March 10, 2000 (San Francisco) -- You exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. You feel 21 -- until you look in the mirror. If you're disheartened about lines, wrinkles, or skin discolorations that are betraying your baby boomer status, cheer up. On Friday, researchers attending the 58th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology presented several new surgical techniques that can rejuvenate your appearance and make you feel better the next time you look in the mirror.
Traditionally, dermatologists performed skin operations to prevent or control disease, but today, surgical techniques can also improve the skin's appearance by removing discolorations or damaged skin caused by sunlight or disease. Several new techniques are now available.
Revolutionary advances in laser procedures have enabled dermatologists to safely and effectively eliminate wrinkles, scars, excessive body hair, birthmarks, tattoos, and facial and leg veins. Melanie C. Grossman, MD, calls the technology "magic bullets of bright light," and says that new advances are resulting in fewer side effects and better patient outcomes. Grossman is clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University Medical School in New York.
Lasers work by generating heat that tightens the skin. The result is a more uniform, smooth appearance. Though laser operations generally are not painful, patients may experience mild discomfort afterwards. Grossman tells WebMD that laser operations range in cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and because it is cosmetic, insurance generally doesn't cover it.
Another new technique, and an option for facial rejuvenation, is electrosurgical resurfacing. An alternative to laser skin resurfacing, this technique is a bit more patient-friendly because it allows healing to occur more rapidly with minimal discomfort. This procedure delivers electrical energy to particles in salt water that has been applied to the skin. This causes the skin layers to separate and fall off, rather than burning them off, as lasers do.
"Electrosurgical resurfacing successfully removes unwanted skin and seals unnecessary blood vessels," says Tina S. Alster, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Electrosurgical resurfacing is ideal for younger patients with mild to moderate skin damage and wrinkles.
If you're looking for the secret to graceful aging into the new millennium, you might want to consider soft-tissue augmentation. Soft-tissue augmentation is geared to those fine lines around the eyes and mouth and the crease between the eyebrows. According to Richard G. Glogau, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, "The scalpel is being replaced by the syringe and needle. People want minimum downtime with good results."
Soft-tissue augmentation is a surgical procedure that uses synthetic or natural materials to add volume or fill in areas of the face. Botulinum toxin, a substance that in small quantities harmlessly paralyzes muscles, is a popular treatment for the upper one-third of the face. It's most often used in the brow area, where it immobilizes the muscles, causing the skin to no longer be pulled down. Other popular approaches are to inject the protein collagen or to inject fat cells under the skin to soften lines and augment lips.