There are many non-invasive skin treatments that rejuvenate and lift the skin. In the past, plastic surgery was really the only option of you wanted to lift and tighten the loose skin and wrinkles that develop as you age. But times have changed, and it is now possible to prevent many of the changes that cause the outward signs of aging, and many non-surgical techniques can actually thicken, tighten and smooth the skin. How long this lasts depends on what kinds of procedures are done, but overall, non-surgical facelifts last about as long as surgery does.
As you age, lots of things are changing within and beneath your skin. The outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, slows way down the older you get. The result is the build-up of dead cells at the surface of the skin. This thick epidermis is more dull and leathery and tends to retain all the pigment and wrinkles it has picked up along the way. This outer layer is what you see when you look in the mirror.
Beneath the epidermis is a layer called the dermis that contains all the collagen and elastin. That’s what keeps your skin thick and springy. After around age 30, the cells in the dermis that make collagen and elastin go dormant and stop making more. Your body breaks collagen and elastin down at 1-2% each year. So after 30, your dermis is slowly thinning. As it does that, it loses its elasticity and starts to retain the wrinkles and starts to sag.
Underneath the skin, the scaffolding holding up the face is slowly changing as well. The bones are always remodeling– that’s why it is so important to take your vitamin D and calcium every day. But also, the muscles and fat pads are thinning out, resulting in hollows and scooped out areas.
In a surgical facelift, the excess thinned-out skin is surgically excised. The remaining skin is stretched out and up, and the tissues are sutured in a way that lifts the face. Surgical facelifts do not address the skin itself, nor do they add volume underneath. A surgical facelift is a big procedure, requiring general anesthetic, and is usually a “one and done” procedure. Down-time is significant, but only happens once.
In a non-surgical facelift, each element of the skin and scaffolding underneath is addressed and improved. The epidermis is resurfaced, the dermis is thickened and tightened, and volume and support is added beneath the skin to hold it up. This involves multiple sessions of different modalities. This can take months, with results evolving over a year or more. Down-time is minimal, but multiple procedures are necessary.
Once you have a surgical facelift, you will continue to age naturally. If you do nothing else, your skin will continue to thin, and you will continue to lose volume. If you never have a procedure to thicken your skin, your skin post-facelift will be the same thin skin you started with. It will continue to thin out and become loose again. This happens over years. People who undergo surgical facelifts often want to have another facelift around 6-12 years later.
The exact same aging process happens to all of us, no matter whether we have a non-surgical facelift, plastic surgery, or nothing. If you do not stimulate the dermal cells to make more collagen, they will be dormant, and you’ll lose 1-2% of your dermis each year. If you do nothing to your epidermis, you’ll slowly develop a thick, dell skin surface. And ultimately, volume loss will continue underneath the skin.
In fact, the signs of aging develop at the same rate regardless of whether you have surgery or a non-surgical facelift. Without any maintenance, the results of either procedure will deteriorate at the same rate.
If you are having plastic surgery, it is important to maintain the skin. Surgery is not adequate to keep the skin healthy. It is highly recommended to have either laser or RF Microneedling (or both) to keep the skin looking and feeling healthy.
If you are having a non-surgical facelift, then you are already treating the skin to make it thicker and healthier. To maintain this, lasers or microneedling three times each year can keep the fibroblasts in the dermis awake and making collagen for you. Maintenance is much simpler than the non-surgical facelift procedure itself, and doesn’t cost a lot in terms of time or money.
There is no consensus on what exactly should be done as part of a non-surgical facelift. I highly recommend a series of RF Microneedling and Laser resurfacing as the core procedure, with Sculptra and Emface as adjuvants depending on each person’s needs for volume and lift. In general, we recommend having one procedure per decade of life. Thus if you’re 50, we recommend a series of 5 RF Microneedling procedures, about 1-2 months apart. We usually do non-ablative resurfacing at the same time. Sculptra is an injectable that adds volume by stimulating collagen build-up in and underneath the skin. Sculptra treatments are usually 5-6 vials over 2-3 treatments. Emface stimulates the lifting muscles of the face, adding cheek volume and triggering collagen and elastin simultaneously. Emface is a pain-free and needle-free treatment that is done over 4 weeks.
There are lots of other procedures out there, some of which are OK, and others a waste of time. Many places also use dermal fillers as part of the non-surgical facelift, but the desired results from fillers are very temporary. They have their uses, but results do not last more than 6-12 months. So, if someone is looking at doing a non-surgical facelift entirely using filler, it will last months and not years.
Because non-surgical facelifts require a series of treatments, this can take many months to finish. On average, this will take at least six months, though this varies depending on how many treatments are needed and how quickly the patient wishes to proceed.