Dissecting the Great Pretenders

[By Tania Hui]

If you can lay your hands on a designer bag at a fraction of the usual cost, would you really care whether it was genuine or not? With many high street labels churning out their own interpretation, competing with attractively priced factory replicas flooding online shops, it is little wonder that one is tempted to cross over to the fashion dark side. While the biggest risk with swinging a fake arm candy is probably the potential embarrassment of being called out by your fashion-savvy frenemies, there are much bigger issues when we are talking about beauty treatments in the world of aesthetics practice.

It’s not just simply a dilemma from the moral standpoint, but rather safety margin and efficacy heading a list of queries that’s on my mind. What are the differences between the real McCoy and non FDA approved parallel imports touting results with a much discounted price tag? Deal or No Deal? To help unravel the mystery, resident beauty writer Tania Hui played “Shirley Holmes” for a day to suss out the truth behind the “Great Pretenders” of these “Ivy League” beauty providers.

1486Non-invasive fat reducing procedure

The real deal: Zeltiq® CoolSculpting

The faker: Fat Freezing Machines

As another paid ad flashes past while you were checking Facebook— Fat freezing treatment offered for a steal at your local beauty parlour from $299 to $1.99 for a single trial session. Are you biting on the dangling carrot? Sounds too good to be true? It just may be.

CoolSculpting® is an FDA-approved, non-invasive procedure to gently and effectively reduce fat in targeted areas such as the lower abdomen and love handles. Fat freezes at a lower temperature than skin, muscles and surrounding tissues and this is the core science behind the technology of CoolSculpting. It sounds like a fat-busting dream comes true, but the results are real and undeniable with scientific papers to back them up. CoolSculpting allows us to truly sculpt a new you by targeting stubborn fat with no needles, no surgery, and no downtime.

As for Fat Freezing treatments that are not FDA approved, unfortunately, they do not display the same fat busting prowess for a few reasons. The technology employed by CoolSculpting is patented which means that there is no other equipment that is officially designed to produce the exact results. At the wrong temperature, a few scenarios could crop up, ranging from the minor to the major—

1) The fat simply does not break down as expected.

2) If the freezing is not done uniformly, you could end up with lumpiness over the treated areas.

3) If the temperature is colder than intended, you may suffer from cold burns of the overlying skin, a complication that has never been reported with Zeltiq® CoolSculpting due to its built-in safety mechanism and rigorous testing before it was even launched for public consumption.

For these simple reasons, while CoolSculpting boasts a 20% reduction of fat per session, other fat freezing treatments may be no more effective than slapping a slab of ice on your flab.

1485Non-invasive skin tightening treatment

The real deal: Thermage®

The faker: Radiofrequency machines

The field of non-surgical options to  tissue tightening and skin lifting has expanded over the past several years, with many new devices appearing on the market that utilize radiofrequency (RF) energy to effectively tighten and rejuvenate loose and saggy skin.

The very first and still widely used device is known as the ThermaCool™, originally developed by Thermage®. Solta Medical (CA, USA), which has since expanded upon the original technology to its current third generation incarnation. With the new Thermage multiple-pass, lower-energy protocols as analysed by Dover et al from over 5700 Thermage patients studied, 87% noted immediate tissue tightening, 92% had tissue tightening at 6 months and 94% of the patients felt the procedure met their expectations. There is now a new Comfort Pulse Technology™ (CPT)  handpiece that uses vibration to make the procedure even more comforting.

With Thermage, one finds that the procedure works and continues to work well over time. With it’s extensively studied patented monopolar radiofrequency technology, Thermage is the premiere FDA approved prototype device that all other subsequent RF devices are compared with and compare themselves to.  As the intensity and flavour of cacoa differ between Godiva and Cadbury, salon based radiofrequency machines or even other FDA approved RF technologies fail to replicate the excellent results acheivable by Thermage. They generally require repeated sessions done at close interval with variable outcome.

Millions were poured in to develop Thermage’s unique cooling system which allows the dermis to be heated up quickly to a tempertature that causes collagen remodelling and regeneration while sparing the surface skin, hence protecting it from heat injury. The lack of a reliable cooling mechanism in machines of lesser make brings about a higher risk of burn, blistering and possible skin infection leading to disfiguring scars.

1484Permanent hair removal devices

The real deal: FDA approved laser machines

The faker: Salon based IPL

There’s a huge and lucrative market out there when it comes to hair removal and it’s hard not to be swayed by the onslaught of unbelivably good deals and treatment packages offered. However, one should not be misled by false advertising and services that over-promise, one of the commonest being labelling IPL as laser treatment for hair removal. To set the record straight, IPL, also known as Intense Pulsed Light, utilises light of varying wavelengths and is not a type of laser energy. In the hands of providers who are not medically trained without a sound knowledge of skin type and hair, IPL are at best, “Jack of all trades but master of none.”

Conversely, when adjusted to the correct settings by medically trained professionals, laser energies such as those emitted by the GentleYag and GentleLase laser system are tailored to address your hairy woes specifically. While the efficacy of IPL as a hair removal tool is severely limited by skin tone, with the risk of burn and potential permanent scarring increasing exponentially with darker skin colour, there are different types of FDA approved lasers  that can treat both lighter and darker skinned indivuduals without a glitch. Besides safety and versatility, laser hair removal gives better results that are more predictable and longer lasting.

1483Laser therapy for hair loss

The real deal: Revage 670 Laser System

The faker: Hand held laser equipments

Over the last few years, laser light therapy has gained momentum as a modality in the effective treatment of hair loss. The FDA approved Revage 670 Laser is widely recognised as the gold standard to rejuvenate thinning hairlines and promotes healthy hair growth.

Studies have shown that Revage produces an 85% success rate in halting hair loss with an almost 40% of increased fullness reported, making this not just a treatment that targets current hair thinning but is also useful in the prevention of further hair loss.

Revage boasts a total of 30 laser diodes, providing critical coherent beams as a direct source of laser light in a hood that goes over the scalp to ensure maximum laser energy contact with the areas to be treated. With its Rotational PhotoTherapy (RPT) system, this system maximizes stimulation of each hair follicle at a much higher level than that provided by traditional hand-held lasers that do not bear the stamp of approval from the relevant experts and board of authority. Consequently, we can’t expect them to achieve results that are consistent or comparable with those obtained from studies based on subjects treated with Revage.

In conculsion, bargains are enticing but if safety and efficacy are being compromised with pennies pinched, you may be draining pockets with false hopes and tend to have more to lose at the end of the day.


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