Cosmetic surgery has been around for decades and hasn’t always had the best reputation. Many of the treatments available to the general public are often still associated with botched surgery outcomes that are mostly the result of the work of an untrained or unskilled professional or outdated surgical procedures that have since been replaced with updated and advanced medical technology, available at facilities such as Skinly Aesthetics.
While there are a number of cosmetic procedures that still require surgical intervention, medical innovations have allowed for a safer and less invasive approach for many cosmetic treatments. These minimally and non-invasive options offer patients and physicians safe alternatives that can accomplish the same results, without the surgery. I wanted to explore these treatments more in depth to see how they compare to their original surgical counterparts. Here’s what I found.
Lip fillers and other enhancements:
Lip enhancements date back to the early 1900s and started off with what is known as fat grafting. Fat grafting is a procedure in which fat is harvested from one part of the body using liposuction, purified, and injected into another. Unfortunately, fat transfers can be very risky and can result in fat embolism, which is when fat enters the bloodstream and blocks blood vessels, which in rare cases can result in fatality. In addition, fat grafting can lead to uneven and lumpy results that are irreversible unless the fat is surgically removed.
Today, Lip fillers are much safer in that the primary compound used to inject the lips is typically a hyaluronic acid based filler. Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by the body, making it less likely to result in rejection of the implant. It also comes in many different forms, all of which are designed for different areas of injection and results. Hyaluronic acid fillers are dissolvable through the application of hyaluronidase, which reverses its effects.
If you plan on getting hyaluronic acid lip injections, be sure to get them injected by a skilled professional. There are some DIY lip fillers going around, which utilize a needle free pressurized device to press the filler into your skin. While this may sound appealing, it is actually quite dangerous as described by many medical professionals.
Butt enhancements have also become increasingly popular over the course of the past 15 years. Fortunately, butt implants are becoming a thing of the past as the development of minimally invasive butt lifts has reached a new era.
One of the most common surgical butt enhancements is a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL), which uses fat grafting to transfer fat from one part of the body – usually the abdomen, thighs, and arms – to another part of the body, namely, the buttocks. While this sounds ideal, BBL fat transfers have a long list of possible risks and side effects and even have a 3% mortality rate, making it the most deadly cosmetic procedure.
To avoid these risks, many people are opting for non-surgical alternatives: Sculptra butt lifts and Radiesse butt lifts. Sculptra (Poly-L-lactic acid) and Radiesse (Calcium Hydroxylapatite) are both injectable dermal fillers that are commonly used to increase the size of a patient’s buttocks. Both compounds work by stimulating the body’s own collagen production, which creates volume over time.
Radiesse has instant results upon injection and increases the buttocks only slightly in volume over time, while Sculptra results take about 1 – 2 months to start showing, but can add significant volume over the course of a few months. Both results are also dependent on the patient’s original shape as well as the amount of treatment they are getting.
Face lifts and other lifting procedures
Surgical face lifts are still common practice, especially amongst patients with excessive loose skin due to aging or weight loss.
Surgical face lifts involve incisions using a scalpel along the hairline followed by the repositioning of underlying tissue. The skin and deeper layers of facial tissue (including the muscles) are then lifted while the excess is trimmed away after the lifted skin is repositioned back on the face. The risks and side effects include bleeding, bruising, swelling, possible infection, and nerve damage.
For those interested in a less invasive approach, the non surgical alternative is a PDO thread lift. A PDO (polydioxanone) thread lift can be used in all the same areas as a traditional facelift and works through the insertion of very thin barbed threads made of the same material as surgical sutures, using a cannula.
Once inserted, the threads are carefully pulled upward along with the skin, as the skin is held in place by the barbs attached to the threads. Risks and side effects have been said to include bruising and swelling, puckering of the lifted skin, as well as the possibility of nerve damage if performed incorrectly.
My mother has had both a face lift and a PDO thread lift (years later) and found that the recovery time from a thread lift was much more tolerable. While her surgical face lift results did last longer, she appreciated the simplicity of the PDO thread procedure and the fact that she didn’t have to undergo another surgical procedure. She did mention that PDO threads would probably be better for someone who has mild sagging, based on her doctor’s opinion.
An even less invasive approach to lift the skin of the face is a liquid face lift. A liquid face lift involves various forms of injectables including neurotoxins (like Botox) and dermal fillers.
Neurotoxins are often used in cosmetic medicine to prevent and eliminate lines and wrinkles in the face. They work by temporarily paralyzing the muscles in which they are injected, resulting in limited muscle contractions in the treatment area. Some of the most commonly injected areas include the frontalis muscle, which forms horizontal forehead lines when contracted, the glabellar complex made of procerus and corrugator muscles located in between the eyebrows, which forms frown lines, also called 11s lines, and the orbicularis oculi muscles around the eyes which contribute to the formation of crow’s feet. Neurotoxin injections can also result in certain lifting effects, especially in the eyebrows.
Dermal fillers are used to add volume to certain areas of the face to create a fuller, more youthful appearance. The most commonly used dermal fillers for the face are hyaluronic acid based fillers, which is a lubricating polysaccharide naturally produced by the body for smooth gliding along the joints. The results last 6 – 12 months and can be reversed using hyaluronidase, if necessary.
I have personally had a few dermal fillers injected, including my jawline and under eyes. Because I’m 25, I don’t really need a surgical face lift, but definitely felt like I looked more awake and refreshed, especially after getting rid of the dark circles under my eyes using an under eye filler.
