BY LISA WILLIAMS
OIL changes. Eating a salad. Having a fling in a hotel. And now, joining the list of things you can do in 30 minutes over your lunch break: a non-surgical face-lift.
Gone are the days of pretending to be on vacation while hiding out in a doctor’s office in Mexico. A host of procedures are being advertised as “insta-lifts,” makeovers that take minutes to do and don’t leave major scars.
Modern facelifts have been around since the 1950s, but a growing number of cosmetic doctors and surgeons who specialize in skin rejuvenation injections are developing advanced “Liquid Facelift” techniques in the recent years to provide a quick-fix for those looking to take a few years off their faces sans surgery. While these do not substitute plastic surgery in terms of the degree of lift that can be achieved (especially for those with more severe sagging and loose excess skin), they offer a faster, more simple and less expensive way to freshen up and achieve a more subtle “lived well all my life” look – explaining the rapid rise in popularity of these non-surgical treatments.
We gather the need-to-know’s on the top 3 “Liquid Facelifts” to help you decide where to put your money on and your skin under:
THE DREAM LIFT
A popular fast face-lift is called Sculptra, a 30-minute procedure involving a series of injections (a mix of poly-L-lactic acid material mixed with water) used to stimulate the growth of collagen and provide a gradual increase in skin thickness. And while these procedures are nothing new, the notion of completing them in the time it takes to get a Starbucks is. Grabbing a bite or doing some shopping during lunch break? Now you can add a facelift to the list of things you can get done in less than an hour.
Jessica, 58, a hairstylist, doesn’t seem to mind either way. “People tell me how good I look not knowing what I had done,” she says. Jessica is an advocate of SW1 Clinic’s Dream Sculpture; this is her fourth time getting injections.
“The skin restores itself over time,” says Dr Kenneth Lee. He likens the effects of the injections to that of fertilizer: Plant the seed and watch the new skin grow.
Pros: This is an investment for your skin’s long term future. Think of it as putting “money” into the collagen bank and getting continued dividends for the next 12 months! Fans of Dream Sculpture say the end results are softer and more naturel than surgery or traditional fillers, plus the skin lifting effects are cumulative over the next few months so you ease into your transformation seamlessly. That will stop any wagging tongues in their tracks.
Cons: Prepare yourself for mild swelling and possible bruising that might come with the microinjections (i.e. try not to schedule your doctor’s appointment the day before your birthday party). That’s part and parcel of any injections, and the price of beauty. But some arnica and bromelain tablets available at your doctor’s or the local pharmacy could help. You will also need to massage the treated areas regularly for the next week to ensure the even distribution of the collagen-stimulating particles. For those who have not caught their sagging in the early stages may have to invest in a few sessions to ensure their collagen banks are well- topped up.
Read More: 5 Ways to Tackle Stubborn Zits
From the simplistic one-dimensional facelift of the yester-years where excess skin is nipped and tucked into the classic overly taut and plasticky “wind-tunnel” look, cosmetic surgeons have now realised the importance of restoring the three-dimensional facial contours for a natural youthful look. “What took them so long?”, you might ask. Tremendous improvements in techniques took place and the number of treatments soared over the past 10 years as the widespread availability of FDA-approved natural fillers in the recent years gave doctors a safe, reliable and effective medium to resculpt the face.
As we age, we lose volume – fatty soft tissue pockets in certain areas like the upper cheeks and temples deflate, and even the skeleton gradually shrinks up – and gravity causes drooping of poorly supported lax skin. Natural fillers consisting of skin-identical hyaluronic acid is used to replenish that lost volume and therefore, cause some lifting in the overlying saggy skin. As the normal internal moisturiser of our dermis, hyaluronic acid also locks in water deep within the skin (giving this “hydro”-lift its name) to improve skin’s firm turgor and diffuse the appearance of fine lines. JuvedermVoluma is one of the latest hyaluronic acid sculptural fillers designed to rebuild the soft, plump facial contours of cheeks and temples, lift pruned up skin folds such as laugh lines and marionette lines, and redefine jawlines and brow bones that have softened or flattened with age. Studies have shown that 6 to 18 months after the treatment, 65 percent of patients’ facial volume was still rated as being ‘very much improved’.
If you need only very subtle skin plumping but still desire a gentle lift for your skin, along with a dewy glow-from-within, the Filler Hydrolift might be the answer to your anti-ageing prayers. In this case, small amounts of a much lighter weight hyaluronic acid filler is placed more superficially under the skin to better restore the dermal hydration, revitalise dull, crinkly skin, as well as to stimulate collagen regeneration for an uplifting experience for tired faces – all that without packing on significant amount of volume, making it a favourite amongst perpetually fresh-faced Korean celebrities in their 30′s.
