Even in recent history, anti-aging technology has come a long way. Although it cannot promise the elimination of wrinkles, there are many products available that claim to refresh, renew or rejuvenate skin. Thanks to significant scientific advances in laser- and light-based technology, as well as injectable remedies, clients today no longer need to wait with hope that in six months or one year their skin might look a tiny bit firmer but can expect quicker, if not instant results, after treatment. Much of today’s technology delivers these kinds of results. It is now easy to take off five years of appearance or more in a treatment that can take less than 30 minutes, and those numbers will only continue to improve.
When cosmetic laser- and light-based tightening treatments were first introduced, it was with the old adage in mind, “more is more.” Higher energy levels created more tissue injury and, in the process, significantly more associated pain. Time has revealed that the exact opposite is true: less is actually more. Lower energy levels delivered via multiple passes over the skin produce a superior result with greater patient comfort.
One of today’s most popular skin-tightening treatments uses fractionated bipolar radiofrequency (RF) technology, is an aesthetic technique that uses RF energy to heat tissue and stimulate subdermal collagen production in order to reduce the appearance of fine lines and loose skin. The technique induces tissue remodeling and production of new collagen and elastin. The process provides an alternative to facelift and other cosmetic surgeries. As an added bonus, RF can be used on all skin types with virtually no downtime. High-frequency ultrasound waves also can be used to break down fat and ease the process of body contouring with the hope to eliminate the need of more invasive surgical intervention.
Laser Skin Tightening:
Laser skin tightening is a minimally-invasive, non-surgical process that uses an infrared light source (a laser) to tighten skin by heating the collagen under the skin’s surface, causing the skin to contract (tighten). Facial skin tightening is noticeable immediately after the treatment, and there is no downtime, making this an increasingly popular procedure. Additional skin tightening occurs over the next few months, but optimal results usually require two or three treatments about a month apart. Laser skin tightening is an FDA approved method for the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin laxity. While laser skin tightening results may not be as dramatic as those of a face lift, patients enjoy moderate results with no downtime. An added benefit of laser skin tightening is that it is safe and effective for restoring a more firm, youthful appearance to skin all over the body.
After a laser skin tightening treatment, patients are able to return immediately to work or other regular activities. Side effects are minimal, and may include a warm sensation to the skin, redness, or minor swelling. Side effects of a skin tightening treatment usually resolve themselves naturally within a few hours.
Fractional CO2 Laser Skin Resurfacing:
The skin-resurfacing treatment “CO2 fractional laser therapy” is combined with the effectiveness of traditional carbon dioxide lasers — long thought to be the gold standard in wrinkle removal — with a new application technique. It delivers powerful results without the traditionally harsh side effects.
The natural aging process, combined with exposure to sun and pollution, destroys collagen — the main protein of connective tissue that keeps skin plump and line-free. Laser resurfacing uses beamlets of energy light to bore tiny holes in the skin, which works to put the body’s natural collagen production on fast-forward. Here’s what’s new: Fractional CO2 laser resurfacing does this in a way that prevents damage to the top layer of skin, offering maximum results with minimal recovery time. It is quick, accomplished in one or two sessions, with about four days downtime but effects could last eight to ten years.
Wrinkle injection technology soared to new heights last year when the FDA approved four fillers: Perlane, Juvéderm, Artifill, and Radiesse. Along with Restylane, approved in 2003, each uses a slightly different substance to fill wrinkles. However, pulling the skin tightly back often leaves the telltale sign of surgery—a look that is done and unnatural. Youthful-looking skin is not tight and drawn but actually plump and full. Fillers such as Radiesse* can be used in the cheeks to replace lost volume, while Juvéderm** is injected in nasolabial folds to eliminate marionette lines and in lips to add fullness.
One of the reasons injectable have become so popular—besides the fact that they work—is that practically anyone can use them. Mature clients can correct age-related skin concerns, while younger clients can take preventative measures.
Botox, for example, temporarily inhibits the muscle it’s injected into from contracting in the first place. In the short term, skin looks smoother and less wrinkled, and over time, future wrinkles caused by repetitive motion, such as squinting and frowning, is abated.
The trend in topical treatments is also toward multi-tasking ingredients delivered in a highly efficient manner with few side effects. An oxygenated facial using a serum that brightens and balances skin, while diminishing hyperpigmentation? It’s already out there. A retinol cream that boosts collagen, reduces inflammation and nourishes the skin, rather than drying it out? It’s most likely around the corner.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of topical skin rejuvenation treatments on the market, from wrinkle creams to eye serums to lifting gels. There are clinically-proven effective ingredients; for example, Tretinoin (Retin A, Renova), Retinoids, Alpha-hydroxy Acids, Estrogens, Vitamin C, Vitamin C derivatives, Anhydrous vitamin C combo, Vitamin C + E + ferulic acid. If all of them worked as advertised, anyone with a bit of extra cash could have a skin of a fifteen year old. In reality, relatively few topical agents are clinically-proven to improve wrinkles and other signs of skin aging. Others are supported by some positive evidence but not enough to confidently say that they work. Numerous others aren’t backed by any reliable science at all and can even be harmful. As you may know, a cosmetic is not regulated by the FDA. Hence it is largely up to the manufacturer’s conscience not only to ensure effectiveness but safety as well. Conversely, it is up to the consumer to buy wisely.
A topical treatment that mirrors the effects of Botox is likely, giving the same result in targeted areas without the need for injections. Interestingly, in recent years, two of the largest injectables manufacturers both purchased well-known skin care companies. More cross-marketing of these products is anticipated because they work very well in combination.
One question regarding future topical treatments is whether they’ll remain standalone options or integrated with—or perhaps even replaced by—technology. For example, IPL already is used to eradicate acne-causing bacteria, a terrific alternative to effective, yet harsh topical solutions, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Light-based treatments are also used to accelerate a topical antibiotic treatment. These types of complementary treatments will continue to both develop and improve in the future.
Medical esthetics is such an exciting and dynamic business. Advancements in this industry are seen almost every single day. One thing is for sure: The future of anti-aging technology is a highly promising one.