Thanks to advances in minimally invasive procedures, combating the ravages of time – and slow down ageing – needn’t be financially ruinous, writes Dr Lisa Chan.
Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, said the US founding father Benjamin Franklin. To that gloomy list, he might have added ageing. We sag, we crease and we wrinkle as our faces and bodies are slowly drained of their youthful vim and vigour.
Surgery – an option denied to Franklin – is often seen as the obvious way to reverse the ageing process today. But there’s also a growing range of minimally invasive nonsurgical tightening procedures that give patients gain with a little less financial pain.
The procedures invariably focus on the face, where the whips and scorns of time are most immediately apparent, and fall broadly into two categories – needle and needleless treatments.
Dermal fillers are smooth gel injectables that restore volume loss and plump up sunken areas of the face, particularly on the tear trough and temporal areas. They can address marionette lines that appear between the mouth and chin and the nasolabial lines or laughter lines between the nose and the corner of the mouth.
Hyaluronic acid is a widely used dermal filler, plumping, smoothing, and hydrating the skin and acting as a cushion and lubricant to prevent skin damage. Its effects last for between six and 18 months.
There are also collagen-stimulating agents that stimulate skin cells to produce more natural Type I and III collagens, which are abundant in our bodies when we’re young and make our skin elastic and firm. They begin to disappear in our late twenties, and by the time we’re in our fifties we have only half as much as our young selves.
Botulinum toxin has boomed in popularity in recent years and works by temporarily relaxing facial muscles to avoid the formation of wrinkles when those muscles contract and the overlying skin also moves. It works by reducing the facial lines – including crow’s feet from smiling and frown lines from frowning – taking effect within a few days to a fortnight and working for between three to six months.
Recently there’s been a rise in the use of preventative botulinum toxin – also known as baby botulinum toxin – to ward off the visible signs of ageing by softening the movement of facial muscles that contribute to wrinkles and lines before they become prominent or permanent.
Thread lifting involves the placing of dissolvable stitches under the skin to pull the
skin tight around the jawline, forehead, neck and torso. Invisible barbs ensure the thread grips the underlying tissue and muscles.
The process creates a selective inflammatory response and promotes a controlled healing environment that naturally creates new collagen, supporting growth that significantly influences the skin’s condition.
The outcome is subtle but distinct. Unlike a surgical facelift, the surgeon doesn’t need to remove any loose skin and only pulls the skin back slightly, lifting and tightening the face, and making it look more youthful.
Microneedling – also known as collagen induction therapy – involves pricking the skin with tiny sterilised needles. The small wounds this produces cause the body to make more collagen and elastin, which both heal the skin and make the patient look more youthful.
Laser and intense pulsed light therapies help improve the quality of the skin through the use of selective photothermolysis, which improves its glow and texture by tightening pores.
Radiofrequency sends heat to the deep layer of skin to trigger collagen production. The heat separates the water molecules from the fibrous collagen, causing an immediate contraction and resulting in skin tightening and improvement in its quality.
High-intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is an advanced technology that stimulates the production of collagen by using ultrasound energy to result in firmer skin. It’s used to treat double chins and to make jawlines look more defined.
The range of non-surgical treatments available today are beyond the imagining of patients 50 years ago, let alone Franklin and his 18th-century contemporaries. Usually, a combination therapy involving more than one procedure achieves the best results.
In all cases, patients should consult their doctors first and weigh up their particular issues, their budgets, and the extent of their expectations before taking steps to slow down or reverse the ravages of time that all of us are ultimately subject to.