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Aesthetics: Are Energy-Based Devices Replacing Surgery?

Aesthetics: Are Energy-Based Devices Replacing Surgery?
Non-invasive aesthetic treatments, often including the use of energy-based devices, are increasingly being employed instead of surgery, according to practitioners. (iStock)

Non-invasive aesthetic treatments, often including the use of energy-based devices, are increasingly being employed instead of surgery, according to practitioners.

These options not only reduce the likelihood of complications and extensive follow-up treatment but also improve recovery times and offer greater convenience.

Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar, a general practitioner and aesthetician who runs The Aesthetics Doctor clinics in the UK, says:

“I think there’s a genuine global reduction in the percentage of patients having surgery done. People are moving more towards non-invasive or non-surgical treatments because these treatments are getting better and better – and they are giving fantastic results. Surgery, unfortunately, has too many risks of complications that could be life-threatening – even if the surgery has gone well, complications can still occur.”

Natural Looking Results

Treatments employing energy-based devices include the likes of subsurface, thermistor-controlled, monopolar radiofrequency (SMRF), a minimally invasive option for tightening lax skin, and CO2 and Er: YAG lasers, for skin resurfacing.

Ablative fractional laser devices, for the treatment of deep wrinkles, are also increasingly employed, as are non-ablative lasers to help stimulate collagen.

Micro-coring technology is also used via energy-based devices to remove sagging face skin where surgical facelift procedures might once have been undertaken.

Dr. Leah Totton, a medical and cosmetic doctor, and founder of Dr. Leah Cosmetic Skin Clinics and Dr. Leah Skincare, specializes in non-surgical treatments for face and neck sagging.

“Due to advances within the non-surgical sector and the preventative measures clients are now taking, the need and demand for cosmetic surgery is less. Non-invasive treatments are viewed as more convenient than surgery – they require less recovery time, tend to be more affordable than surgery, and there is much less chance of life-altering complications and results tend to be more natural.”

Improved Texture and Tightness

Dr. Leah believes energy-based devices can achieve better results on skin quality than surgery. 

“There are so many ways to achieve incredible results with energy-based devices, whether this is through a combination treatment or using energy-based devices alone. Morpheus8 for skin quality has been a very popular non-surgical treatment device – the micro-needling radiofrequency treatment improves texture and tightness of skin and is commonly used to give the face and neck a rejuvenated, younger-looking appearance.”

She continues:

“I have developed The Dr. L. Lift, which uses a combination of collagen stimulating threads with collagen-stimulating, energy-based device treatment, Morpheus8. We begin the lift with Morpheus8. We then use our collagen-stimulating threads, which work to reposition the facial tissue to lift the face. The threads lift the face upwards and backward in an L-shaped direction, while simultaneously producing collagen and elastin.”

Prevention Instead of Surgery

Looking ahead, Dr. Ahmed is optimistic about the great potential of laser treatments to help with skin quality, tightening, pigmentation, and scarring.

Dr. Leah is excited about the principle of “collagen banking” treatments for women.

“We know that arguably the most significant period of aging in a woman’s life is the five years around menopause when we lose 30% of our collagen, causing visible skin changes, including lines wrinkles, and sagging which is difficult to reverse. Having non-surgical treatments that stimulate collagen and elastin in your 30s or 40s will not only help your skin appearance at that time but, by creating a collagen reserve, will minimize the impact of menopause on your aging process.” 

In other words, preventing signs of aging, such as sagging, is much easier than treating it. She adds:

“There is currently a huge demand for patients requesting non-surgical treatments and I expect this demand to only continue increasing, we will see a movement towards prevention being better than attempting a cure.”

A Place for Surgery

Despite heralding the potential of energy-based devices, however, aesthetics practitioners do not see these treatments ever completely replacing surgery. Dr. Ahmed says:

“I think everything has got a place but ultimately, surgery is the best thing when it comes to lifting the skin and repositioning areas. People with mild sagging in their early 40s – up to the late 40s – can be treated with energy-based devices but then when there’s more than a few millimeters of sag, the skin will need to be cut out as unfortunately, no energy-based device will lift the skin.”

But, he adds:

“I think ultimately surgery is going to be on the decline because patients try non-surgical options first, and usually they’re satisfied.”

Dr. Leah agrees that surgery is here to stay.

“Cosmetic surgery very much has a role and for some concerns and patients, it is the best treatment option. But if you are opting for surgery, it is important to seek out a reputable surgeon who has the appropriate level of training and experience in the surgery you are undertaking. It is important to consider all the risks.”

Depending on what the surgery is, risks include scarring, swelling, infection, seroma, blood clots, nerve damage, and complications linked with anesthesia.

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