Once upon a time, when it came to ageing, you basically had two choices: you aged ‘gracefully’ (whatever that means, but that’s another story), or you went under the knife to have your eyebrows pulled into your hairline. Now, thanks to huge consumer demand and astonishing leaps in medical technology, there are many more options for those of us determined to keep the ravages of the years at bay as long as possible.
Apart from cosmetic surgery, the number of youth-restoring ‘procedures’ available today is truly mind-boggling, but they can be separated into four different categories: lasers, injections, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels.
If you have fine lines or wrinkles around your eyes, mouth or on your forehead, you may be a good candidate for laser resurfacing. Lasers are used to vaporise skin cells damaged at the surface level, to stimulate synthesis of collagen and elastin, or to fade dark spots. Your plastic surgeon or dermatologist will determine which laser treatment is best for you, after considering your medical history, current health, and desired results. If only parts of your face are being treated, the procedure should take no more than 45 minutes; a full-face treatment takes two hours. Five to seven days afterwards, your skin will become dry and peel, and after two to three months the last redness should fade. Effects should last for a number of years. Depending on the type of procedure you have, costs can be anything from R300 to around R6500.
Should you go the facial injection route, there are basically two types: injectable fillers, and facial neuromodulators. Injectable dermal fillers such as Restylane, Surgiderm, and Juvederm are designed to add volume and hydrate the skin, filling in hollows and wrinkles so that your face looks younger. The actual injections, in which a gel-like substance is injected into areas where volume has been lost, take just a few minutes and effects are virtually immediate. Costs are generally in the region of R2900, depending on how many sessions are needed.
Facial neuromodulators, like Botox and Dysport, actually reduce or eliminate the nerve response to your facial muscles so that wrinkles relax, and are particularly effective for thick-tissue areas such as your forehead and between your eyes. Neuromodulators start working within the first two days after treatment, though their full effect isn’t visible until about ten days later. Prices are usually quoted per unit, with an average price per unit being around R65 and approximately twenty units required per area to be treated. To maintain the effects of neuromodulators, you should probably plan on having the treatment three times a year, while fillers can last as long as a year because they stimulate the body’s own production of collagen – meaning that you should need less and less of the treatment over time.
Microdermabrasion works by using fine crystal particles to blast away the top layer of dead skin cells, stimulating new skin growth so that your skin glows and looks younger. Increased blood supply provides the nutrients necessary for skin regeneration, repair, and increased cellular turnover, which improves the skin’s elasticity and texture. It’s a simple non-invasive procedure that requires no surgery or anaesthetic and lasts between twenty and forty-five minutes. Your skin is temporarily pink afterwards and may feel dry and tight but recovers fully within twenty-four hours. Generally, a complete treatment consists of five to eight sessions seven to ten days apart, after which maintenance procedures every two to three months may be needed to maintain results. Costs for microdermabrasion start from around R250 for a thirty-minute session.
If you want to reduce fine lines under your eyes and around your mouth, treat wrinkles caused by sun damage and the passage of time, reduce age spots and improve the look and feel of your skin, a chemical peel may be your procedure of choice. There are a range of options, from non-invasive lunch-hour experiences performed by a beauty professional to actual surgical procedures carried out by a doctor in a medical setting. Basically, a type of acid is used to remove one or more layers of skin in order to stimulate new tissue growth. Depending on which it is, a reaction similar to sunburn follows the procedure, with peeling followed by redness and scaling that lasts from three to seven days. Mild peels may be repeated at intervals of between one and four weeks until you have the results you want, while medium-depth peels can be done once or twice a year and may require bandages on part or all of the treated skin while healing. With good sun protection, results can last several years. Costs range from R450 for a thirty-minute treatment to around R7500 for a “package,” and more if carried out as a surgical procedure in a hospital.
Whatever your choice of treatment, make sure you select a reputable practitioner – don’t be tempted by bargain-basement prices. Of course, no procedure can truly turn back the clock; at best, you might succeed in slowing it down a bit. Whatever else you choose to do to stay looking as young as possible, don’t forget to exercise, eat correctly and get plenty of sleep.