Even in Florida, where cosmetic surgery procedures are as common as sunshine, people usually fall into one of two camps: those who would partake in cosmetic surgery procedures, and those who shy away from the idea of surgery, preferring to let nature take its unassisted course.
Now, more than ever before, there are in-office alternatives that can buy time or even eliminate the need for plastic surgery. Options available today are highly effective, relatively gentle, and often provide quick results with little or no down time.
For those in search of firmer, more evenly toned skin and fewer wrinkles there are a wide variety of options from which to choose. Essentially, most non-invasive treatments fall into 4 categories, each one offering specific benefits and results.
Prescription Grade Topical Skin Care – A plethora of prescription strength skincare products is the easiest, most cost effective way to maintain youthful skin and, with some products, reverse signs of aging. Liz Havens, owner of Skin Renewal Systems on Marco, and a medical esthetician, says that the two most important components in optimum skin care are to consistently use high quality skin care products twice daily and, of course, stay out of the sun. “The advantage of being a medical spa is that we can offer clients the most effective products available in our office and for home use. A steady program of skin care, used morning and night, will benefit skin at all ages, of all types, whether anything else has been done to the face or not at all.”
Depending on skin type, a variety of topical products can be prescribed to further enhance skin. Tretinoin creams or gels, also known as Retin-A®, Renova® and other name brands, is a skin treatment classified as a Vitamin A antioxidant. Tretinoin helps rejuvenate the skin’s collagen layer by improving its texture and increasing its blood supply and turnover of dead skin cells. Since the collagen layer is the foundation for skin’s outer layers, these improvements help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Because of their ability to change the skin’s cellular structure, Havens calls tretinoin products, “the #1 workhorse of skin care.”
Facials and Chemical Peels – Treatments performed by a licensed medical esthetician are potent enough to enhance skin’s texture and firmness, reduce pore size, diminish age spots or hyperpigmentation and provide an overall youthful appearance. The array of services available is vast, including use of oxygen and ultrasound therapies in combination with microdermabrasion, and/or products that pack powerful punches of lactic, glycolic or salicylic acids. While custom tailored facials or peels can produce immediately refined, glowing skin, long-term benefits include the skin’s ability to accept products deeper and more readily by removing dead skin cells that might otherwise hinder absorption.
Laser Resurfacing – Lasers improving flaws, wrinkles, scars, age spots, and sun-damaged areas have been a scientific breakthrough in skin rejuvenation. Using a wand-like hand-piece, undesired skin cells and wrinkles are deleted in a puff of mist then ultimately replaced by fresh skin cells. Thoroughly non-invasive, lasers can address problems that other treatments may not. Some laser therapy is safe to smooth delicate eyelid skin, flatten scars or repair smoker’s lines around the mouth. The depth of laser penetration can be controlled, allowing precision in treating delicate areas. A key benefit in using laser therapy, says Havens, is that it stimulates new collagen growth. “Collagen production slows or stops as we age,” she says, “so the ability to stimulate new growth is ideal for aging skin.”
Injectables and Injectable Fillers – Of all the non-invasive options, this category is probably the most revolutionary, commonly used and accepted as an alternative to cosmetic surgery. The greatest factor that most injectables have in common is their ability to fill volume in areas where it has been lost over time. The loss of volume is usually apparent under the eyes and in laugh lines, or nasolabial folds, usually starting in a person’s early 40’s. Crow’s feet, the wrinkles at the outer corners of the eyes, frown lines, and forehead wrinkles can occur at the same time. Botulinum toxin A, or Botox, is injected into muscles and used to improve the look of moderate to severe lines in the upper facial areas. The beauty of Botox is that it lasts for several months and, wheninjected regularly over time, can cause muscles to atrophy so less Botox is used, less often.
As for filling places that need lifting and plumping, a number of injectables are available, which is why a consultation with a medical professional is imperative in order to select the best options. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), there are more than 20 FDA-approved cosmetic injectable drugs currently on the market. Most fillers last from 3 or 4 months to, in some cases, more than a year. Hyaluronic acids, such as Restylane, Perlane, and Juvéderm are widely used, while Sculptra is synthetic poly-l-lactic acid, which has been used for years in dissolvable stitches and medical implants. Sculptra is used to plump cheekbones, temples, and create firm jaw lines.
Aside from filling in volume, any surface irregularities should be attended to. Even the plumpest face won’t be youthful and attractive if the skin isn’t in good condition, which is why fillers are utilized in conjunction with other treatments. Together they work to prolong or recreate the look of younger, vital facial skin.
Before my interview with Liz Havens at Skin Renewal Systems for this article, I’d intended to schedule some of the above-mentioned services, all in the name of research, of course. As a 40-something woman standing firmly in the camp of ‘cosmetic-surgery-is-a-necessity-and-I-will-most-likely-do-everything-before-it’s-all-over’, I’m in favor of trying anything that makes me appear to be aging gracefully. She suggested a consultation whereby she would assess the condition of my skin and we would talk about possible treatments based on her findings.
As Havens pointed out, a medical spa provides full-service options for skin care because, in addition to an experienced team of estheticians, they have a physician on staff to perform procedures for which he is qualified.
In fact, after the recent tragic death of staff physician Dr. Luciano Boemi last month, Havens and her daughter, Adrienne Willmeng, conducted an extensive search to find a qualified, experienced doctor to bring on board. Their search ended recently when they chose Kent V. Hasen, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon who has practiced in Naples for several years. Both Havens and Willmeng are delighted to include Dr. Hasen in their team of professionals.
Once nestled into a serene treatment room, Havens began a thorough cleansing of my face, neck, and décolletage. As she examined my skin, she commented on the relatively youthful elasticity of my skin, a good thing, but also chastised me for the obvious sun damage I’ve incurred over the years. Besides sunspots, she noticed some hyperpigmentation, or darkened areas, around my jaw line. Based on her recommendation, she did something called dermaplaning. It’s a form of manual exfoliation using a small, surgical blade. It removes the outermost layers of dead skin cells along with ‘peach fuzz’ facial hair. While it initially felt odd to have my face essentially ‘shaved’, I loved the results almost instantly. Microdermabrasion was next; a little suction hose with surgical grade crystals moved over face and neck, blasting dead skin cells, clogged pores and evening out skin tone. I felt the crystals though in no way did it hurt. Salicylic acid was used on the newly exfoliated skin. It had a stinging sensation… stinging like something good was happening to my face. A soothing mask was followed by a rich moisturizer and sunscreen, which completed an utterly relaxing experience. Because of the hyperpigmentation Liz recommended a type of bleaching cream to be added to my twice-daily routine.
Afterwards, my skin was red… red to the extent that my friends asked if I’d been in the sun. For a couple of days it felt tight and a bit dry. By the end of the 2nd day, a layer of dry skin rubbed off in the shower, leaving me with the softest, most glowing skin I’ve had in a very long time. Without the peach fuzz, my face acts like a clean, blank canvas over which make-up glides. A week later, I’m using a tinted moisturizer rather than heavier foundation. I don’t seem to need as much make-up now, and I swear I can see those dark spots fading already. With treatments like these, I think I can stay away from the knife a little while longer.