We’re more stressed than ever, a reality that shows up on our faces and bodies with shocking suddenness. So we turn to technology to counter Mother Nature. Lasers smooth wrinkles. Tummies get tucked. And just about everything can be lifted or sculpted. Consequently, cosmetic enhancement is a part of our lives. Botox parties have even replaced Tupperware gigs.
So here’s the latest in procedures for men and women. A face lift is still a face lift and a tummy tuck is still a tummy tuck, but new technologies often mean easier procedures, less trauma, shorter recovery periods and, sometimes, lower prices. Best of all, there are many means to a renewed you that aren’t surgical, thus even more affordable. Ever wish there was a magic wand that could make cellulite disappear? Now there very nearly is.
What follows is not medical advice. It is simply an inventory of available services. Every procedure and treatment, surgical or not, carries some degree of risk—sometimes great risk. Always consult your physician before making a decision. And remember that non-surgical does not mean non-medical. Many treatments still require a doctor’s supervision.
The more research you do, the better. Slick promotional materials often gloss over important details, so seek personal referrals. Ask lots of questions. And when you think you’ve asked enough, ask some more.
Some say cosmetic surgery truly can enhance quality of life, but no surgery will return you to youth nor will it transform you into Janet Jackson or Brad Pitt. Be realistic about your expectations. And always take good care of yourself.
The following plastic surgeons, dentists and psychologists were consulted for this story: Dr. Razim Ameer of Dover, Dr. Mehdi Balakhani of Wilmington and Newark; Dr. Asher Carey of Dover and Lewes; Dentist Richard Carroccia of Wilmington, Greenville, Middletown and Hockessin; Dr. Lawrence Chang of Newark; Dr. Peter Coggins of Centreville; Joseph Danyo of Greenville; Dr. Neil deLeeuw of Wilmington; Dr. Joseph Gallagher of Hockessin; psychologist Tom Gildea of Newark; Dr. Aron Kerner of Wilmington; Dr. Paul Sabini of Newark; Dr. Christopher Saunders of Wilmington and Chadds Ford; Dr. David Schmidt of Dover; psychologist Robin Sesan of Wilmington; dentist Sohaib Usmani of Wilmington
The New, Must-Have,
Nowhere is a younger appearance more apparent than your face. Procedures range from major surgery to simple exfoliating scrubs at your favorite day spa. Here’s a list of the latest.
Minimal Access Cranial Suspension Lift
Cost: $6,000 to $7,000
A fabulous alternative to the traditional face lift, the MACS restricts the incision to the hairline above and in front of the ear. No extension behind the ear means less bleeding and less risk of skin necrosis (death of skin cells from disease or infection). So far, Dr. Neil deLeeuw of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery of Delaware is the only surgeon in Delaware who performs the procedure.
Recovery: You can return to a normal life in about 10 days, but you’ll want to wait about three months for your big debut.
Endoscopic Brow Lift
Cost: $4,200 to $4,800
If you qualify (age is an issue), endoscopic surgery uses smaller incisions than a traditional lift, creating a more youthful appearance by tightening the upper eyelids and smoothing creased foreheads. The procedure requires only local anesthesia. Patients have less scarring and usually heal faster. Some surgeons use cold compresses to reduce swelling. Others offer nutritional and natural supplements like Bromelain (a pineapple extract) and arnica to reduce inflammation. Nerve damage has been reported, but it’s rare.
Recovery time: About two weeks.
Endoscopic Forehead Lift
Cost: $5,000 to $7,000
Using the same technology as above, the forehead lift eliminates the permanent version of that look you get when you open your Delmarva Power bill. Risks include possible injury to facial nerves, causing loss of motion or muscle weakness, and infection.
Recovery: Swelling, numbness, headaches and bruising will last at least two weeks. You’ll be back to work in about eight days, but a full recovery usually takes three weeks.
The Alma Accent
Cost: $500 to $1,500 per treatment
Known as the “fat wand,” Alma Accent uses radio frequency energy to tighten skin. The process is said to reduce cellulite and fat in the tummy, arms, legs and in some cases, the face. Done in a doctor’s office, the process requires no anesthesia or downtime. The FDA has not approved the process, but doctors expect that to change by March.
Cost: $1,200 to $1,600
Fat can be a good thing. If you have any extra, surgeons can remove it, likely from your hips or tummy, then inject it into your lips or cheeks to plump them up. Because fat is retained easily, results can last up to six months. And because fat comes from the patient’s own body, there’s no allergic reaction. Many fat cells don’t survive the transition, so several injections are needed. Dr. Peter Coggins of Aesthetic Surgical Associates in Greenville pioneered the process in Delaware. Patients undergo general anesthesia.
Recovery: Swelling and redness are par for the first 24 to 48 hours, as are itching and mild discomfort. When large amounts of fat are injected, swelling can last several days to several weeks.
