The Final Frontier: Advancing Non-Surgical Cosmetic Procedures

Scientific advancements are making it possible to achieve desirable cosmetic results without invasive surgical procedures that carry the risk of complications. Though surgeries were previously more common in cosmetics, by 2021, nonsurgical procedures had overtaken surgical ones. While 1.56 million surgical procedures were performed in 2021, more than 5.5 million less invasive procedures involving toxins and fillers were conducted.

Key takeaways:

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the 3 most popular noninvasive cosmetic procedures are botulinum toxin type A — which includes Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and Jeauveau — chemical peels, and dermal fillers. These options for non-surgically addressing cosmetic concerns continue to grow in popularity.


Botulinum toxins improve wrinkles for up to 4 months

Botulinum toxin type A is used in a variety of products, the most recognized of which is Botox. These neuromodulators that come from the neurotoxin botulinum toxin type A are injected into facial muscles to block signals that allow those muscles to contract. By preventing muscle movement, these substances treat and prevent fine lines and wrinkles.

Injectable botulinum toxins are by far the most popular non-surgical cosmetic product, with more than 7 million injections now being performed each year. Their effects tend to take about a week to produce noticeable results, and the results last up to 4 months. However, as people continue to use botulinum toxin products, they build resistance to the toxin, which reduces its effectiveness.

The botulinum toxin products deemed safe and approved for cosmetic use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and Jeauveau. There is ongoing research on the distinctions between these products, but they appear to differ slightly in their effects. For instance, while Botox appears to fight wrinkles locally, Dysport diffuses across more of the surface of the face.

Injected fillers make skin appear smoother and fuller for years

Nearly twice as many people in the U.S. get dermal fillers today compared to just 12 years ago. Dermal fillers are often used in combination with neurotoxins to achieve specific desired effects. One popular aspect of this non-surgical option for plumping up the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines is that its effects are immediate. Another benefit of fillers is that, unlike botulinum toxin, the aesthetic impact can last for years.

Dermal fillers are made of a variety of materials, with hyaluronic acid being one of the most popular. Hyaluronic acid is normally found in the skin and acts to plump and hydrate it. This substance is used in Restylane and Juvederm dermal fillers. Other materials that are used in dermal fillers include polymethyl methacrylate, poly-L-lactic acid, fat, and calcium hydroxylapatite, the latter of which is used in Radiesse products.

Common complications of dermal fillers are bruising, itching, swelling, pain, and redness. These adverse side effects normally resolve in a few weeks. While the FDA has deemed several dermal fillers safe, the organization urges allergy testing prior to getting these fillers to avoid complications.


Chemical peels stimulate collagen and make the skin appear more youthful

Chemical peels work by removing the top layers of the skin to combat several cosmetic concerns, including wrinkles, sun damage, discoloration, and scars. The substances in chemical peels stimulate skin growth, collagen production, and more even distribution of melanin.

The specific effects of a given peel depend in large part on the depth of the peel, which differs based on whether a peel is light, medium, or deep. Unlike other cosmetic options, however, peels cannot correct deep wrinkles or scars. They may also lead to unwanted effects like discoloration, which is more common in people with darker skin.

Peels that reach deeper layers of the skin tend to be more effective but are also associated with more significant side effects and a greater risk for complications. Recovery time from deeper peels is therefore longer than from peels that reach only more superficial layers of the skin. Medium and deep peels often lead to redness that lasts months.

For people who want to avoid invasive surgeries, there are several non-surgical options to address cosmetic concerns. Each option offers specific advantages and disadvantages, and combining different techniques is often the best way to achieve desired results. Because several of these procedures can be customized, people who communicate well with their healthcare provider or technician about their desired results tend to be the most satisfied with the outcomes of their cosmetic procedures.

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