A surprising number of people suffer from a phobia of needles. Yet this does not halt their curiosity for cosmetic medical procedures.
With the media focusing attention surrounding botulin toxin injections and filler therapy with injectables, you could be forgiven for believing a needle was the only way forward in anti-ageing medicine.
The market is vast and ever expanding. With non-invasive treatments such as lasers, chemical peels and even a simple change to your daily facial routine, you can continue to disprove that age moves only in one direction…without a needle in sight.
Chemical peels are an age-old method for anti-ageing, yet have moved a little out of fashion in recent years. Ancient Egyptians were known for applying lactic acid from natural food products, such as milk, to their faces in an attempt to create a more youthful appearance. Even if they did not appreciate the science behind what they were doing– they were right in their way of thinking.
Many are curious but pessimistic at the concept of a chemical peel, yet cosmetic dermatologists largely agree that we should be having two medium depth peels every year after the age of fifty.
Chemical peels, depending on their strength, remove varying depths of skin layers. A superficial peel is very mild and removes only the outer ‘tough’ layer of skin. This outer layer, the strateum corneum, usually protects our deeper layers of skin. By doing so, it allows collagen-producing cells to become lazy and ‘switch off.’ If the skin is protected, there is little need for new cells or collagen to be produced in order to replace old ones (as the older layers are protected and not destroyed in day to day environmental damage).
By removing this protective barrier, the skin has to turn its cells over more quickly and produce new cells at a faster pace. The result is a fresh new, collagen-rich, layer of skin. Not only will the new skin be fresher, more even in skin tone and appear more youthful, it should also be much tighter with fewer active lines (wrinkles).
The deeper the skin peel, the more dynamic this effect, thought the longer the recovery time and the greater the risk of infection or scarring.
A peel itself takes minutes to perform and simply involves wiping an acidic substance over the face. Although not painful, this can be a little uncomfortable and some people describe the sensation as ‘hot and irritable.’ Analgesia, a painkiller, can be offered if required.
A chemical peel is not a miracle cure and repeat peels are often necessary. Especially if the client continues to smoke or abuse the sun. Some clinics offer peels in groups of six with each peel two weeks apart. As long as the procedure is performed in a reputable clinic by a qualified medical professional, the risks are low and the results can be enviable.
For further information, visit our Chemical Skin Peels page.
Another technique, which follows the same principles as a chemical peel, is ‘microdermabrasion.’ Again, this acts to try and remove the outer skin layer to stimulate new skin cell and collagen production. It does so, however, in a slightly different manner than chemical peels.
Rather than using acid to remove the outer layer of skin, it uses small abrasive particles attached to a small handheld device. Effectively exfoliating the skin a little more thoroughly and deeply than we would otherwise with our usual daily face washes.
This is an incredibly popular treatment. There is no preparation required, the recovery time is almost instant, it is usually financially more friendly than other cosmetic treatments, and the result is a brighter, smoother facial complexion.
The results, however, can be more short term than those offered by chemical peels or lasers and do not provide complete facial re-surfacing or a dramatic reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.
Mesotherapy (without the needles)
Mesotherapy was born in the 1950s by a French gentleman named Michael Pistor. Mesotherapy itself defines a method of drug administration, by which the drugs are supplied by microinjections beneath the skin. This can be used to encourage hair growth in balding men, supply collagen to skin lacking in elasticity and volume, along with encouraging fat reduction in areas where adipose tissue is dense and not aesthetically required.
As the needle-phobic population demands less invasive treatments in a cosmetically aware, consumer-driven market, procedures have been born which provide ‘electro transdermal delivery’ rather than delivery via injections. This pain-free option uses electric currents to encourage uptake of active ingredients through the skin. The medications are given a positive or negative charge and an electric current applied which either attracts or repels the medication in a direction which encourages movement through the skin.
Early attempts at no needle mesotherapy held a high rate of skin burns and poor skin penetration. Newer techniques have resulted in pulsed, rather than continuous currents, with lower wave frequencies, which can be adjusted to suit the individual’s skin type.
This is a very successful treatment option in France, the birthplace of mesotherapy, but is becoming more widely used in the USA and UK as efficacy and reliability increases.
Lasers have gained notoriety in recent years for their abilities for hair and tattoo removal. Yet did you know that they are also excellent for improving skin tone, texture and reducing fine lines and wrinkles? There are many types of lasers available, but always seek a laser operated by a fully trained laser therapist or practitioner.
Fractionated lasers run over the skin surface, making tiny ‘holes’ within the skin, these are not visible to the naked eye - very much like the skin penetrations produced by derma pens and rollers. Lasers, however, are known to be more comfortably tolerated and do not tend to cause bleeding or as much skin discomfort. Depending on their setting, they are usually instructed to reach the dermis, the middle layer of skin, which contains collagen and cells which have the potential to increase the rate of cell turnover. By reaching this layer, it stimulates the cells to ‘turn on’ and start producing new skin cells similar to the mechanism adopted in chemical peels.
Lasers, again, tend to be used in a package of treatments with people opting for one - six treatments over the course of a few months. As small piercings within the skin are produced, make-up cannot be worn for a few hours after the procedure. This isn’t a lunchtime treatment or one without minor risks. There are risks of infection, scarring, hyper or hypopigmentation in darker skin types and some dermatologists believe laser therapy can increase the serum production within the skin during later life. Thus leading to acne or a skin condition known as rosacea. The latter, however, is under frequent debate.
So if you are needle phobic and believe you have to accept the skin that you are in... think again and think lasers, peels, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and much, much more.
For more information on the treatments available from Pall Mall Medical view our range of non-surgical cosmetic treatments here.
For more alternatives for younger looking skin without going under the knife check out Dr Burton's article Younger Looking Skin with No Knife Required.