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The knife vs. the needle: Pros and cons of non-invasive procedures

Cosmetic surgery can help, but it’s not always practical or affordable. When you’re a busy mom or a working woman – or both – taking two months to recover from a facelift or tummy tuck can be inconceivable.

Aging woman looking in mirror

Plastic surgery’s non-invasive procedures are growing in popularity, but can they really deliver on their promises?

We’ve all been there: A casual glance in the mirror suddenly devolves into a scrutinizing analysis of every new wrinkle and fold, age spot and under eye bag. While preventative care is key (think sunscreen!), the aging process will inevitably bring about unwanted changes to your body, skin and hair.

Recent advances in aesthetic medicine are taking a new approach and making cosmetic procedures less invasive and more affordable. The question is, do they work?

Get the truth behind some non-surgical treatments receiving media buzz and see what they can do for you.


Promises to: Remove stubborn pockets of fat, such as “love handles” and “muffin tops” for a more flattering overall body shape.

How it works: Performed awake, a suction pad is applied to the skin in the targeted area, which is then dramatically cooled. The result is a process known as “Cryolipolysis,” in which the intense cold targets and destroys fat cells without affecting other kinds of tissue. The entire procedure is performed externally and each treatment only takes an hour. Results will typically take six weeks to four months to be fully realized.

The reality: CoolSculpting is to liposuction what a camp fire is to a forest fire. Expect subtle to modest changes, and for many, the results are too subtle to justify an average cost of $2,000.

Shot“Vampire” facelift

Promises to: “Revive” the face without surgery using a combination of dermal fillers and platelet-rich plasma from the patient’s own blood.

How it works: A combination of temporary hyaluronic acid fillers (e.g. Perlane, Restylane) are injected into the face, usually around the eyes and under the cheeks. A sample of blood is drawn from the patient and the plasma separated. The plasma, which is rich in skin growth factors, or stem cells, is then injected into the patient’s face to encourage the growth of new collagen to improve skin’s health and appearance over time.

The reality: While the use of injectable fillers for non-surgical facial rejuvenation has clearly been demonstrated, use of growth factors and stem cells for facial rejuvenation is largely over-stated in the media. While growth factors and stem cell injections seem to provide some benefit, this branch of skin and soft-tissue rejuvenation remains in its infancy. Bottom-line: It’s a short-term solution with a sensationalized name.

NeoGraft hair restoration

Promises to: Restore long-term hair growth to thinning or balding areas of a man or woman’s scalp.

How it works: The NeoGraft machine streamlines the “FUE” (follicular unit extraction) method. Translation? Instead of cutting out a large strip of donor skin from the back of the scalp, as is required in the traditional hair transplant method, the machine allows the surgeon to remove and then implant individual hair follicles.

The reality: This is an effective procedure for hair restoration and a welcome alternative to the older surgical method. The procedure can be cost-prohibitive if the transplant area is significantly large, but no pain, no patient downtime and no scar make the extra bucks more than worth it.

When considering nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, it’s important to select a board certified plastic surgeon, facial plastic surgeon or dermatologist and to learn as much as you can about the treatment. Also, be sure to go in with reasonable expectations. Beware of overreaching promises – after all, plastic surgeons operate with scalpels, not magic wands. As with all things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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