Healthy Living: Saving Face

 

The girlfriends—all of them pretty, fit and inching toward 40—were having pedicures in a New Haven nail salon when Mary, sitting in the middle, lowered her voice: “Look. Just look at this.” She pushed her bangs away to reveal a faintly furrowed brow. “I’ve decided, I’m doing it. I don’t care if he thinks I don’t need it. I’m going in.” Her friends leaned forward in their massage chairs. On her left, Deb nodded sympathetically. “I know what you mean,” she said. Covering her eyes with both hands, she said, “I absolutely hate my crow’s feet.” Sarah, on the right, cried out with a flourish, “Ladies, I do believe it’s time for a Botox® party!”

Our beauty lexicon is changing. From Botox® to Juvéderm®, laser resurfacing to liquid lifts, the list of lyrically named commercial cosmetic enhancements available today is a long one. Sure, the market for traditional face-lifts and body- contouring procedures (tummy tucks, liposuction and the like) is still strong, but an increasing number of patients are opting for more subtle improvements—procedures that are effective but less risky, and far less costly. In short: those that don’t require a scalpel.

“Less is more” and “sooner rather than later” are words that more and more women (and some men) are living by. They are opting for “maintenance” procedures, not overhauls. And they’re having these “tweaks” done earlier (in their 30s and 40s—some even in their 20s).

“Over the last five years we have seen more and more young women come in, often just inquiring about procedures,” says Leif Nordberg, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Stamford. “It’s word of mouth. They’ll hear about us, one friend to another, and try something that’s easy with minimal risk.”

It’s no longer enough to take the years off; many would rather never put them on.

fooling Mother Nature

“It starts like this,” says Theresa Barton of Danbury. “You look in the mirror and you see that deep furrow when you squint or you’re angry. But when you relax, it doesn’t go away.” Barton says she was 38 when she began thinking about it, and 40 when she had her first Botox® treatment. “Once you see that the lines are no longer there, then you’re hooked, absolutely hooked.” Now 43, Barton is content to keep up with her regimen—which includes Juvéderm® in her laugh lines and collagen filler in her finer lines—for the foreseeable future. “I wouldn’t do anything invasive, not even a lower face-lift, for at least 10 years,” she says.

Got wrinkles, fine lines, blemishes, sag­ging skin or scarring? No worries; there’s a filler or a peel for that. And if you play your cards right, you may be able to defer the need for serious (albeit elective) surgery for more than a few years.

“There is definitely a trend toward starting earlier with a maintenance regimen,” says Prashant Soni, M.D., of Advanced Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery in Danbury. “And I believe that is the part of the industry that is going to boom.” Soni attributes this growing interest to increased awareness and sound information disseminated by the media, as well as the convenience that comes with shorter, less complex outpatient procedures.

Soni estimates that 80 percent of his patients are women, some of them as young as 25. “Most of these women do not need surgery, but they want to keep a youthful look, a freshness about them,” he says. “Because a lot of these women are working, they can’t afford the bruising or a four-to-six-week recovery period a surgical procedure requires. But most of them will come into the office for a 10-minute procedure, two times a year, indefinitely.”

It’s true, says Beth A. Buscher, M.D., of Dermatology Associates of Western Connecticut. “We are definitely seeing an increase in younger patients, but to be honest I’m not sure if it isn’t because there are so many procedures available now and a greater awareness of them.”

 

forever young

Youth and beauty are celebrated every-where; just take a look at the Style channel, flip the pages of People for the latest on who had which procedure, when. Or take a look at New Beauty magazine, dedicated to cosmetic enhancement. A cover story on 30-minute “miracle makeovers” touted all manner of in-and-out minimally invasive treatments. No wonder we’re eating them up.

Women account for 91 percent of all cosmetic procedures, and while the number of surgical cosmetic procedures has actually dropped by 12 percent since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of minimally invasive procedures increased by 90 percent during the same period. Among these, the top five procedures in 2008 were Botox® treatments, hyaluronic acid fillers, chemical peels, laser hair removal and microdermabrasion.

The typical Botox® and filler patient is a married, working mother between 41 and 55, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). These women tend to be health-conscious, with the majority incorporating exercise (95 percent) and healthy eating habits (78 percent) into their lives. Nearly three-quarters of them believe that plumping and filling are an important part of their aesthetic routine.

Research also shows most women aren’t trying to hide procedures from friends, family and co-workers. In fact, 87 percent of those surveyed say they openly discuss their treatments with others, according to a 2009 study conducted by the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation, the research arm of ASAPS.

Barton welcomes every opportunity to talk about her treatments. “When anyone asks me to tell them about my experience, I say, ‘How much time do you have?’,” she says.

slow and steady

Just what does minimally invasive mean? It means doing less of everything (including surgery itself), says Stephen Brown, M.D., of Advanced Concepts in Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Care in Hartford and New Britain. “It makes me sad to see someone on TV who’s hit 80 and looks just terrible,” he says. “You know they had incredibly invasive surgeries and someone told them they’d look good forever.”

It doesn’t work that way. No one gets away from aging, says Brown, so he believes in doing so gracefully.

“We do have young women who come in, but sometimes all they need is medical-grade skin care,” he says. “They’ll see the aesthetician in our office, start a regimen, and then say, ‘I don’t want to take anything away from Dr. Brown, but I don’t think I need him.’  You know what? That’s okay with me; in fact, it makes me happy.”

Buscher believes, as do most experts in the field, that cosmetic enhancements should happen slowly, incrementally, and that prevention is still the best medicine for maintaining a youthful appearance.

“We stress prevention,” says Bu­scher. “The most im­por­tant three things to remember are protecting yourself against the sun, getting into the habit of gentle exfoliation to keep a youthful, shiny glow, and consistently applying appropriate topicals like antioxidants.

“After that, if a patient is ready to treat the skin, we find that Botox® is a ‘gateway’ procedure,” she says. “It’s simple, it’s injected into a specific area, it’s not very expensive and it lasts four to six months.” The next most popular treatment, she says, is the injection of fillers. Sometimes patients will combine that with skin resurfacing procedures including dermabrasion or chemical peels. The next step—after age and gravity have their way—is often surgery for those bent on looking younger (or at least not older) than they are.

“But the bottom line for any age,” says Buscher, “is keep what you have and keep it as natural as possible.”

Healthy Living: Saving Face

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