[By Chloe See]

Laser away wrinkles? Plump up lines with fillers? Here’s your tell-it-like-it-is guide to the latest innovations in breakthrough cosmetic procedures.

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LASERS & LIGHTS TO INCREASE COLLAGEN

Laser energy, radio frequency, and ultrasound all work by creating a controlled injury to the skin that sets a wound-healing response into high gear. This spurs collagen formation and cell regeneration, and firms and plumps the skin.

BEGINNER: EVEN YOUR SKIN TONE: Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treats discoloration like freckles and rosacea, and uses a wide spectrum of light wavelengths in high-intensity pulses.

Pros: It smooths the complexion with no Downtime or discomfort, and is an excellent fix for people with freckles or other superficial skin discolourations.

Cons: Because IPL zones in on pigment, it can be risky to use on dark skin, as it has the potential to create uneven results. It’s also not ideal for random brown spots (go with a pigment-targeting laser, such as the “Q-switched Nd:Yag,” which zaps them one by one) or larger broken blood vessels (for those, a Vbeam pulsed dye laser works best).

When to Start: 20s+ Downtime: None.

INTERMEDIATE: REPAIR SUN DAMAGE: Fraxel ReStore is one brand name for nonablative fractional laser resurfacing, laser energy that delivers heat deep into skin by drilling microscopic holes in the skin with hundreds of fractionated laser beams. This way the surface of the skin isn’t completely scorched, since there are minute untouched spaces interspersed amid the lasered pinholes.

Pros: What fractional means for the patient is that they have less downtime and side effects from traditional lasers. Yet Fraxel Restore is able to treat pitted acne scars, improve skin tone and texture. It also protects against skin cancers because it physically removes damaged cells in the dermis.”

Cons: While a numbing cream is applied beforehand, the pain factor can still be significant for some. It is vital to stay away from the sun before and after the treatment as it can cause hyperpigmentation (dark spots) on Asian and dark skin tones.

When to Start: 35+ Downtime: Two to three days max.

ADVANCED: FIRM AND MINIMIZE DEEP WRINKLES: The latest rave is fractional CO2 laser resurfacing called Mixto. Traditionally CO2 lasers have been considered the gold standard for skin resurfacing, however the prolonged downtime of up to a month has put off many people contemplating this skin renewal procedure. When Mixto was introduced, many ladies and their derms jumped for joy as Mixto was able to deeply resurface andrenew skins without the dreaded long downtime. Mixto treat skin tone, texture, pigmentation, and fine lines and create enough thermal damage to stimulate collagen formation and firm the skin.

Pros: Because it’s fractionated, these carbon-dioxide-powered devices aren’t as destructive as the original C02 lasers, and  you don’t need the long downtime. You have about 4-5 days of looking sunburnt and that’s about it.

Cons: You will need to keep away from the sun before and after the laser to minimize risk of hyperpigmentation. Wearing a sunscreen daily is advised.

When to Start: 40+ Downtime: 4-5 days.

EXTRA CREDIT COMBINATION THERAPY: Many dermatologists enhance the benefits of fractionated lasers by applying therapeutic chemicals to the skin immediately afterward. Fraxel allows the skin’s pores to be wide open so actives like hydroquinone or retinoic acid penetrate deeper. “Depending on our patient’s skin type, I may customise some vitamin serums for topical application post Fraxel Restore, and patients have been reporting great results with them.” says Dr Low Chai Ling, medical director of The Sloane Clinic.

SCALPEL-FREE FACELIFTS: RADIO FREQUENCY AND ULTRASOUND

Thermage (radiofrequency) and the newer Ulthera (ultrasound) devices firm sagging skin on the face, neck, eyelids, and brows sans a surgical lift by delivering heat to tighten tissue and stimulate collagen deep in the skin without injuring the epidermis.

Pros: You generally need only one treatment, and can see dramatic results in three to six months.

Cons: Discomfort. There is some discomfort involved with both Thermage and Ulthera, though some patients report that the latest Thermage CPT with a vibrating tip cuts discomfort by up to 50%.

When to Start: 40+ Downtime: None.

EXTRA CREDIT TIGHTEN UP: While your scalpel-free facelifts do their trick in tightening your skin, many docs like to enhance the aesthetic results with some fillers. Dermal fillers plump up the skin, giving fullness to the cheeks, filling out undereye hollows effectively and elegantly. Done together with  skin tightening procedure, they shed years off your face.

FREEZE FACIAL LINES: BOTOX

From Botox and Dysport to the new Xeomin, purified, diluted botulinum toxin type A injected into specific muscles of the face can temporarily erase wrinkles on the forehead, frown lines between the brows, crow’s-feet, and even the vertical platysmal bands (“turkey neck” folds) on the neck.

Pros: Serious — and, in the hands of the right doctor, artful — results. If you inject a lifting muscle, you get a drop, and if you inject a constricting muscle, you get a lift. Injecting the corners of a downturned mouth can lift up those corners slightly and refresh the whole face. Botox is often used to minimize frown lines and crow’s feet. In recent years, Botox has also been sued to slim down the face as they can reduce the size of your jaw muscles, and treat teeth grinding at the same time!

The Cons: Too much Botox can extinguish facial movement and expression, so quit while you are ahead. This is a case of too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

When to Start: 30+ or when wrinkles start to bother you. Downtime: None, although bruising can occur at injection sites.

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