New Wrinkles In Skin Treatment

March 27, 2007
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Television programs such as “The Swan,” “Extreme Makeover,” “Dr. 90210” and “Nip/Tuck” exhibit how mainstream and socially acceptable plastic surgery and other “beauty” enhancements have become. But beyond surgical tummy tucks and facelifts, there is also a growing market for simpler enhancements that can be done outside a hospital or even a dermatologist’s office.

Vickie Bennett, owner of Vasaio Life Spa, said her company has offered such services — Botox treatments, for example — since it opened in 2004. She said the spa employs a medical director to oversee the medical procedures and nurses and nurse practitioners do the procedures.

“There is quite a turf war of who should be doing these services and where the best place is to get it done,” Bennett said of dermatologists and other skin experts who believe such treatments should only be performed in doctors’ offices.

Dr. Robert Lamberts with Dermatology Associates of West Michigan said he does not mind whether a person has a procedure done in a dermatologist’s office or at a spa. However, he said, there are more and more doctors who are going outside their own specialties — obstetrics and gynecology, for example — to do cosmetic procedures for which they may not have any training.

“The trends are definitely going away from the people being trained to do this,” he said.

Lamberts said such cosmetic procedures are not as easy as they may seem, requiring skill and training to make the proper injections.

“Injecting Botox is not just putting stuff up into a syringe and injecting it willy-nilly where you think it needs to go,” he said. “I administer all my own as a physician. I personally feel it’s important enough. It’s definitely an art.”

Dr. William Cullen of Elite Plastic Surgery agreed that procedures such as Botox, soft tissue fillers, skin resurfacing and micro-peels are becoming very popular and are available in more places.

“Because it’s so minimally invasive, it’s offered in a number of offices,” Cullen said of Botox injections in particular.

He advises people to make sure that whoever does a Botox procedure, which lasts four to six months, has had the necessary experience and training.

“It takes a certain amount of aesthetic talent that not everyone is born with — a certain amount of artistry, as well,” he added.

Botox has a cumulative effect with long-lasting results and is used to treat wrinkles on the forehead, smile lines and crow’s feet around the eyes, Cullen said.

“It’s almost addictive,” he said.

Bennett agreed that training and experience are important.

“The more education you can have, the more classes you can have, the safer you will be administering these procedures to your clients,” she said. “We don’t even allow people to do procedures unless they have 30 hours (of practice) under their belts.”

All the practitioners agreed that the procedures require a certain amount of skill, talent and artistry for optimal results.

“I would definitely say there is an art. You have to have some type of artistic flair to know how to sculpt the skin for these types of procedures,” Bennett said.

Bennett said people should be especially cautious about laser procedures.

“There is a risk of burning until they really get the hang of it,” she said of people who have not had enough training or practice.

One of the more popular trends Bennett sees is skin tightening, using procedures such as the Titan system offered by her spa. The Titan system reduces wrinkles and sagging skin by heating the lowest layer of dermis and tightening the coils of collagen, which become looser as people age.

“They actually become tightened to what they were two to five years ago,” Bennett said. “There’s no downside whatsoever to this particular treatment.”

The demographics of clients having this type of treatment vary, Bennett said, from a single mom who will “spend her last dime trying to prevent the aging process” to 30-year-olds trying to offset the effects of pollution.

Cullen observed that younger patients, such as new mothers, are more interested in procedures such as a tummy tuck or breast augmentation, while older patients focus more on facelifts and skin care procedures. The top three elective procedures Cullen sees in his office are breast augmentation, liposuction and abdominoplasty.

Though there are many gray areas for insurance companies and many procedures may not be covered by insurance, Cullen said television shows such as “Extreme Makeover” have de-stigmatized plastic surgery. But they also have made it look simple.

“Plastic surgery has become a part of the mainstream,” he said, but cautions it is not always as seen on TV. “Plastic surgery is not an exact science.”

Lamberts said that procedures such as laser hair removal, light pulse therapy and light vein therapy also are very popular.

“Baby boomers are right there at the threshold and they want to look good,” he said. “They don’t want to look like the oldest person in the office.”

Sona Med-Spa Manager Lynn PreFontaine said her company started out as a laser hair removal center but has expanded into skin rejuvenation, offering microderm abrasion and ultra-sonic facials. PreFontaine said in 2006 the center started to focus on skin, adding Botox and dermal fillers to its list of treatments. She said Sona Med-Spa has a medical director and also emphasizes the importance of training before administering procedures.

“There’s definitely an art to it, especially dermal fillers,” she said. “It’s important to go somewhere where they have a medically licensed staff, which we do have.”

Bennett said offering hair services, manicures and massages in the same location as skin treatment procedures is very complementary, contributing to the overall feeling of taking care of one’s self. When clients come in for a hair cut, they often comment about what they do or don’t like about their skin or body. When this happens, Bennett said stylists can show clients what services the spa offers that may be able to help them.     HQX

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