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‘Liquid facelifts’ offer youthful skin without surgery

There’s an innovative way to remove almost all signs of aging — and it straddles the fine line between dramatic plastic surgery and a solid anti-aging procedure that is becoming more common among women.

Skin care products — over-the-counter creams and serums as well as prescription-strength Retin-A and glycolic acid — have come a long way in recent years. They can revitalize the texture of your skin, improve your skin tone and make a drastic difference in the way aging skin looks and feels. In the case of Retin-A, they can even prevent new fine lines and wrinkles from appearing.

But we have to be honest with ourselves. If we’re spending a lot of money on elixirs and moisturizers in the hopes that one will prove to be the magic bullet that erases wrinkles, plumps up skin and truly makes us look years younger (even without makeup), we may be barking up the wrong tree. Products can only do so much — a relatively new combination of fillers and Botox hailed as the “liquid facelift” is, for many women, the next, more drastic step they’re taking to avoid telltale signs of aging while actually helping to prevent new wrinkles and lines from forming.

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“‘Liquid facelift’ is a term used to describe the procedure used to restore the face by using injectable fillers like Restylane, Juvederm or Botox, to help reduce wrinkles and restore volume,” says Dr. Jill Waibel founder of Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute. “Cosmetic dermal fillers are injectable agents that are placed under the skin to restore the skin’s volume and smooth away facial wrinkles and folds. Dermal fillers can bring subtle distinctive benefits. Some injectables can provide longer lasting results, others allow for more precision with fine lines, and still others can gradually bring the face into better balance, creating an overall rejuvenated appearance.”

When a patient requests a liquid facial, she or he isn’t simply receiving a one-size-fits-all treatment. A credible, board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist examines her facial structure and sometimes even asks her to bring in photos of herself from when she was younger (the goal is usually to make you look like a more youthful version of yourself, and not like a completely different person). The bevy of injectable options that exist nowadays would leave our great-grandmothers in shock.

Dr. David E. Bank, founder & director of The Center For Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, says Radiesse, Juvederm Voluma or Belotero can be used to fill in the nasal-labial folds (otherwise known as laugh lines), Voluma or Sculptra can be used to increase volume in the cheeks and give the face a non-surgical lift, Restylane Silk can plump up lips, and Kybella can be injected for fat reduction and tightening of skin in chin/jaw for a more refined look.

“By restoring the fullness of the cheeks it lifts the lower face, therefore decreasing the jowls along the jawline,” Bank says. “Overall it gives the face a heart-shaped, more youthful appearance. The end result can be as subtle or dramatic as the patient desires.”

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You’ve probably heard horror stories about women being injected with permanent fillers like silicone and experiencing adverse reactions the likes of which would make you run kicking and screaming from a plastic surgeon’s office. But Bank says the latest fillers are made up of hyaluronic acid, which our bodies naturally make and lose as we age. If anything happens to go wrong during the procedure, a natural substance called hyaluronidase (vitrase) can be injected to dissolve the filler.

Of course, as with all medical procedures, there are always risks when getting Botox and fillers, including bruising or infection, but also serious risks like blindness, ulcers and scarring, Waibel says. You’ll have to sign consent forms at your doctor’s office — and, with hope, you are doing your homework when it comes to choosing a credible doctor (seriously, don’t even think of getting a liquid facelift at a “spa”). “These simple procedures can cause serious complications, so it’s important to always visit a board-certified dermatologist who fully understands facial structure and anatomy, and also where the blood vessels are located in the skin, so you don’t experience any effects that can be prevented,” Waibel says.

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Injectables like Voluma and Botox may actually be used as an anti-aging procedure because, during the period in which they’re helping your face look virtually line-free, they’re also working behind the scenes to reverse damage or prevent new lines from forming.

“Dynamic wrinkles are caused by contractions of delicate underlying facial muscles every time you smile, laugh or frown,” Waibel says. “These block the conduction of nerve impulses to muscles, causing a form of muscle relaxation in the area injected. Because your muscles no longer contract, it actually works to prevent future wrinkles as well as decreasing their appearance.”

Bank says receiving Botox treatments before deep wrinkles have a chance to develop relaxes those muscle contractions that can lead to a need for more invasive procedures in the future. And there’s another benefit: “Hyaluronic Acid fillers stimulate your own collagen production, therefore even after the product has dissipated your natural collagen will remain for a period of time,” he says.

Could it be true? Are liquid facelifts the answer to our every anti-aging concern? Maybe. But keep in mind fillers and Botox are not permanent solutions. While Juvederm Voluma can last up to two years, Botox will only keep your forehead crease-free for about three to five months. And the cost — which can easily reach upwards of $2,000 or more, depending on where you live and your personal needs — is still too steep for many beauty enthusiasts.

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