Pros: In less than an hour, fillers can help you re-drape saggy skin by enhancing the underlying support structure in the mid-face and temples, and promoting collagen building in the areas of injection. Plus, it can improve the blunted facial definition in places such as the jawline, brow bones and nose bridge to quietly, but surely, refresh your entire look without putting you behind closed doors and curtains like a major facelift will.
Cons: Prepare yourself for mild swelling and possible bruising that might come with the microinjections (i.e. try not to schedule your doctor’s appointment the day before your birthday party). But personal experience tells us that minor swelling is easily masked with light makeup and usually settles within 2 days. You may need to repeat this liquid facelift every 6 to 18 months, depending on your skin condition and type of filler used.
Those with worse sagging but are averse to surgery might consider adding on other treatments like the Silhouette Soft threadlift to further target heavy jowls and fallen brows through injection of absorbable threads. These threads anchor the droopy bits in a higher place instantly, while recruiting fibroblast cells to maintain the lifting effect by lying down new collagen strands over a few months post-treatment.
THE THREAD LIFT
There’s a new (or newish) option for lifting and tightening sagging facial skin without going under the knife. Late last year, the FDA approved a new variation of a once-popular procedure, called a thread lift, making the use of temporary, absorbable sutures a viable option for those who want to achieve similar results of a traditional facelift without the surgery or downtime.
The original thread lift came out in the late ’90s and was performed up until the mid 2000s. The procedure fell out of favor about 10 years ago, but two recent options utilizing new technology, Nova Threads and the Silhouette Soft, are bringing the thread lift back into the spotlight.
“Using resorbable threads, we can now lift and recontour the mid- and lower face,” says Dr Kenneth Lee. The sutures are inserted into the skin and can instantly tighten and lift problem areas with volume loss like the cheeks, jowls, lips and neck, while stimulating the body to build collagen in the area where the sutures are placed. Attached to the fine threads are tiny cones, small umbrella like attachments that lift and tighten from underneath the skin while simultaneously causing inflammation, which helps to stimulate collagen growth over time.
According to Dr Lee, medical director of SW1 Clinic which sees over a huge surge in clients seeking these new Thread lifts over traditional facelifts, the biggest draw is the improved technology, instant results and reduced discomfort and downtime. “The old thread lifts were challenging to work with and were limited on how they could lift the skin. The biggest problem with the threadlifts used in the late ’90s and early 2000s is that they had to be anchored into the scalp, temple and brow region. The knots for anchoring had to be tied carefully in order to not have the suture release from the anchor site, and the suture was permanent, making any further surgery later in life more challenging. The newer technology is made of absorbable suture material, so they don’t need to be anchored to deep tissue.”
Pros: What makes Dr Lee’s patients return for his signature thread lifts is their longevity. Results will vary, but can last anywhere from 18 months to a few years and additional threads can be used at a later time to maintain results. Because the cones continue to stimulate collagen, the results continue to improve over time. This is also an excellent option for heavyset faces who may not want to opt for any additional volume that may accompany fillers. As threads lift the skin away from the jawline towards the hair line, it typically gives your face a slimmer, more defined silhouette. In fact, the latest move away from “pillow faces” has seen an increase in the number of thread lifts requests over the past 1 year.
Cons: You may need more than one pair of threads for the entire facial skin to be optimally suspended. While you do see an instant, gravity-defying effect, it is possible to see tiny but temporary dimpling of skin lasting few days. As with any procedure, the price of beauty may translate into pin-pricks, bruising or swelling for the susceptible, but nothing mother time would not soothe over. “The biggest challenge for me was not to be able to have extreme facial expressions for a week to avoid loosening the threads. For someone like me who loves to guffaw all the time, I find I have to keep reminding myself to behave in a more ‘ladylike’ manner”.
Read More: Is Skin Lifting Without Surgery Possible?
THE NEFERTITI LIFT
Nefertiti was an Egyptian queen famed for her elegant beauty. A statue of her bust is perhaps, one of the most recognizable works from Ancient Egypt, admired for her perfect facial proportions, graceful neck and razor sharp jawline.
