Everyone over 40, and many in their 30’s, see facial and eyelid aging changes in their skin. No one wants to see these changes and many people consider some type of facial rejuvenation therapy. But no one wants a face lift which is the only way to get the result pictured below: (Contact Dr Seckel)
Whether it is fear of surgery or the stigma of having surgery, almost everyone who comes in to my plastic surgery office tells me they want to look younger but they do not want a face lift.
Recent technological advances resulted in new light based skin tightening devices which are being marketed as the non-surgical face lift. While skin tightening technology is impressive, and does work, the results of skin tightening to date hardly qualify as a face lift, non-surgical or otherwise. Skin is tightened but best results are about 20% to 30 % of what a traditional surgical facelift can achieve.
The new skin tightening is called non-ablative to distinguish the new skin tightening technology form the old CO2 laser resurfacing, the Gold Standard for Wrinkle Removal.
To ablate means to surgically remove, and the CO2 laser resurfacing ablated or removed old damaged skin and new skin grew to replace the old. In the process of Laser Resurfacing, heat generated by the laser injured the deeper skin layers and when they healed, with new collagen, the skin was contracted or tightened.
The newer skin tightening technology uses radiofrequency energy or infrared energy to heat the deep layers of the skin to cause contraction and tightening but first cools the skin before the energy is applied to prevent injury and ablation of the superficial skin by the heat energy. Thus the skin is tightened but the surface is not ablated, thus non-ablative skin tightening. There is no down time foillowing non-ablative skin tightening unlike the older CO2 laser resurfacing skin tightening.
Several new skin tightening machines are available. The LuxIR by Palomar, and the Titan by Cutera utilize infrared energy for skin tightening. The Aluma by Lumenis and Thermage utilize infrared energy for skin tightening. Refirme by Syneron uses a combination of light energies with radiofrequency for skin tightening.
All of the machines achieve about similar results when used properly. Generally there is less discomfort with the Infrared skin tightening machines. Complications have been minimal although some serious complications occurred with Thermage skin tightening early on.
In my practice I find that non-ablative skin tightening is most helpful for younger patients who do not have severe aging changes and significant sun damage, people in their 30’s and 40’s who want to correct or tighten early skin sagging along the jaw line or jowl area, neck and cheeks. I use the LuxIR on these larger areas. For skin tightening around the eyelids I use the Aluma which has a smaller treatment head and a suction device that will pull the delicate peri ocular skin into the treatment chamber for skin tightening.
The field of non-ablative skin tightening is in its infancy and will definitely become more effective in the years ahead. The companies are improving their products frequently. For now however the people who benefit most from the skin tightening machines today are younger people who still have thick healthy skin with early aging changes.
The use of the term non-surgical facelift to describe non-ablative skin tightening is an overstatement with technology available for skin tightening today. At best a 30% result is possible when compared to a traditional face lift.