With the huge demand for ways to stave off the signs of age medical technology is working overtime. First there were facelifts – but a rhytidectomy (face lift) has significant down time, risk of infection, scarring and is very expensive. A facelift is normally the lower 2/3 of the face and if you add a forehead lift and or blepharoplasty (eye lift) the price will go up. Typically it runs $20,000 – $50,000. So options were explored for ways to get a more youthful appearance without the full surgery. CO2 resurfacing can smooth the skin and get rid of brown spots, but it doesn’t remove excess skin or give you that “tuck”.
The next evolution uses radio frequency most commonly sold under the trade name Thermage. It markets that it can tighten and smooth the skin non-surgically. While it can lift and tighten it won’t remove excess skin like surgery can. Thermage describes its Ideal Patent as:
- Patients who are not candidates for surgical face lift
- Middle-aged women beginning to show signs of neck/brow/eyelid sagging
- Middle-aged women beginning to show signs of drooping jowls/cheek folds
- Patients who want to achieve subtle lift or tightening of the face without invasive surgery
- Patients who have had a prior face lift and desire further tightening of the skin.
Cost runs from $1000 – $5000 depending on the area to be treated. The skin will look improved immediately but results will continue to improve for several months. By the results from their own studies, about 50% of the clients report being happy to very happy with the results. There is generally no down time or skin discoloration. They state that typically results last about 2 years. The results are permanent but that the natural aging process could indicate the need for one or two maintenance treatments. While this has been a popular service, the discomfort and success rates triggered more research.
Another new technique is using ultrasonic sound waves to transfer heat into the skin in a manner similar to radio frequency. The surface of the skin is not damaged but tiny micro-wounds place at varying depths in the dermis and below trigger tightening and collagen production. Patients have reported that afterwards it feels like the muscles have been doing ab crunches. While there may be some visible tightening this is a long term process where the skin appearance continues to improve over 3 – 6 months. Recent studies have shown that new collagen is still being deposited 2 years following a single treatment. That indicates this is a very long lasting therapy. The ideal patient would be similar to that for Thermage. Nothing will remove very lax or excess skin outside of surgery. But if you start younger, before the problem becomes severe, then yes, there are non-surgical ways to lift the face.
Because of post treatment tenderness of the muscles and along bony ridges, patients should wait 4-6 weeks before resuming facial treatments and permanent cosmetic procedures that involve pressure or stretching. A light touch treatment can probably be tolerated well at 2 weeks. If in doubt have the client get an ok from their medical professional.