“Pain is beauty.” We’ve heard that one before. But thanks to cosmetic research and innovations, beauty does not first require looking like a beast under the knife.
Many surgical cosmetic procedures are shifting to minimally-invasive techniques, which involve less pain, scarring, complications and recovery time. Non-surgical procedures have also increased in accessibility and affordability. They accounted for 83 percent of all cosmetic procedures in 2010, yet accounted for just 38 percent of the total expenditures, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Following are a few cosmetic procedures that opt for “cutting-edge” tools of the trade – but leave the knife out of it.
BRIGHTEN & TIGHTEN
For those of us with lines and wrinkles on our faces, one of the most popular fixes is a simple Botox injection. Botox is most effective on forehead lines, frown lines and crow’s feet. A Botox procedure takes just a few minutes, requires no anesthesia and uses a fine needle. The Botox blocks nerve signals to specific muscles, which leaves them paralyzed so the skin can relax and the wrinkle can soften. The treatment effects usually last from four to six months. Lines do re-appear as muscle action returns, but are often less severe because Botox trains the muscles to relax.
Botox procedures are designed to have nearly non-existent recovery time. You can return to work immediately after treatment, although there are a few post-procedure rules. For example, you should not lie down four to five hours afterward, and avoid strenuous exercise and rubbing the injected area for 24 hours.
A chemical peel procedure is completely non-invasive and is typically performed on the face, neck or hands. It can reduce fine lines, brighten dull skin and reduce spotting, dark patches and the appearance of mild scarring. Unlike Botox, chemical peels can reduce wrinkles that are a result from sun damage. The skin is thoroughly cleaned to remove excess oils during the procedure. Then, one or more chemical solutions are applied to the skin to initiate a controlled wound that will eventually reveal new and regenerated skin.
After the procedure, a sunburn-like reaction occurs. The reaction typically ends within three to seven days. Deeper chemical peels have more severe reactions, such as swelling or water blisters that should end within 14 days. New skin is typically more sensitive to sun and may be more prone to scarring, so be careful!
Microdermabrasion is a less extreme, cheaper, nonsurgical version of dermabrasion (which involves freezing the skin) and an alternative to the chemical peel. Think of a precise and gentle form of sandblasting. Tiny crystals are sprayed on the skin to exfoliate and remove the dead outer layer. This erases fine lines, dull skin, brown spots, mild acne scars and age spots. It works to create softer, more youthful looking skin for people of all skin types and colors.
Skin fully recovers in 24 hours and there is no anesthesia or bleeding of the skin, which can occur during dermabrasion. Side effects of microdermabrasion are usually only dry skin for about 24 hours and possible minor irritation of the eyes from stray crystals. With zero recovery time, this procedure is perfect for the woman who can’t afford any down time.
SLIM & TRIM
Solutions for Cellulite
Most women will develop cellulite in their lifetime. It is a purely cosmetic problem – cellulite causes no medical harm. Most treatments can minimize the appearance of cellulite temporarily, but generally do not destroy it. For some women, losing a few pounds can reduce the appearance of cellulite. Other treatments include radiofrequency, laser treatments, body wraps and massage and suction techniques. Radiofrequency devices use heat to damage underlying fat and tissue in order to encourage skin tightening. Laser devices do the same, but also target the body’s connective tissue in order to build collagen and thicken skin. A body wrap involves warm bandages that some believe to temporarily tighten skin and reduce inches through dehydration. Massage and suction techniques use lipomassage devices, which knead the skin to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Unfortunately, cellulite is likely to return after these treatments stop.
When diet and exercise just aren’t enough for that last bit of bulge, you might consider elimination by freezing or laser. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new weight loss treatment: Zeltiq Coolsculpting. Coolsculpting is fat reduction without the knife, needles, suction hoses or lasers. Instead the procedure involves a gel patch that is attached to machine to freeze fat cells in a targeted area. The cells are destroyed and the body will naturally dispose of them. On average, patients see about a 20 percent reduction of fat in the treated area, and there is no recovery time. Plus, because fat cells are destroyed, the results are permanent as long as you maintain your weight with normal diet and exercise.
SMOOTH & SOOTHE
Laser Hair Removal
This non-invasive procedure uses a laser to remove unwanted hair. The beam passes through skin and targets the hair follicles to inhibit growth. Depending on the area treated, the procedure may last as little as a few minutes or up to a few hours. Patients can return to activities directly after the procedure, although it may take a day or two for skin to completely heal from redness or swelling.
In general, it can take several treatments to achieve an extended period without hair. Four to six treatments spaced a few weeks apart, along with occasional touchups, generally yields the best results.
There are two main treatments for varicose veins: laser therapy and sclerotherapy. Laser therapy uses heat to destroy more mild cases of tiny spider veins and small varicose veins. Heat spurs the formation of scar tissue, which closes the vein. This treatment is completely non-invasive, but may result in minor discomfort, skin discoloration and blister formation.
Sclerotherapy can destroy 80 percent of treated veins. A solution is injected into any abnormal vein, and the blood vessel eventually disappears. This procedure requires precision from an experienced surgeon, as the injection of the solution outside the veins is dangerous. Keep in mind that new veins will continue to form slowly over time. But the good news is that once the targeted veins are destroyed, they will not reappear.
For information about more surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in the last year, visit the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s website at surgery.org.
-By Lauren Silver