Tweakments: Non-surgical Cosmetic Treatments on the Rise

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These days, one need not look very hard to find pictures of the latest celebrity to go under the knife in the name of beauty, and take things a bit too far, leaving little to the imagination as to what has been nipped and tucked. Americans spent over $13.5 billion last year alone on cosmetic procedures. However, a new movement is afoot. From housewives to Hollywood A-listers, more and more women (and men) are seeking more subtle improvements in pursuit of a new ”fake natural”: tweakments.

Tweakments are best described as non-surgical or minimally invasive cosmetic procedures done in the name of subtlety. Doctors are making smaller, less noticeable adjustments, rather than the unmistakable frozen face Botox treatments, too-tight face lifts, obvious nose jobs and prominent cheek and lip fillers. In their place is the use of new techniques and technologies including lasers and other injectables for more subtle, natural-looking “tweaks” to one’s appearance. This makes it harder to determine whether or not one has had cosmetic work done, which is the benchmark of a great cosmetic procedure. More and more individuals are looking to leave everyone asking: “Did she/he or didn’t she/he?”  

One theory is that by patients starting younger with smaller, regular adjustments, there will be no need for a full facelift or other invasive procedures in the future. Tweakments are a less noticeable maintenance, so as to keep other guessing as to whether or not any work has been done at all. But these tweakments are not limited to the facial area.

Cool Sculpting

Treatment is performed to shape and contour problem areas that are prone to collecting extra fat deposits. This treatment is not for the breast area, but is safe for any other areas of the body with pinchable fat. This procedure kills fat cells by freezing them (a process known as cryolipolysis) and the fat cells are later metabolized and naturally eliminated by the body for good. Multiple sessions, lasting approximately sixty minutes each, can be done, with each session decreasing the fat cells by approximately 20%-30%. This is not an instant results treatment, and can take up to three months to see initial results, with full results attained around six months. The fat loss in the treated area is permanent, but other areas of the body can accumulate fat if the patient resumes improper eating habits. It is not a treatment for obesity and should only be used to treat problematic areas, such as inner and outer thighs, stubborn belly fat, love handle areas of the waist, neck/chin areas and back/bra fat areas.  

Benefits of Cool Scupting vs Liposuction:

  • Liposuction removes fat by using large tubes (cannulas) inserted into the body through a surgical incision which required the patient to be put under general anesthesia and generally 1 week of recovery time.
  • Cool Sculpting is done completely externally, is non-surgical, therefore requiring no anesthesia or downtime.

As with any cosmetic procedure, cost varies on geographic location and provider. Another factor in the cost of cool sculpting is the size of the applicator used. Applicator size varies, depending on area being treated. Average procedure costs is estimated at $2,000.00, but also varies by number of areas treated, and how many treatments are needed.  Currently, Cool Sculpting applicators come in mini, medium and large sizes, ranging from $750.00 to $1500.00 per applicator.

Non-surgical Nose Job (Rhinoplasty)

Small amounts of hyaluronic acid filler are strategically injected to sculpt and reshape the nose in as little as fifteen minutes.

Benefits of non-surgical nose job vs. Traditional Rhinoplasty:

  1. Traditional surgical rhinoplasty can be performed to correct bumps and reduce large noses, involves surgical incisions and general anesthesia with downtime.
  2. Non-surgical rhinoplasty is best for changing nostril shape or building up the nasal bridge, involves no incisions or anesthesia, and no downtime.

The cost of non-surgical rhinoplasty varies by geographic location, but the average price in the U.S. is $1,025.00. The overall cost is also dependent on the type of dermal fillers used. Most procedures can be done using one syringe of the chosen filler. If more than one syringe is required, this will increase the cost. Compared to the $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 price tag of traditional rhinoplasty, one can see why this tweakment may be chosen over conventional surgery.

Otoplasty

Other “tweakment” procedures include ear pinning (otoplasty) which can be performed under local, IV or general anesthesia, depending on surgeon preference and patient circumstances. This procedure corrects prominent (protruding) ears by bringing them into better proportion with the face. An incision is made just behind the ear, in the fold where the ear joins to the head. Cartilage and skin are removed in order to achieve the desired effect. Once sculpting is achieved to satisfactory position, sutures are applied to hold the ear in place until full healing occurs. While it is a surgical procedure, discomfort is minimal for most, with little downtime and minimal thin scarring behind the ears. Some patients may experience some mild discomfort if they are side-sleepers, but most agree that the improvement in their appearance outweighs any of the temporary discomforts. 

The average cost of otoplasty is between $4,000.00 and $4,700.00. Cost can fluctuate by surgeon, how extensive the procedure, whether cartilage cutting is required, and other factors that may arise.

