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Facelifts versus Non Surgical Facelift by Francis R Palmer MD, Beverly Hills Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon.

Facelifts versus Non Surgical Facelift by Francis R Palmer MD, world renowned beverly Hills Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon voted One of the “World Best” plastic and Cosmetic Surgeons discusses the various options and compares how they stack up to one another.  With all the non surgical skin tightening options and some “hyped” and frankly downright misleading procedures out there today, how is one supposed to know how these compare to a Facelift.  Good question and to answer it, let’s first take a look at each procedure and examine what it really is and does in the way of rejuvenating the face.

Whether it’s a non surgical or a surgical facelift the procedure should impact the following areas of facial tissues to affect real, meaningful change.  The more skin and SMAS laxity, the more need for removal of the excess skin and tightening of the underlying SMAS muscle layer.  Remember that skin removal can only occur when an incision is placed around the front of the ear, preferably contoured to the ear, as this is the direction of skin elevation and pull.  Any procedure lacking this incision is incapable of removing excess skin, which means that whatever method of action the procedure uses must create adequate skin tightening and shrinkage.  Placed in the proper perspective, a facelift removes 2 inches of skin or more while most non surgical procedures tighten and shrink the skin several mm’s.  There are 25 mm’s in 1 inch and 50 mm’s in 2 inches.  So that means over 50 mm’s of skin can be removed with a facelift vs a few mm’s with the non surgical options.  Keep that in mind when comparing the various claims being made by the non surgical procedures.

The common forms of Face Lifts include:

  • Most Popular are short incision Face Lift variants with a limited incision, limited tissue dissection yet the ability to tighten the underlying SMAS muscle, remove excess fatty tissue and skin all in a 90 minute procedure with a recovery time measured in days.  Other traditional facelifts do something similar but require longer incisions, surgery and recovery times measured in weeks or months.

The common forms of Non Surgical Skin Tightening Procedures:  ***Some claim to be non surgical facelifts but do not mer the minimum requirements of all facelifts which are SMAS layer tightening, excess fat and skin removal.

  • Protege RF skin tightening system.  This is the non surgical procedure that we offer.  It uses radio frequency waves (RF) that penetrate into the layers of the skin stimulating collagen production leading to smoother, tighter and youthful looking skin.  There are other RF systems but they hurt (my opinion) and some have been associated with dissolving facial fat which may not be desired.
  • Ulthera uses ultrasound to build collagen within the skin for similar results as the Protege but has more discomfort associated with it vs the Protege.
  • The “Vampire” lift is a hyped, marketing ploy in my opinion.  It uses platelet rich plasma (PRP) which is a blood component derived from spinning down blood in a centrifuge.  The PRP is the injected into the face under the skin.  PRP does not have the ability to tighten the SMAS, shape or remove excess fat, remove excess skin or tighten the skin through collage formation.  In other words, none of the basic requirements of a proper, effective facelift.  There might be some temporary facial filling associated with this procedure but this wouldn’t be expected to last.
  • The “Stem Cell” Facelift is another hyped, marketing procedure in my opinion that is a fancy new name for fat transfer, which has been around for over 25 years with very mixed reviews despite some zealot advocate claims to the contrary.  The procedure is basically fat removal with processing before being re-injected into the face = fat transfer.  While it is true that fat does contain minuscule numbers of adult stem cells, these are nowhere near the concentration needed to do something remarkable like replace old sagged muscle with new muscle cells or to rejuvenate the collage layers within the skin.  This would require a 4-6 week incubation of the stem cells in a nutrient rich environment where the cells could multiple into huge numbers before being re-injected into the face.  This procedure would be regulated and would have to be approved by the FDA that oversees all stem cell treatments within the US.  The fact that this procedure does not carry FDA approval says it all.  It is not what it claims to be and is merely fat transfer that like PRP does not have the ability to achieve any of the basic requirements of a facelift.

So the take away from all this is to be aware of what the various procedures can truly accomplish and choose accordingly.  If you have loose skin and prominent jowls, a facelift would be far more effective.  If you do not want surgery and are willing to have your “next best” option with the understanding that the results are not equal or equivalent then I would think a reliable skin tightening technology using RF or ultrasound might make sense.  If you don’t like any pain, I’d suggest the Protege which is typically performed as a series of five, twenty minute treatments spaced 1 -2 weeks apart for maximum collagen building.

Some of you might ask “if the vampire lift and stem cell lifts don’t work why are they being offered?  To that I would respond, by having you read my 4-step simple guide on How to Choose Your Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon for helpful tips and guidance.  The other point to consider is who’s recommending these types of procedures to you.  Are they plastic and cosmetic surgeons who perform facelifts as well as non surgical skin tightening procedures or are they some other type of MD that only offers non surgical options.  In any case, I hope you find this information informative and helpful.