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Non-invasive Cosmetic Treatments

Almost 9 million cosmetic procedures were performed last year in the US. If you are thinking about having a cosmetic procedure it is important to weigh the risks. You might consider opting for non-invasive cosmetic treatments over the side effects, long recovery time and higher risks of invasive surgical procedures

Here are a few out-patient procedures that make up 65% of the cosmetic treatments performed each year in the United States.

Botox Injections: Botox injections are used often in the upper 1/3 of the face. Botox is actually the toxin of botulinum bacteria, in sterilized form, that paralyzes and relaxes muscles that cause the wrinkles. It is best used for eliminating frown lines and crows feet. The softening of the facial lines takes about a week. This treatment usually requires 3 treatments in the first year. Side effects to Botox are rare but can include droopy eyelids or recurring headaches. The cost is about $400-$500 per treatment. It is considered safe by the FDA. One of the potential problems with Botox injections is that it may hinder natural facial movements like raising the eyebrows that form normal facial expressions.

Collagen Injections:
This treatment reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. An allergy test is done first. Then a local anesthetic is applied and the collagen, a protein in the skin, is injected with a needle into fine lines and wrinkles around the forehead, nose and mouth. The treatment typically lasts 2-4 months. The cost is around $300-$500 per treatment. Recovery takes a few hours to a few days. Issues can include bruising or too-fast reabsorption into the body.

Chemical Peels: Chemical peels are used to minimize fine lines and promote a brighter skin appearance. Upper layers are removed from the skin with the application of Glycolic acid, derived from sugar or other acids to reduce wrinkles and uneven skin pigmentation. There are two basic levels of chemical peels, superfacial peel and deep peel.

The superfacial peel removes only the upper layer and initially requires one treatment per week for a month, then every month thereafter. Recovery time include several days of red skin, soreness and minor peeling.
Recovery time can take a few hours. The deep peel goes deeper and results in more dramatic effects and is only needed once a year. Deep peels require sedation and time off from work for healing. The recovery process requires pain medication, antibiotics, compresses and ointments. The side effects are swelling, sunburn like reaction, bruising, rawness and a longer healing time than superfacial peel The cost is around $150 per treatment.

This treatment improves the overall appearance of skin texture on the face. The doctor uses a machine to gently remove the top layer of cells with a gentle "sandblast" of aluminum oxide crystals. This promotes collagen growth and reduces the appearance of large pores. This requires one treatment a week for a month, then possibly a redo every 6 to 8 weeks. Side effects may include facial redness, soreness and swelling for several days. The cost runs about $200. This procedure is not recommended for dark skin. Recovery time can take a a few days.

Laser Resurfacing: This procedure uses laser light that vaporizes the upper levels of the skin and tightens the collagen layer beneath. It is a popular technique and takes about an hour. It minimizes scars, eliminates surface wrinkles, evens pigmentation and is used for spot resurfacing around the eyes and mouth. Depending on the depth of the laser resurfacing, recovery time can take a week to four months. Risks include scarring and uneven pigmentation, particularly on darker skin.

Laser Removal: Laser light can also be used to remove various types of skin problems such as age spots, liver spots, tattoos, scars, birthmarks, facial veins, spider veins and broken capillaries. Recovery time is a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the type of laser and area treated.

Tatoo removal can take 2-3 or 6-10 sessions depending on the density of the tattoo at a cost of $400-$600 per session. Potential problems with laser removal include uneven pigmentation and skin texture.

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All cosmetic procedures have risks but if you choose to go that route, always work with a licensed, experienced dermatologists or cosmetic surgeon in a physician setting.


Thermage: Thermage is one of the newest FDA approved, non-invasive cosmetics treatment that reduces wrinkles and tightens skin with the use of computer controlled radio frequency energy. This treatment is used to reduce wrinkles and sags around the forehead, eyes, lower face and neck. The treatment heats the dermis, contracting the collagen, while protecting the epidermis. This process encourages collagen production over time. The procedure includes the application of an anesthetic cream or other skin numbing preparation about 1 hour before the treatment to minimize discomfort. The procedure usually takes 1-2 sessions and 15-60 minutes per session, depending on the size of the area treated. Redness can last 1-2 days and, if swelling occurs, it can last 3-7 days. Typically the more redness and swelling the better the results. Heat-related complications such as burn, blistering and scarring can occur but are rare. Some people experience tingling, burning or soreness after the treatment for a few days or weeks, especially along the jaw line. Some results see a big difference and others don't. Results show up in 2-6 months and can last 18 months to several years, depending on an individual’s rate of aging. Depending on how much of the face is treated, costs can range from $1,800 to $5,000. A partial treatment (forehead, cheeks or neck) is $1000 to $3000.

Fat Transplants: This procedure involves injecting tissue from one part of your body into another to plump specific areas, such as facial creases, lips, frown and smile lines and recessed scar areas. Using your own body tissue reduces the chance of an allergic reaction and the results can last for as long as six months. Only 10-20% of the relocated tissue may remain in place, requiring several injections to get a lasting, desired result. Recovery is one to two days. Potential issues are imperfect placement and the need for frequent touchups.


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