Face Lifts: Surgical vs. Non-Surgical

With the rise of new non-surgical alternatives to traditional face lifts, which will patients choose?

The aging process has an effect on our skin tone and overall appearance. Over time, the skin looses elasticity and begins to drape. Lines form between the nose and the mouth, as well as the eyes. Jaw lines become droopy and fatty deposits can form. While no procedure can reverse the aging process, there are surgical and non-surgical methods for addressing the toll it takes on your skin.

The most commonly known treatment is the surgical face lift, otherwise known as the 'Rhytidectomy'. In this procedure, excess fat is removed, the underlying muscles of the face are tightened, and facial skin is re-draped. Face lifts can be done as a single procedure, or in combination with surgical treatments to the forehead, eyes and nose.

An exciting alternative to surgery has emerged, however. Dr. Aaron Barson of Surface Medical Spas  with four locations in Utah has developed a non-surgical technique known as the Pointé Lift. The procedure involves placing a small, special suture under the skin through a tiny needle hole. The skin then smoothes as a result of its own tension. Unlike surgery, no incisions, scars or stitches are required to achieve results.

The Feather Lift is another non-surgical treatment where the skin is folded, but barbs used to secure the procedure often give way, bruising is common, and the effects are typically minimal. Overall, it is not considered a viable alternative for most patients.

Who is a good candidate?
Candidates for surgical face lifts should have some skin elasticity and possess strong bone structure, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Patients are typically between 40 and 60, although it is possible for older clients, depending upon their health and skin condition. According to Dr. Barson, the typical candidate for a Pointé Lift is also 40-60 years old, with some skin draping, fat pad drifting and facial wrinkling. Pointé Lift patients seek a youthful, refreshed appearance, rather than the dramatic changes common to surgical face lifts.

Because traditional face lifts are a surgical procedure, overall health and ability to tolerate general anesthesia affects a patient's eligibility. Patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease should consult with a physician before even considering this surgery.

Pointé Lifts, on the other hand, are possible for a wider range of patients. Because the procedure is far less invasive, only a localized anesthetic is required. As long as there are no allergies to the anesthesia, Pointé Lifts are possible.

After-care and side effects
Since surgical face lifts are a more time-consuming and extensive procedure, after care is a bit involved. A number of incisions are made in the hairline, typically from the temples down behind the ears and to the lower scalp. Sutures or metal clips may be used to close the incisions. A drainage tube may be inserted to prevent a build-up of blood at the site, and loose bandages applied to minimize bruising and swelling. Pain medication is typical after the procedure, as well as antibiotics. It is often recommended that patients keep their head elevated for several days to reduce swelling. Some sutures will be removed five days after the surgery, but metal clips remain longer. Paleness, swelling, and bruising are common side effects that pass after a few weeks. Facial features may appear distorted until they subside. It is often recommended that strenuous activity be avoided for a few weeks after surgery, and alcohol, saunas and steam baths be avoided for several months.

The side effects of a Pointé Lift are significantly less involved. This procedure also occurs within the hairline, but without the incisions and sutures. Dr. Barson recommends patients not wash their hair until the day after the procedure, and treat the area tenderly. There may be some soreness at the site for 3-5 days afterwards, and either pain medication or Advil is recommended. Patients are prescribed antibiotics as a preventative measure as the skin is broken during the Pointé Lift procedure. Some patients experience a temporary sensation of tightness afterwards, and a small number may have slight bruising at the site. For the most part, patients feel 'back to normal' and may resume regular activities within a day.

How long do they last?
Neither surgical face lifts nor Pointé Lifts stop the clock. Skin continues to thin from collagen loss. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends touching up surgical face lifts every five to ten years. A repeat Pointé Lift may be required in five to seven years, but this depends entirely upon the skin's thinning rate. Dr. Barson points out that lifestyle choices and skin thickening procedures, such as Thermage, increase the lifespan of Pointé Lifts. Thermage uses controlled radiofrequency energy to heat the deep tissue areas of the skin. These areas tighten, and additional collagen is produced, further firming the skin. Sunscreen use, nutrition, smoking habits and moisturizer use also affect the skin's condition.

Who to consult?
Traditional face lifts are surgical procedures, so only a cosmetic or plastic surgeon is qualified to evaluate patients for this treatment. A listing of plastic surgeons is available through The American Society of Plastic Surgery . Pointé Lifts are currently only available at Surface Spas in Park City and Layton, Utah. More information is available at their website www.surface-med.com

First published on medspa.com
By Catherine Hayes (MedSpa Technologies)