks, with additional assessments conducted using clinical photography and patient satisfaction scores.
Significant differences were seen at 12 weeks, with 52 percent of people showing a 25 to 50 percent improvement in photoaging scores, and 81 percent reporting significant improvement in preorbital wrinkles.5
Microneedling, which has its origins in acupuncture, works to reduce fine lines and discoloration.
A small, paint roller-like device called the Dermaroller contains micro-fine needles that you roll across your skin to exfoliate the epidermis—the most superficial layer of skin where pigment cells reside, causing freckles, age spots and other discolorations. The Dermaroller removes dead skin cells that form the epidermis, helping to reveal fresh new skin.
Contrary to what you would believe, using the Dermaroller doesn’t cause pain or discomfort. You can either have this procedure done by a licensed practitioner, or you can buy a home device and do it yourself. The medical-use Dermaroller can treat dark spots, acne scarring and melisma (darkened skin that often occurs with pregnancy), and it can enhance collagen production with as little as one treatment. The home device is more suited for improving skin texture and thickness, which decreases with aging.
One study that followed 11 patients showed just how effective the Dermaroller can be. These patients had acne scars that normally would be treated with dermabrasion or laser resurfacing.
All the participants were pleased with the results and tolerated treatment very well with no side effects. Seven of the patients had a noticeable increase in their elastin formation by up to two-fold, with one patient seeing a 10-fold increase.
The researchers concluded microneedling can increase dermal thickness and collagen formation, and that “all treated subjects reported an improvement in hyperchromia [pigmentation problems] and other skin characteristics such as smoothness and texture.”6
If the idea of microneedling appeals to you, then going back to the basics and seeking acupuncture may be another avenue to pursue. This ancient healing therapy has been shown to improve thickness, tone, elasticity and smoothness of face and neck skin.
In a study that examined the effects of acupuncture on aging skin, researchers noted that the treatment “can change the aging state of skin possibly by strengthening the activity of fibroblast in skin and increasing the content of soluble collagen.”7
You can find skilled acupuncturists in most areas. If you need help starting your search, visit Acufinder.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. www.plasticsurgery.org/Documents/news-resources/statistics/2012-Plastic-Surgery-Statistics/Cosmetic-Procedure-Trends-2012.pdf.
Abraham MT and Mashkevich G. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2007 May;15(2):169-77.
Anolik R, et al. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2009 Dec;28(4):236-43.
Beramkova B and Simotova P. Journal of Czecho-Slovak Association of Anti-Aging Medicine. 2009;2.
Russell BA, et al. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2005 Dec;7(3-4):196-200.
Schwarz M and Laaff H. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011 Jun;127(6):146e-8e.
Lu Y. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2008 Jan;28(1):61-4.