Cost: $500 per syringe
Nothing says sensual better than luscious lips. One non-surgical alternative to plumping yours are injections of synthetic dermal fillers such as Restylane, Hylaform and Hylaform Plus. “The clear gel comes in a pre-filled syringe and is injected into the meaty part of the lip or the vermilion border (the actual lip line), which greatly defines the lips,” says Bridget Barry-Deane, a registered nurse and lead clinician at Skin Deep MedSpa in Greenville. Fillers aren’t exactly new, but they have become outrageously popular. Lip fillers last about three months because, as you talk, you wear away at the filler.
Recovery: Generally none, though some may experience minor redness, bruising, and swelling for a day or two.
Fraxel Laser Treatment
The Fraxel laser focuses better than other instruments, which its maker claims leads to better reduction of facial wrinkles, sun damage and scars, as well as quicker healing through stimulation of collagen production. You’ll feel pricking sensations during the procedure, and you could look sunburnt for a time, but skin will exfoliate naturally as dead cells flake away. Some plastic surgeons believe the Fraxel shows great promise, but the jury is still out on its long-term effectiveness. Dr. Neil A. DeLeeuw of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery of Delaware is the only local physician to use the Fraxel, but there are several Pennsylvania physicians who are also well versed, such as Dr. Andrew Kwak at Lumen Laser Center in Bryn Mawr.
Recovery: Swelling and redness subside after two days.
Fractional Erbium Resurfacing
Cost: $750 to $2,000
The concept behind fractional erbium skin resurfacing is the same as that of the Fraxel laser, but the process is ablative (the laser vaporizes skin cells), less expensive and some doctors believe there is better reduction of wrinkles. Dr. Joseph Danyo of Danyo Plastic Surgery in Greenville uses the Pixel Fractional Erbium laser, which “requires no anesthesia, has zero downtime and takes about 20 minutes.”
Recovery: None. Without makeup, you may see a micromesh pattern, which means you look like you walked into a screen, but it will last only a few days.
Intense Pulse Light
Cost: $450 per treatment
Though IPL can also be used on the face and hands, it gives sun-damaged décolletage a more youthful appearance. IPL targets, heats, then destroys built-up pigment in skin cells, stimulating growth of new cells and collagen production.
Recovery: A little painless redness may appear the first day.
Cost: $150 per treatment
Vibradermabrasion uses a gritty scrub to remove old skin cells and stimulate collagen production, thus leaving skin looking younger and radiant. Fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and brown discolorations all fade after six hour-long treatments. So far, the only medical spa in Delaware to offer it is Skin Deep MedSpa in Greenville.
The Old Standards…
sometimes remain the gold standards. The following surgical procedures—we repeat: surgical procedures—are time-tested operations that remain popular with patients and, by doctors, are being constantly refined.
Traditional Face Lift
Cost: $10,000 to $14,000
Cool people say that 60 is the new 40, though you’re skin continues to spot and wrinkle. Thus the rhytidectomy. Surgeons make an incision from the facial hair line to behind each ear, stretch the skin, remove the excess, then close the incision. After recovery, scars are hidden on the scalp and along natural lines of the face. This is surgery, folks, meaning general anesthesia, but it is usually an outpatient procedure. Results can last 10 years.
Recovery: You’ll be able to hit Target in 10 days, back to work in two weeks. In three months, people will say that the woman at the alter couldn’t possibly be your daughter.
Cost: $3,000 to $4,000
Also called a feather lift, this minimally invasive technique renders a refreshed appearance for people who don’t need major work yet. The procedure raises droopy areas of the brow, cheeks, jowls and neck through stitching with tiny, semi-permanent sutures. The effect won’t be as dramatic as a traditional face lift. Results last about five years.
Recovery: Return to work in three days.
Cost: $4,800 to $5,800
Blepharoplasty surgically eliminates unwanted skin and fat on upper and-or lower eyelids. Surgeons often prescribe nutritional supplements to reduce swelling after surgery. Take them—you’ll have some difficulty closing your eyes when you sleep.
Recovery: Minor swelling and possible double or blurred vision may last a few days.
Cost: $5,600 to $6,000
Rhinoplasty can reshape the tip or bridge of the nose, narrow nostril span, or change the angle between the nose and upper lip by basically shaving the cartilage under the skin. Depending on the extent of the work, local or general anesthesia is used. Results are usually permanent.
Recovery: Plan on waiting a solid month before recognizing your reflection in a mirror, eight weeks to ultimate hotness, though you can resume normal activities in a week. You’ll have to avoid strenuous activity for two to three months.
Doctors can create fuller lips by injecting collagen, fat or special foams (see story on new procedures, page 62), or
they can insert implants. Injected lips must be renewed periodically. Implants have one terrific advantage: