Beauty aficionados who prefer looking “refreshed” to looking remodeled have been turning to lasers and other noninvasive technologies to up their grooming quotient without resorting to surgery — at least not yet. Most promise gradual (and therefore more believable) improvements, typically triggered by controlled cell damage that makes your skin react by producing its own fresh collagen and elastin. And medical technology companies keep getting better at it.
“Paying attention to your appearance has become more and more important, and more and more accepted,” says Dr. Nima Naghshineh, a Pasadena- and Beverly Hills–based plastic surgeon, who goes by “Dr. Nima.” “And the number of aesthetic procedures has increased every year — the number of surgical procedures has increased, but even more so the number of nonsurgical procedures has increased. It’s become more commonplace and accepted, and because of that, we find that more patients are starting at a younger age. It’s no longer just 60-year-old women coming in for facelifts. Now we’re seeing women and men in their 30s coming in for Botox and other noninvasive procedures to slow the hands of time.”
An impressive newcomer to West Coast medical offices is Profound RF, a minimally invasive, fractional radiofrequency device and descendent of the earlier skin-tightening technology known as Thermage. Laser skin technologies used to be only for intrepid consumers willing to brave plenty of painful downtime from damage to their epidermis — the skin’s top layer. But RF technologies go deeper, rejuvenating the dermis. Profound also incorporates relatively new microneedling therapy, which stimulates collagen and elastin by creating “micropassages” in the skin with slender needles. Profound turbocharges that process by infusing the needles with carefully calibrated RF energy.
The result? A boost in collagen, elastin and hyalauronic acid — manufacturer Syneron Candela says this is the first device to enhance all three “skin fundamentals” — producing a tighter jawline and smoother texture after three months. Profound gets unusually high marks on realself.com, which runs consumer reviews of medical and dental beauty treatments — 90 percent of Profound reviewers said the procedure was “worth it.” “My results were far more dramatic than I ever anticipated,” reported a 59-year-old St. Louis woman. “It has been almost a year since my Profound treatment, and I still can’t believe how dramatically it improved my skin and jawline.”
If a Profound treatment is “worth it,” what is “it”? Well, prepare for a week of downtime, although you’ll probably look worse than you feel — Profound can cause some temporary bruising, so your doctor may send you home with arnica capsules. The doctor or nurse starts by injecting anesthetic in the treatment area, so the hourlong procedure itself should be comfortable. And of course, there’s the cost: around $6,000 — that’s real money, but it’s still considerably less than surgery.
“Where I’m seeing the most impressive effects is in the 30-to-60-year-old age group, where you’re starting to have a little bit of jowling, a little bit of looseness,” says Dr. Nima, who practices with Dr. Leif Rogers. “Profound is a great place to start because it’s noninvasive, its tightening effects are long-lasting and you don’t need multiple treatments.”
Last November, the FDA also approved Profound for cellulite on the body, making the device even more versatile. It can enhance the results of liposuction, which often does not address dimpled skin.
But for consumers focused on the man (or woman) in the mirror, Profound should help them put off their surgery date. “It’s hard to say how long this will delay the need for facelifts, but the explosion of the use of fillers in conjunction with older technologies such as lasers, you find people delaying facelifts into their 50s and 60s, and that’s a direct result of the increase of noninvasive therapies,” says Dr. Nima. “Now if someone has not been treating themselves over the years with these modalities and they come in at age 60 or 70 looking for a noninvasive approach to a more youthful appearance, it’s oftentimes you have to look toward the surgical route.”
Cryolipolysis was approved by the FDA in 2010, but it’s only fairly recent that it has seemed ubiquitous. That’s the fat-freezing technology popularly known as Coolsculpting, which claims to reduce 20 percent of fat in the treated area. Another beauty technology offering gradual improvements, Coolsculpting uses a handheld device made by Zeltiq Aesthetics of California, which freezes and destroys fat cells that are then eliminated in urine. Like liposuction, it isn’t intended for substantial weight loss (although liposuction can still remove more fat); Coolsculpting helps reduce pudge resistant to diet, leaving the Coolsculptee’s shape in better proportion. While love handles are a typical target, Coolsculpting is also used to reduce double chins and meaty thighs. The technology’s handheld devices come in two sizes, which typically cost $750 or $1,200 each (although sales are common), so the total bill depends on the size and number used.
According to realself.com, Coolsculpting is another effective therapy — 82 percent of reviewers deemed it “worth it.” “So glad I did this!” wrote a 24-year-old Canadian woman, who reported losing 4.5 inches from her waist and 2.5 inches from her hips. “Bye, bye, stomach fat!”
If you aren’t inclined to drop four figures, you might consider a home device that may take longer to produce more modest results, but it won’t break the bank. And like noninvasive technologies available in doctors’ offices, the home beauty appliance market also keeps innovating. Home Skinovations says its Silk’n Face FX device uses “home fractional technology” combining heat and light energy to improve skin texture, treating fine lines, wrinkles, large pores and discoloration. Improvement is visible in eight weeks, according to the company. Amazon reviewers give the $149 device 3½ stars.