Technology, new products revolutionizing cosmetic medicine
Cosmetic medicine is undergoing a revolution in the second decade of the 21st Century with new less-invasive technologies and products being used in addition to surgery, according to area physicians who specialize in cosmetic procedures.
“Not a day goes by that there doesn’t seem to be some new innovation in any one of the areas of cosmetic medicine, be it surgical, Botox, fillers, lasers and actual cosmetics themselves,” says Laura Hoffman, M.D., a Munster-based dermatology and cosmetic specialist affiliated with Medical Specialists.
“The caution lies in which of these innovations are ‘trends’ versus actual advances in medical science. As cosmetic providers, we are constantly evaluating new services we can provide for our patients’ best interests,” Dr. Hoffman says. “Procedures can be defined as aesthetic of corrective, depending on the patient’s motivation.”
Although some patients still prefer the extensive surgical face lift, more are opting for such treatments as volume replacement, which transfers fat from other parts of the body to fill in sagging and loose skin, says Dr. James M. Platis, a board certified cosmetic plastic surgeon with offices in Chicago and Merrillville.
The fat grafts were also done on the cheeks under the eyes, he says. These procedures help restore a more refreshed appearance and shave five to seven years off appearance.
In addition to less invasive surgical procedures, technology, including lasers, is making new inroads in cosmetic medicine, says Regina Iwinski, M.D., who is certified in aesthetic care and practices at LaPorte Regional Healthcare System and Apre Medical Spa in Munster.
One such laser, called the Fraxel CO2 laser, uses carbon dioxide to help diminish wrinkles and evens out skin tones, Dr. Iwinski says. It’s used during an office visit and takes less than an hour. In addition, she says, it’s is less invasive that the laser skin resurfacing of the past and requires less down time.
“The down time is seven days and the skin does peel in three to four days. It is more dramatic than a face peel,” she says
Another cool laser, called Zerona, is a painless method of reducing fat deposits and guaranteed to help patients lose a minimum of 3.5 inches if the post-treatment protocol is followed, Dr. Iwinski says Five lasers are strategically placed and work simultaneously to reduce deposits in fat cells during the six treatments that are performed every other day.
Hair removal has also come a long way from painful electrolysis, says Dr. Iwinski.
“The Sheer Light Laser diminishes hair and takes three to four treatments once every month,” she says.
This type of laser is especially useful in removing unwanted hair from women’s upper lips, chin and under arms, she says.
“But we don’t do eyebrows. You don’t want to use this laser around the eyes,” Dr. Iwinski says.
Filler injections, such as Juvaderm, skin rejuvenation techniques and “quick fixes such as Botox” are in even greater demand despite the economic downturn, a situation Dr. Hoffman calls “almost counterintuitive.”
Insurance policies rarely pay for cosmetic procedures, making most treatments self-pay, says Dr. Platis.
“We saw a drop in surgeries last year, but not in office visits for injections, such as Juvaderm and Restalyn. That is continuing this year,” Dr. he says.
There are multiple reasons for this trend, the physicians say.
“There has been an evolution in philosophy in cosmetic medicine. We’re seeing more non-invasive skin care procedures,” Dr. Platis says.
These include such treatments as Sculptra, a filling product that “has been gaining in popularity as cosmetic patients are becoming more sophisticated,” says Dr. Hoffman.
“The results are no quiet as immediate and can take several injection sessions to reach the results the patient is seeking. However, newer fillers are offering longer term, three-dimensional results,” she says.
The downturn in the economy may be part of the reason for a rise in the popularity of the cosmetic procedures, says Dr. Platis.
Those who have jobs can’t afford the downtime usually associated with major plastic surgery, he says. In addition, “economic pressures have made health care professionals rethink how we do patient care.”
Part of that rethinking emphasizes more outpatient procedures as insurance policies rarely cover cosmetic treatments.
“Outpatient procedures offer several advantages over more invasive, inpatient procedures for patients who are not looking for dramatic outcomes,” says Dr. Hoffman.
“Economics, recovery times and patient comfort level are all factors that make outpatient procedures more desirable, especially to patients who are new to having cosmetics done.”
The tough job market in today’s economy encourages some people to enhance their appearance to have an advantage in the workplace, Dr. Platis says, but they want the changes to be subtle.
“They want to look more rested, more refreshed, like they’ve had a vacation,” he says. “The competition for jobs may be more motivation, especially for those in their mid- to late-40s. There is a bias in the business world toward younger workers.”
“Middle-aged women, for example, want to soften up wrinkles and even out the skin tone. It gives them a more refreshed look,” says Dr. Iwinski.
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, there’s a move to hold on to a more youthful appearance, says Dr. Hoffman.
Feeling better, more refreshed and more confident are primary reasons why people seek cosmetic procedures, she says.
“Our most popular patient population is women, and an increasing number of men, who are in their later 30s through 50s, who are looking to recoup what they looked like five to seven years earlier,” Dr. Hoffman says.
“We seek to enhance our appearance,” agrees Dr. Platis. “But it’s not just our outward appearance. We like to say ‘It’s not our look, but our outlook’. How do you look when you see yourself?”
Common triggers to first seek cosmetic services include milestone birthdays, class reunions or other special events and curiosity after their friends have tried a procedure, says Dr. Hoffman.
But those approaching those milestone birthdays - 40, 50 or 60 - aren’t the only ones seeking aesthetic enhancements, the physicians say.
Those in their late 20s and early 30s “are looking for small enhancements to their natural appearance as well as preventative maintenance,” says Dr. Hoffman.
“Different age groups want different things,” Dr. Platis says. “Those in their 30s are often looking for body contouring, Botox treatments and skin care to help maintain their appearance and look fresher.”
Forty-somethings are “more focused on facial rejuvenation and volume,” he says.
And people of all ages are now more conscious of sun-damaged skin that can lead to a variety of skin cancers, says Dr. Hoffman. Many treatments are now available to reduce severe sun damage and premalignant skin lesions so they don’t progress into actual skin cancers, she adds.
Cosmetic procedures once were exclusively for the affluent, and although that perception continues today, it’s blue collar and working class Americans who are seeking these newer, less-invasive outpatient procedures, Dr. Platis says.
“This is not for the rich and famous,” he says.