Putting Your Best Face Forward
There’s just no reason not to look your best. And Columbia’s got some of the best I the business.
By Katie McElveen
Beauty may be ageless, but there’s a lot to be said for minimizing the effects of time with a cosmetic treatment that goes beyond hitting the spa for a facial or peel. These days, it’s easier than ever.
Medi-spas offer plastic surgery and other enhancements in a soothing zen-like environment; doctors have expanded their offerings into non-invasive treatments like Botox and a new generation of products and techniques not only smooth creases, zap under-eye puffiness and iron out fine lines but can create cheekbones, enhance jaw lines and fill hollows.
“There are so many options out there, your best bet is to let a professional guide you through the maze and make suggestions based on your specific issues,” says Dr. Smythe Rich, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon. “New fillers have shifted the paradigm from removing loose, wrinkled skin to filling it and creating volume. So now, instead of just smooth, you get smooth and full, which is more youthful.” In some cases, fillers are even replacing certain surgeries. “We’re doing fewer under-eye surgeries than ever because we’ve found that it’s easier and more natural looking to fill that area rather than pull the skin tighter,” says Dr. Rich.
And just what are fillers? As the name suggests, they’re liquid substances that are injected under the skin to boost volume. The slightly stretched skin looks smooth and refined, much the way it did when natural fat – which decreases with age – was in its proper place.
Based on their viscosity, which can vary greatly depending on where they’re to be injected, fillers can do everything from sweeping away the whispery lines that often take up residence above the upper lip (as well as their cousins, the dreaded “marionette” lines that connect the nose to the mouth) to re-contouring sunken cheeks and temples.
More adaptable than implants, fillers have led the charge in how doctors, aestheticians and patients think about softening the signs of aging. “Ten years ago, we injected a filler like Juvederm around a specific line to bump it out from below,” says Dr. Asha James, a dermatologist with Columbia Skin Clinic. “Today, we’ve found that injecting Voluma, which is a next-generation filler, into the cheek hollow will add a youthful plumpness to the whole area and reduce that wrinkle more naturally.” Although fillers can be expensive – expect treatments to begin at about $1,200 – results tend to last about a year or 18 months.
Relatively affordable, generally safe and reliable, Botox and other neurotoxins, which work by loosening a muscle’s grip and allowing the skin to relax into a wrinkle-free veil, have been a go-to for youth-seekers for years. Although the drugs haven’t changed, practice has made perfect. “We’re seeing more refinement in application so there’s a lot less “frozen face” these days,” says Dr. Peter Haines, a board-certified plastic surgeon who is also the medical director of Palmetto Health Healing Waters, a medi-spa based in Palmetto Richland’s Parkridge Campus.
“We’ve learned to make tiny adjustments in where to put it and precisely how much to inject so that patients get the benefits without the negative side effects.” They’re also combining neurotoxins and fillers, giving patients the best of both worlds. “You can smooth out your forehead lines, get rid of the crease between your eyebrows and remove crow’s feet in one day,” explains Tammy Gaskins, Healing Waters’ manager of plastic surgery and aesthetics. “We call it a liquid face lift because it’s so effective. They’ve even added numbing properties to the fillers to make them less painful to inject so the down time is really minimal.”
Lasers are evolving, too, offering a way to improve skin condition by removing brown age spots, erasing broken veins and capillaries and evening out pigment. As an added benefit, they stress the skin, which reacts by creating new collagen. Result? A little extra padding, which softens wrinkles just a bit. Lasers can also be used to remove hair, which age often encourages to thicken or sprout in unlikely spots.
But fillers, lasers and neurotoxins are just the first line of defense in the growing arsenal of weapons in the war on aging. A host of new options is making it easier than ever to make dramatic changes to the face and other parts of the body. One of most exciting advances is laser body contouring, using Smartlipo Triplex and Precision Tx technology.
“It’s a two-step process,” says Dr. Haines. “First, we go over the treatment area with the laser, which liquefies the fatty tissue and contracts the skin. Next, we remove the fatty tissue, which, as liquid, is much easier to suction than solid fat. The recovery is much faster with a lot less soreness.” Although it can be used on most parts of the body, including the knees, abdomen and hips, the procedure is also very effective for “debulking” the jaw and chin area.
For more targeted areas, Dr. Haines suggests considering Coolsculpt, a type of cyroablation that kills fat cells by freezing them. Within a couple of months, the dead cells are reabsorbed by the body. “It’s like light liposuction, but without the recovery time,” he explains.
Even traditional surgeries have evolved. “We’re still performing face-lifts, but we’re adding fillers to the mix, so the result is more natural,” explains Dr. Rich. “It allows us to use smaller incisions so there’s less scarring. It’s all about synergy between the various modalities.” Surgeons are even starting to use the body’s own fat to supplement areas that need it. “People are really excited about the possibilities with fat grafting, which is basically harvesting your own fat to use as a filler,” says Dr. Donen Davis, board-certified plastic surgeon. “It’s safe, there’s no danger of introducing something foreign into the body and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want a little bit of fat removed from somewhere?”
For many potential patients, though, the biggest question is when to begin to think about cosmetic surgery or procedures. For most people, the answer is in the mirror. “No age is too early to think about skin care,” says Dr. Haines. “When the time comes that you see a defect that can be reversed, if you can afford it and can accept the time commitment, why not go ahead and take care of it?”
Dr. James agrees. “If a wrinkle gets too ingrained, it’s tough to remove. 40-ish can be a good time to start Botox, but earlier if your skin has aged more rapidly.”
Choosing the right practitioner can also be challenging, particularly now that neurotoxins, fillers and peels are available in physicians’ offices and medi-spas are offering surgeries and other treatments alongside soothing massages and other relaxing therapies. “I think the first step is to ask around,” says Dr. Rich. “An amazing web site or ad doesn’t necessarily equal amazing work. Then find out what types of treatments are available. The more tools they have at their disposal, the more apt they are to give you an honest answer about what you need because they can do it all right there.”
Once you’ve decided on a practitioner, be honest about your goals, but ready to accept his or her advice. “Certain skin issues don’t respond to certain treatments,” says Dr. James. “Botox, for instance, works best on wrinkles caused by movement, like frowning or raising your eyebrows. If your doctor tells you that a filler is better for your specific issue, it’s best to take that advice, even if it isn’t what you thought you wanted.” You’ll also want to make sure that your face matches the rest of you. “Go for about ten years younger, no more,” notes Dr. Mitchell. “That way, you’ll look refreshed, but your neck and hands won’t give you away.”
To help your practitioner even more, Dr. Donen suggests bringing him or her a youthful picture of yourself. “If we can see how your face looked when you were young, it’s easier for us to recreate a similar look,” he explains. “That way, you’ll look the most natural.”