The New Wave

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Move over, scalpel: Here comes a high-tech, pain-free facelift

I’ve always kept my options open when it comes to cosmetic surgery. Even in high school, at the height of Jennifer Grey’s controversial nose reshaping and Joan Rivers’ ever-changing, well, everything, I said I’d consider it when the time came. Besides, I reasoned, eventually everyone would have a personal laser to run over their face and, bam!— we’d be smooth as Mom’s molded gelatin.

I’m hardly a soothsayer, but it seems I did intuit a thing or two about our collective facial future. Two decades (and some change) later, a nonsurgical facelift alternative called EmbraceRF is FDA-approved and disrupting the cosmetic industry with magic wands that turn back time.

No, seriously, they’re literally magic wands.

The EmbraceRF umbrella includes three treatments that each use a special wand emitting radiofrequency energy. Radiofrequency has been used in medicine for more than 125 years — but its cosmetic application is new. By applying the right amount of radiofrequency to right places under the skin (for the right amount of time), surgeons can harness heat to tighten tissue, melt fat and — here’s the real kicker — naturally rebuild the collagen elastin that time has eroded, something even a surgical facelift can’t provide.

The three treatment variations — FaceTite, AccuTite and Morpheus8 — are all riffs on the same radiofrequency technology. FaceTite treats the area from the cheekbone to the collarbone, including the neck. This involves making a small, imperceptible puncture in the skin just below the ear to access the cheek and under-eye area, and at the chin line to access the neck. The FaceTite handpiece is a long cannula (think spaghetti noodle) inserted through the puncture and under the skin to apply the energy below the dermis in very specific locations. FaceTite and AccuTite procedures are around $3,000, and three Morpheus8 treatments cost about $2,800, but if I add up my annual Botox and filler habit and multiply it by the years I’m erasing from my face, I’m still winning.

“I think FaceTite was designed for that ‘’tweener’ patient who’s starting to get some laxity and jowls, but isn’t ready for incisional surgery,” says Dr. Timothy Minton of Savannah Facial Plastic Surgery, the first practice in Savannah to offer the procedure (only about 600 practices offer it in the country). “Before this, the only thing I could suggest was a mini facelift, which requires incisions. FaceTite replaces that.”

However, Minton points out that FaceTite, which takes about an hour and a half, does not replace the surgical facelift for all patients. But the two procedures can certainly complement one another, Minton says. “After a facelift, the results look great in six months and then you get some settling,” he says. “Now, we’re able to employ this technology with our facelift patients to build collagen and maintain tight skin over time. It’s a nice add-on.”

FaceTite’s cousin, AccuTite, uses an even smaller cannula in a similar manner to treat sagging skin around the eyes, brow and forehead, where the skin is more delicate. This improves upon the more temporary fix that fillers can provide and is similar to the heavier lifting effect of an eye or brow lift — all without general anesthesia, thanks to a solution of saline and local anesthesia injected under the skin to ward off any discomfort.

Then there’s Morpheus8, which Joy DeThorne, a representative for EmbraceRF, refers to as “microneedling on steroids.” The wand features a matrix of tiny, coated needles and, according to DeThorne, is suitable for  “anywhere you have skin” working to reduce the size of pores, fine lines and wrinkles. The FDA also approved Morpheus8 to treat conditions like excessive sweating and cystic acne.

“When we put Morpheus8 together with the FaceTite, it really gives us that ‘wow’ factor,” DeThorne says.

Minton says he typically performs a Morpheus8 treatment directly following a FaceTite procedure while patients are still numb. A follow-up treatment is administered about six weeks later. “When doing Morpheus8 alone, we’ll typically recommend three treatments, but everyone is different.”

While there is some immediate tightening after the procedures, the complete effect takes time — usually about four months, and results can even continue developing for up to a year. But, unlike with a surgical facelift, none of that time is spent on bed rest, icing bruises or cleaning sutures. Broken blood vessels that lead to bruising and bleeding aren’t really a concern either, thanks to the heat from the transmitted energy that cauterizes the vessels upon contact. At most, the EmbraceRF patient may need to plan for a few days of what DeThorne refers to as “social downtime” — the kind that calls for a big hat and glasses or steering clear of special events (there will be some swelling until the saline solution is fully absorbed into your system, she says).

Just to recap: In about 90 minutes and while completely awake, I can erase my jowls, even out my crepe-y neck, lift my hooded eyes and then drive myself home, and four months later I look 5 to 10 years younger? Magic wands indeed.

“When we put Morpheus8 together with the FaceTite, it really gives us that ‘wow’ factor.”

Radio City

Savannah welcomes another cutting-edge treatment using radiofrequency to turn back time

Like many plastic surgeons, Dr. Matthew McLeod of Savannah Plastic Surgery has been looking for a noninvasive procedure that can safely and effectively recondition the skin. Sure, there’s a smorgasbord of
surgery-free treatments like chemical peels,
laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion treatments and microneedling — all of which can improve the look and feel of the skin — but McLeod wants to give his patients another option. Something better. Faster. Stronger.

Enter Profound, a skin reconditioning device that uses tiny needles to provide a burst of radiofrequency below the skin. “It’s a fancy way of delivery heat through the skin, conditioning the body to respond to a controlled trauma,” McLeod
explains. The “trauma” is small and painless but causes our body to naturally create collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, tightening and smoothing the skin. And unlike some laser treatments, which weren’t recommended for skin with darker pigment, Profound is proven safe and effective across the board, regardless of your skin tone.

Profound’s technology is similar to Morpheus8, but McLeod chose the former because it gets to a temperature and depth that requires only one treatment. “I wanted something powerful,” says McLeod. “This device penetrates the deepest.”

McLeod recommends Profound for younger patients who want to improve the look of their skin but aren’t yet candidates for a face or neck lift. But he also uses it in tandem with surgery to improve the skin’s laxity and prolong the results.

Using a different headpiece, Profound can also contour the body, targeting cellulite, loose skin over the abdominal wall or under the arms, and even address that stubborn fat roll below the buttock.

For quick, pain-free, minimally invasive procedures that work, it appears Savannah is tuning into the right frequency.