Lifting the Face – Part One: Nonsurgical Interventions

Facial rejuvenation is a big topic, and a huge economic one: around $16 billion was spent in the US for cosmetic procedures last year, with a large percentage of this being spent on facial rejuvenation. In this discussion I will talk about techniques used to “lift” the face. This will not include a discussion of techniques used to camouflage the effects of gravity, such as filler injections used to smooth out wrinkles caused by the pull of gravity on soft tissue. Lasers, chemical peels, and other techniques to smooth out fine wrinkles will also not be mentioned in this particular discussion.

Here in part one, I will talk about nonsurgical interventions that claim an ability to lift facial tissues. In part two I will discuss basic components of a surgical facelift, and in part three I will discuss different versions of facelift, from “mini” facelifts such as “threadlift” and “MACS lift” to more extensive variations.

Nonsurgical Facelift Tools

Like diet pills that claim to melt away fat while eating 10,000 calories a day and not exercising, there are many nonsurgical treatments that claim to “lift” the face without sutures or a scalpel. These include therapies that use radiofrequency energy (e.g. Thermage┬«) and ultrasound (Ultherapy┬«), as well as various skin peels, lasers, etc. To understand the benefits (and limitations) of these treatments, we have to understand how they work.

At the root of each of these treatments is improvement in collagen (sometimes elastin as well) within the deeper layer of skin. Improvement in collagen and elastin is integral in improvement in the quality of skin affected by time, sun, and bad genes. Smoothing out of fine wrinkles (not so much “chiseled” or deep ones) results from these treatments– a modest amount of skin tightening can result as well. However, neither of these processes truly lifts the face— tightening of the skin that covers the face is about the best we can hope for with nonsurgical intervention.

So what does help? If skin is the less important component in facelift, what is the more important piece of the puzzle? Check out part two of our blog series on facelift next week for the answers.

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