Even if you take care of yourself, eat right, and feel good on the inside, your face can still show signs of aging. Dr. Alexis Parcells MD, board-certified plastic surgeon and owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery, explains, “As we age, we get atrophy (thinning) of our bones, muscles, and fat pockets. Our ligaments that connect our muscles to soft tissue stretch, and we experience a down and in the descent of the soft tissue structures of our face.”
If you want to look more refreshed and youthful without going under the knife, luckily, there are a plethora of non-surgical ways to make improvements to your face.
Parcells says, “Laser resurfacing is an extremely effective procedure that improves the appearance of the skin. The top layers of the skin are vaporized in a process called ablation, which stimulates new collagen to the area. As the skin begins to heal from this process, the new collagen restores the skin’s elasticity, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and evens out pigment, making the skin smoother, softer, and clearer.”
While non-surgical, laser treatments can be painful and may require some downtime afterward. Depending on the type of laser used, it can take 2-3 weeks for the skin to heal. The new skin will be very sensitive to sunlight, so it is essential to wear a high SPF sunscreen and stay out of the sun as much as possible after laser treatments.
With a chemical peel, a solution is placed on the skin that causes the outer layer to peel off. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) website, “A peel will often be classified as light, medium, or deep. This refers to how many layers of skin are removed.” Light peels have no downtime afterward but will not produce results as significant as a medium or deep peel.
Radiofrequency (RF) has been used for non-surgical tightening for over a decade but has gained popularity recently. RF heats the skin’s deeper layers to induce new collagen and encourages cell turnover, helping skin become more youthful-looking. According to the ABCS website, “An advantage of using RF as opposed to lasers (which use higher-frequency light waves) is that the lower frequency of RF can safely penetrate to a deeper level, helping to improve skin tone and structure, even lifting tissues.”
When done correctly, the recovery from RF is quick, and the side effects (temporary swelling, redness, and tingling) should be minor.
“Microneedling is a skin resurfacing technology that uses the skin’s natural healing process to reduce skin imperfections, treat sun damage, and restore a smoother, clearer complexion,” explains the ABCS. Instead of removing with skin with heat (like laser or RF) or chemicals (peels), microneedling uses very fine needles to stimulate the skin’s natural healing and regenerate new, healthy skin.
Microneedling is considered safe for all skin types and has no downtime, although the results are usually not as dramatic as other procedures.
Microdermabrasion is a procedure where a special applicator is used to slough away the outer layer of skin and revitalize it. The procedure is gentle, safe for all skin types, and requires no downtime (although it will make the skin more sensitive to sun damage). It can be used to minimize fine lines and wrinkles, including crow’s feet. Microdermabrasion may require a series of non-surgical treatments to achieve optimal results or can be used in conjunction with other procedures such as a chemical peel.
Botox is still the most popular treatment for fine lines and wrinkles. It’s minimally painful (small needle), quick to administer, and has no recovery time. It takes about two weeks to see the full effect and the results usually last between 10-12 weeks.
Some patients worry that using Botox will result in a frozen, unexpressive face. Parcells says, “Botox is great. It’s been on the market for over 20 years. It specifically targets the upper third of your face (forehead, around the eyes, and glabella or middle 11 lines).”
Fillers are also good for reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Parcells says, “Unlike Botox, filler does not paralyze the muscle. Instead, the filler is made of hyaluronic acid that restores or adds volume and contours the face to achieve a natural and youthful appearance.” Filler can be used in different areas of the face and lips. Receiving filler can be painful (a local numbing cream can be applied prior), and swelling for a day or two afterward is common.
When it comes to non-surgical treatments, Parcells suggests seeing a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist for the best result. Be honest and specific about what you want. Everyone’s idea of “natural” differs, so it takes a few visits to develop trust between the patient and clinician. When in doubt, go less because it’s easier to do a little more the next time. Parcells says, “Talk to your physician about your goals, and she can cater a natural result. If you are unhappy, address any issues you are having with the clinician.”
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