Unlike modern women (and techno zombies), Nefertiti did not have to contend with ‘smartphone face’, a term coined by doctors to describe the exaggerated downward pull on the jowls and double chin area by the platsyma neck muscles caused by spending hours staring down at phones and laptops on a daily basis. But thanks to technology, you don’t have to wear mummifying bandages or a chin strap to hold up the saggy jawline and turkey neck. The Nefertiti Lift uses a technique called MicroRefine, miniscule doses of dilute Botox administered into the dermis (skin) not muscle to redefine the beauty of a youthful jaw and neck contour, bringing you closer to the regal ideal sans surgery.
In this treatment, microinjections of Botox is skilfully employed along the jawline to ease the unwanted southward muscular drag on the lower face, hence improving the blunted jawline definition and lifting downturned mouth corners. Vertical neck bands caused by the platysma muscle rolling out of shape can be gently coaxed with Botox from thickened cords into a smoother neckline, while reducing the muscular drag on turkey necks.
In the recent years, Botox has also been used to slim down squarish chewing muscles at the angle of the jaw that are weighing down the lower face in a procedure known as the V-Sculpt Facial Program, so as to achieve a feminine V-shaped facial contour.
Pros: Jowls and loose, lined necks are notoriously tricky to treat once fully established. Low-dose Botox microinjections 2 to 3 times a year would be an attractive option if you are noticing mild to moderate changes and have prominent downward muscular activity, as the Nefertiti Lift could divert you from the full turkey wattle or bulldog future.
More severe cases looking for a quick pick-me-up might want to combine the Nefertiti with other non-surgical lifts such as Ultherapy that serve to strengthen the deep collagen support network and hold slack jawlines up against gravity, as well as with fillers to smooth out the pre-jowl hollowing below the mouth corners and soften age-piling laugh lines. To target the stubborn neck lines, ultra-fine particled hyaluronic acid skin boosters such as Restylane Vital Light and Juvederm Hydrate are used to plump up and stimulate collagen regeneration along deep horizontal “necklace” lines.
Cons: Botox treatments in the lower face need to be done by a highly-trained doctor experienced in Botox, because they involve relaxing the movement in the areas responsible for swallowing, smile and speech. The needle-phobic can consider pro-collagen lasers such as the Mixto micro-resurfacing laser to tighten the skin, iron out crinkles and even out the pigmentation in sun-damaged skin.
THE VAMPIRE FACELIFT
What if the secret to everlasting youth truly lies within you – or to be exact, your blood? Placed in the spotlight by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Bar Rafaeli and Anna Friel, the “Vampire Facelift” is another star-fuelled liquid facelift that has bitten age-phobes in the recent years.
Known medically as Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), this skin rejuvenation procedure involves multiple microinjections of plasma derived from a patient’s own blood back into the skin of face and/or neck. About 10ml (i.e. approximately 2 teaspoons) of blood is drawn from the arm (with a needle and syringe, no fangs involved) for each treatment. It is centrifuged down immediately in the doctor’s office to isolate a platelet-rich concentrate, which is then activated to release autologous growth factors. These platelet-derived growth factors are thought to give dormant stem cells the kiss of life, resulting in increased collagen production and better blood flow. The effect is line-plumping, enhanced glow and advanced skin growth for subtle skin rejuvenation.
This might be done together with micro-resurfacing lasers such as SmartX to improve skin healing and maximise collagen production for smooth, succulent skin, or in combination with fillers to restore lost facial volume and refresh the complexion simultaneously.
Pros: What makes the Vampire Facelift enticing, is the fact that it doesn’t use any artificial products, making this an alternative for those who aren’t comfortable with Botox or surgery. While the cosmetic use of PRP is still “off-label” (it’s only FDA-approved for orthopaedic tissue regeneration), this blood-sucking therapy is not a new phenomenon. It has been tried and tested in the field of sports injury for many years, where injured athletes are injected the “liquid gold” part of their blood into the muscle and ligaments to accelerate tissue repair. More recently, it is also used as an adjuvant treatment for pattern hair loss.
Cons: The Vampire Facelift typically requires a course of a 2-3 sessions to be effective, so be prepared for a few rounds of multiple quick-fire, staccato needle stabs on your face.
While this treatment is generally safe, short-term issues you might be faced with include redness, mild swelling and possible bruising as with other skin injections. There are also occasional reports of side effects such as a seriously bloated face that former pop star, Kerry Katona, had to settle with steroids. As you are dealing with blood products, it is, again, of extreme importance that a qualified doctor conducts this treatment in a clean, clinical environment, so as to avoid contamination, infection and skin breakdown.