Beauty may only be skin deep but don’t tell that to the growing number of Americans clamoring for Botox, dermal fillers, anti-aging treatments, and other medical aesthetics services. While cosmetic surgery was once considered a luxury for the rich, the baby boomer population has driven the medical aesthetics market to new heights. And they’ve been joined in recent years by 40-something, and even 30-something, tech workers in Silicon Valley who want to look younger for their bosses who are in their 20s.
One of the latest advances in cosmetic surgery is a relatively old tool, the endoscope. Most people are familiar with the tiny camera when used by gastroenterologists and gynecologists. But plastic surgeons are using the endoscope for face lifts. The camera is inserted through a tiny cut in the skin where it transmits images of underlying tissues to a monitor. Using this technique, surgeons are able to perform brow lifts through several tiny incisions in the scalp, rather than the old style “ear to ear” incision.
Liposuction methods have also undergone an upgrade in recent years thanks to the tumescent technique. With tumescent liposuction, a surgeon distends the fat and soft tissues with local anesthesia, adrenaline, and salt water. This has been shown to dramatically reduce blood loss and allow surgeons to remove more fat than with traditional methods, often without hospitalization or general anesthesia.
A new non-surgical approach to liposuction is being tested using high density ultrasound. This process heats up and literally melts fat deposits The same process is being used for non-surgical facelifts to shrink and tighten tissue under the skin.
Many patients associate lasers with exacting surgery and the light emitting devices are now being used for skin resurfacing. Carbon dioxide lasers pulse at very high frequencies. Surgeons are using this tool, instead of dermabrasion, to reduce or remove fine wrinkles around the mouth and eyelids. The lasers cause less tissue destruction and shorten healing times. Lasers are also being used in tattoo removal, to treat age spots on hands, and on vascular lesions like port wine stains.
Cutting-edge technologies mean less cutting with scalpels for the more than 14 million Americans who undergo cosmetic procedures every year. In an industry with a $10 billion bottom line, there’s little doubt that high-tech procedures will keep advancing as long as the years advance on faces and skin.