Liquid Facelift

An alternative to a full facelift is a procedure known as an 8 point lift, sometimes called a “liquid facelift.” Various cosmetic fillers, such as Juvederm, Voluma, Botox and Restylane, are used on eight of the most prominent facial features that tend to show signs of aging. They are injected with precision to contour, fill and shape to a more desired, sculpted appearance. This procedure is performed in-office and has very little downtime, if any.  Different surgeons will have differing preferences on which eight areas to focus treatment, but the typical eight areas include:  

  • Cheek and bone structures: Cheekbones are enhanced, shaped and rounded using fillers.
  • Tear troughs: Mid-facial area where fillers are injected to minimize the appearance of the hallows beneath the eyes.
  • Nasolabial fold: Also known as “laugh lines” or “smile lines” – the folds that run from each side of the nose to the corners of the mouth. Fillers are injected here to add volume and decrease deep folds.
  • Marionette lines: Imagine drawing a line from each corner of the mouth, straight downward. These are known as “marionette lines” and can give the appearance of a downturned, frowning face with age. Fillers are used to soften the deep creases, creating a more upturned mouth and softer appearance.
  • Pre-jowl fold: This is the area on either side of the chin. The aging process can cause a loss of facial volume, resulting in sagging in this area. The fillers replace some of this lost volume.
  • Jaw line: Treatment is done here to enhance the angle of the jaw for lift.
  • Lower cheek: The aging process and facial volume loss mentioned above can also lead to a hallowing of the cheeks, giving the face a rather gaunt appearance. Cosmetic fillers can produce a more natural curve and structure to the cheek, giving a softer, rounder, more youthful appearance.

The average price for the 8 point lift, aka liquid facelift, is around $2,500.00, but again, is dependent upon surgeon, location, and number of areas treated, as all eight may not be needed. Compared to the average cost of $8,000.00 - $9,000.00 for a surgical facelift, and the drastic reduction in risks and recovery time, this procedure is rapidly becoming more preferred for those seeking more natural-looking outcomes. The 8 point lift is recommended more for someone who may feel they are too young for a surgical facelift intervention, but still wish to regain a  more youthful appearance.

Micro-liposuction

Another tweakment growing in popularity is “shaping”, also known as microliposuction. This liposuction uses microcannulas (small tubes, typically .9mm to 3mm diameter) to extract the fat. The microcannulas are inserted through multiple (four to twelve or more) tiny incisions or round punctures in the skin throughout the treatment area. While there are more incisions compared to traditional liposuction procedures, these incisions are typically so small (less than 1/8 inch long) that stitches are not required. Microlipo shaping can be done under local anesthetic and has a quick recovery time with only mild discomfort, if any, for the patient.

In contrast, traditional liposuction can also be done under local anesthesia, but general anesthesia is often preferred. The procedure uses larger cannulas (3.4mm to 10mm diameter) to extract the fat. The incisions needed for traditional liposuction are larger (greater than ¼ inch) but typically, fewer are needed. Due to the size of these incisions, however, stitches are required for proper closure and healing. While both are invasive procedures, the significant difference in cannula size and incision methods lead to increased downtime and recovery following a traditional liposuction procedure. The smaller incisions also allow better drainage, reduced risk of infection, fewer follow-up appointments needed, and faster healing time all around.

Cosmetic Dental Procedures

Cosmetic dental procedures are also a growing part of the tweakment trend. Dental tweakments can treat a variety of issues from bleaching stained teeth, to veneers over damaged teeth, to repairing uneven gum lines.

Teeth whitening/bleaching can range from $400.00 to $700.00, depending on the method of whitening, which varies from in-office procedures to take-home tray kits.

Porcelain veneers come with a price tag starting around $7,000.00. Porcelain is bonded to damaged teeth. Veneers can improve the size, shape and color of teeth, or repair gaps and chipped or damaged teeth. Because the underlying tooth is altered before placement of the veneer, this procedure is irreversible.

Gum lift surgery alters the gum tissue to reveal more of the teeth, to improve the smile’s appearance. This procedure improves the smiles of patients with “tiny teeth”, or a smile that is predominantly “gummy,” where the gums sit lower on the teeth. This procedure is also known as a “crown lengthening procedure.” It can be performed via two methods: via laser or with surgical scalpel.

Laser is the preferred method, as the type of laser used (diode laser) cauterizes as it cuts, reducing bleeding and thereby reducing pain and recovery time. Local anesthesia is used, but most cosmetic dentists believe that some sort of sedation used in conjunction helps ease the process for the patient. The laser method is virtually painless, and gently sculpts a more uniform, scalloped gum line.

The scalpel method achieves the same end result, but creates increased bleeding and pain. Stitches are required with the scalpel method, which results in a longer recovery period and increased risk of infection or other complications. Stitches may need to be removed by the doctor, or in some cases, absorbable stitches may be used, which would not require removal.

During the procedure, the gums are separated from the underlying bone, excess bone is trimmed away, and the same gum tissue is replaced back and stitched at a higher level, revealing more of the tooth, improving the smile’s appearance.

While the base cost for the gum lift procedure is around $3,000.00, there may be additional procedures needed that will increase the overall costs. For instance, any caps that were on the teeth would need to be re-made, as the tooth surface is altered. The cost of the procedure could also be significantly lower, depending on how much gum line is in need of treatment.

For more information on cosmetic dentistry, visit the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry website: http://profiles.aacd.com/

No matter which cosmetic tweakment one chooses, being informed of all the risks, costs and expected outcomes is paramount. As with any procedure, research is necessary to find a reputable, competent, credentialed surgeon who has experience in performing the procedure being sought. Check out the before and after pictures of the surgeon’s patients who have had the same procedure. Read the patient testimonials for the surgeon and other surgeons in his/her practice. Be aware of all the costs and know the available payment options and what is required as far as a deposit, installments, final payment, etc. A reputable cosmetic surgery practice will be happy to meet and provide an in-depth consultation to discuss the patient’s desired outcomes and determine what procedure and methods will be best for each patient. Knowledge and information is always the best offense and defense.