Common areas injected with dermal filler for a liquid face lift include:
- The under eyes (tear troughs) to eliminate dark circles
- The cheeks
- The smile lines (nasolabial folds)
- The marionette lines (folds that run from the corners of your mouth down your chin
- The chin
- The jawline (for definition and reduction in mildly loose skin)
- The forehead
- The temples
- The lips
An additional non surgical method of skin lifting is Ultrasound therapy, which uses microfocused ultrasound energy to cause controlled thermal coagulation to deeper SMAS layers of the skin. This causes the body to produce collagen rich microscarring, resulting in a lifted and tightened appearance. Collagen, a naturally occurring protein, gives skin its youthfulness, keeping it firm and toned.
For this to work you may need to get several sessions over the course of three to six months, each of which has been described as incredibly painful.
The plus side is that it is non-invasive, meaning that nothing physically punctures the skin. The tool used is a small device that is glided across the skin and emits ultrasound energy which reaches deep layers of the superficial muscular aponeurotic system.
In the past, eyebrow lifts were accomplished through minor face lifts in which incisions had to be made along the hairline, to pull the skin and eyebrows upward. While this method is effective and sometimes still used, there is a minimally invasive alternative that has become far more common: neurotoxin injection, such as Botox.
Neurotoxins are best known for their ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles upon injection, however, they can also be used to create an eyebrow lift by taking advantage of muscular compensation and interconnection.
Neuromodulator paralyses the muscle in which it is injected. When injected into the orbicularis oculi, the muscle surrounding the eyes, it relieves the tension that typically pulls the ends of the eyebrows downward. In addition, when Botox is injected into the superior and medial sections of the frontalis muscle (your forehead muscle that causes you to raise your eyebrows), the inferior (or bottom region) of the muscle compensates, causing it to become stronger and in turn, lifting the eyebrows.
This treatment only takes 5 – 10 minutes with results that will last you up to five months. Side effects are minimal and include mild swelling and redness, which may last one day, as well as possible bruising.
Contouring and shaping procedures
Surgical rhinoplasties are still commonly performed, especially to correct deviated septums or unwanted asymmetry and size.
In surgical rhinoplasties a physician makes incisions within the nostrils and sometimes across the base of the nose. Depending on the patient’s desired result, the inner bone and cartilage are reshaped using a scalpel and a surgical instrument called an osteotome.
While surgical rhinoplasties are safe and effective, not everyone feels comfortable undergoing surgical procedures, especially with the risk of unwanted permanent results.
For those who don’t have concerns that require surgical intervention, an injectable liquid rhinoplasty may be an option. Injectable rhinoplasties typically are used to contour the nose or even out a bumpy bridge through the injection of hyaluronic acid based dermal fillers. While there are other dermal fillers available, hyaluronic acid based fillers are typically preferred in the case that someone wants to reverse the treatment with hyaluronidase.
This procedure offers patients a minimally invasive alternative to a surgical rhinoplasty.
When it comes to jaw and chin implants, which are still utilized in some cases, most cases do not warrant the need for a surgical implant when it comes to shaping the jawline. Implants are foreign materials in the body, meaning that they do pose a risk for infection and migration in which case they would have to be surgically removed.
If only minor adjustments need to be made, dermal fillers can be used to add volume and definition to a patient’s chin and jawline. The type of filler to be used is chosen by the physician on a case by case basis but typically lies between a dense hyaluronic acid based filler or Radiesse. Both types of fillers are safe and typically accepted by the body with very little risk of infection or other side effects and complications. Based on the type of filler used, the results can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
Injectable jawline contouring can be used to create a more defined jawline, correct asymmetry, or elongate the chin for a more attractive profile.
Liposuction and alternative methods for fat reduction
Liposuction is a common method used to eliminate unwanted fat by surgically inserting a tube into the area of concern and virtually sucking the fat out of it. While this does work, the treatment itself is invasive and involves 2 – 4 weeks of post surgical downtime in which you are unable to engage in your typical everyday activities.
Fortunately, medical technology has allowed for a much less invasive alternative: Cryolipolysis.
Cryolipolysis is a non-invasive treatment for fat elimination and is derived from the Greek roots (cryo, meaning cold, lipo, meaning fat, and lysis meaning dissolution) and uses advanced freezing technology to freeze fat cells in the treated area without damaging any of the surrounding tissue or skin. During your treatment, a vacuum applicator will be placed on the area of concern, which sucks in your fat and freezes it over the course of 35 minutes. To avoid frostbite, a protective membrane is placed on the skin underneath the applicator.
Results can be seen within 1 – 2 months since your body requires some time to metabolize the now dead fat cells. Side effects are minor and may include bruising, swelling, and numbing sensations, which subside within 2 – 3 weeks. Depending on how much fat you start with, you may need anywhere from one to four sessions for your desired result.
In areas with smaller pouches of fat, such as the double chin, there is an injectable alternative to liposuction called Kybella. Kybella is an injectable solution made of deoxycholic acid, a compound naturally produced by the body in the digestive system to break down fat. As a purified version, Kybella is used in areas such as the double chin and other small pouches of fat around the body to break down and eliminate unwanted fatty tissue. While this treatment is associated with a moderate degree of swelling, the side effects and risks are nowhere near the after care that comes with liposuction.
Results typically take 1 – 2 months to start showing, since your body needs some time to metabolize the dead fat cells. In addition, you may need more than just one session, depending on how much fat you have, how you respond to the treatment, and what your ultimate desired result is.
There are a lot of minimally invasive cosmetic treatments that can be used to enhance certain features and parts of your body. While some results do require surgical intervention, medical technology has opened many doors to achieve results that were once only possible using surgical methods. Most of the above mentioned treatments are safe and effective, though some of them do not leave you with permanent results. For most people, however, getting the same minimally invasive treatment every few months is preferred over the longevity and downtime that comes with plastic surgery.