Ageing takes its toll in a number of ways, including expression lines, loss of fat volume, loss of bone structure, gravity, and the big one – sun damage! Experts say, “Seventy-five per cent of what you see in the mirror at 50 or 60 is due to sun damage.”
There’s no one treatment that deals with all skin issues and works for everyone, and a cosmetic physician may suggest you have more than one treatment.
Some things you need to know before proceeding
- There’s no such thing as a “non-surgical facelift”. There’s skin smoothing and tightening, volume replacement and wrinkle reduction, but no non-surgical treatment is going to give you the same lifting results as surgery. You may look “fresher”, but don’t expect gravity-defying miracles!
- The results won’t last as long as a surgical facelift, and the costs of repeating the procedure several times over 10 years (which is how long a facelift “lasts”) may end up exceeding those of surgery.
- These procedures are designed for people in their 30s to 50s with reasonably good skin, who are prepared to protect it from the sun.
- Some procedures involve a lot of pain and some will still leave you temporarily looking like you’ve been burned/beaten/stung by a bee, so you may need a recovery period hiding out at home. The greater the (initial) damage, the better the long-term effect.
- All procedures carry risks of temporary or even permanent damage, and could leave you wishing you had your old skin back.
So, if you’re still happy to go ahead, what treatments are there to offer?
The injection of filler materials under the skin can fill in deep folds, such as ”smile lines” or “laugh lines”, create fuller lips and pad out hollow cheeks and eyes. Rather than just smoothing or tightening skin, they can change the facial profile to a more youthful one.
Although collagen used to be the standard filler, hyaluronic acid is now more popular. Hyaluronic acid lasts somewhere between six months to a year – although treating areas of the face that move less will last longer than those that move more, such as the lips – and you tend to get better results with each treatment. There’s evidence that hyaluronic acid injections can also have a more permanent anti-ageing effect by stimulating collagen growth.
Botulinum toxin temporarily “paralyses” muscles when injected. This prevents the skin above from creasing up and causing wrinkles. It only works on so-called “expression lines”, such as frown (vertical) lines and surprise (horizontal) lines on the forehead, smoothing them and preventing them from becoming more pronounced. It won’t do anything for sun-damaged skin or lines caused by skin sagging. The effects take a few days to kick in, and initially last a few months – longer after continued treatment.
Acid is applied to the skin and exfoliates the top layer, causing dead skin cells to peel off. At stronger concentrations, new, tighter skin forms as collagen production is stimulated in response to the wounding. It can help reduce fine lines, small scars, discolouration and sun-damaged skin. The stronger the peel, the more dramatic and longer-lasting the results – stronger peels (concentrations of more than 30%) are better left to medical professionals rather than beauticians.
The acid stings, and for a strong peel a sedative may be helpful. After-care for a strong peel may include bandaging, and it could take weeks to heal. Milder acids may result in some redness and peeling in the first week, and there may be some crusting or scabbing. A stronger peel’s benefits can last for two years, although it depends on the strength of acid used (which determines how deep the peel is). These days a course of several milder peels, rather than one strong peel, is common. Milder peels may require top-up peels every few months.
Percutaneous collagen induction therapy, popularly known as dermarolling or microneedling, involves rolling a cylinder covered in tiny needles over your skin. The damage caused by the needles stimulates collagen production, and has been successfully used for treating scars, especially acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles. It may sometimes be combined with radio frequency energy to create a greater effect. As a rule, the longer the needle, the greater the damage (and bleeding and pain…) and the greater the effect.
You can also have it done by a beautician, but make sure they’re experienced and have good hygiene practices – unclean rollers can spread infection. Dermatologists and cosmetic physicians offer microneedling with or without radiofrequency.
Not to be confused with dermabrasion (which is rarely used these days), microdermabrasion can be done at a salon or spa, and uses fine crystals to sand the face and remove dead skin cells. It may help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture, but don’t expect a major anti-ageing effect. There will probably be some redness and swelling for a few hours.
Do your research!
There are plenty of online reviews of these anti-ageing procedures. But take the reviews with a pinch of salt because results can be subjective, and some side effects or negative results may in fact be due to patient idiosyncrasies or level of expectation rather than the procedure itself, or may have been due to operator error or older technology.
Keep in mind also that some procedures take some time to have optimum effect; for example, the collagen-generating technologies that peak at about six months or so – reviews or pictures taken before then might not do the procedure justice. You can easily find before and after photos of the different treatments if you search online. With some it’s difficult to tell any difference, while with others the results are nothing short of miraculous – and may perhaps have had a little help from photo-editing software. Lighting, hair, makeup, clothing and facial expression can make a big difference too. Advertisers may choose to show some of the better outcomes, rather than typical outcomes.