Coffee, poke bowl, facelift.
It's being sold as the new lunchtime routine: non-invasive, hour-long procedures that you can purportedly have done before skipping back to the office.
The celebrities are doing it. Having denied plastic surgery in the past, Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin) is a fan of what has been dubbed the "lunchtime facelift": the model has regular platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatments to help "maintain" her visage administered by Dusseldorf-based specialist Dr Barbara Sturm, clients also include Bella Hadid, Kim Kardashian West and Kate Moss.
Model Hailey Bieber is a fan of the lunchtime facelift, in particular the PRP facial.Credit:AP
The non-surgical facelift promises to smooth, firm, tighten and reduce fat without the use of a scalpel. With little to no downtime and at a fraction of the cost of a surgical facelift (think $1500 compared to $15,000), the procedure has grown in popularity thanks mostly to promotion on social media.
But can an hour-long, non-invasive procedure really achieve noticeable, anti-aging results à la plastic surgery?
A non-surgical lift only indirectly props up ligaments – like a sand bag holding up a scaffold.
Having denied plastic surgery, model of the moment Bella Hadid is said to be a fan of the lunchtime facelift.Credit:AP
Body Catalyst clinic in Sydney's CBD recently invited me to try their Ulfit lunchtime facelift treatment. It combines radio frequency and high-intensity focused ultrasound waves to delve deep into the skin's superficial muscular aponeurotic system (SMAS: the layer that surgeons pull back when doing a surgical facelift) without leaving a mark on the surface.
While wrapped in a blanket, I mostly dozed through the hour-long procedure while the therapist applied small blasts of heat to my face and neck with a gun-like apparatus. It felt hot but not unpleasant, and afterwards a hydrating serum was applied.
Apart from my skin feeling warm, there were no side-effects and I went straight out to meet friends.
While I didn't notice a remarkable difference in my face after just one procedure (experts recommend at least two) my neck was noticeably tighter within a week and my skin felt somewhat firmer within six weeks. At $700 a pop the Ulfit is not pocket change, and for that type of pricetag I was expecting a more noticeable result.
But as Dr Jack Zoumaras, cosmetic surgeon at Artiste in Darling Point, puts it: "[A] non-surgical lift only indirectly props up ligaments – like a sand bag holding up a scaffold – and fills lost volume, while a surgical facelift lifts skin, tightens muscle, reconstructs ligaments and moves and replenishes fat."
Dr Zoumaras believes there is "no reason comparison".
"A facelift is like flying to America and a non-surgical facelift is like rowing to America."
Dr Mike Shenouda, a skin cancer surgeon and cosmetic physician at Geniale in Drummoyne, is more optimistic about the treatment.
Before and after images promoting Ulfit treatments on the chin and neck.
"Who wants to have surgery and hospitals and anaesthesia when you can have a one hour procedure?" he asks.
"Anaesthesia can have it's complications and it can impact brain cells and memory. We don't take it lightly, so we encourage clients not to go through a very invasive procedure if they can avoid it."
After 20 years in the industry, he has noticed that clients are seeking more holistic, low-risk options.
"The idea of a traditionally invasive surgical facelift has almost been superseded by a new wave of aesthetic medicine thanks to developments both in science and technology," he says.
When it comes to choosing the right treatment, Dr Shenouda says one of the most important factors to consider is a patient's expectations and managing those expectations in what therapists can achieve.
Cosmetic physician Dr Shobhna Singh says cosmetic surgery nowadays is reserved for "more severe and older cases".
"The non-surgical facelift is designed to actually delay surgery and avoid the side effects and downtime associated with surgery," Dr Singh says. "Technology has advanced significantly in the past 20-30 years and now we can deliver really good results … by treating early signs of aging gradually."
As well as anti-wrinkle and dermal injections (known as liquid facelifts), other popular anti-ageing, non-surgical treatments include platelet rich plasma (PRP) and thread facelifts. But both are far more invasive than radio frequency and ultrasound-type treatments like Ulfit and can require up to two days downtime thanks to swelling and possible bruising.
A facelift is like flying to America and a non-surgical facelift is like rowing to America.
For PRP facials – AKA the vampire facial made famous by Kim Kardashian West in 2013 – a doctor will draw blood from the patient, spin it in a centrifuge and separate platelet-rich fibrin and PRP from the patient's blood and then inject it or apply it topically. The $550 treatment claims to improve skin tone and texture, smooth fine lines, promote hair growth, and is also touted as repairing injuries to bones and muscles.
Starting from around $1500, thread facelifts lift and firm sagging facial tissues by using absorbable sutures made from biodegradable polymers beneath the top layer of the skin with a needle, lifting facial muscles and securing tissue into new positions.
Threads have been popular in Europe for some time, demand is growing here, according to Dr Shenouda, as aesthetically concerned people seek more natural, long-lasting – the treatments are supposed to last up to three years – results.
While non-surgical treatments are on the up, Dr Singh says she doesn't believe they will ever wipe out plastic surgery entirely.
"There is a time and place for both," she says. "Both surgical and non-surgical facelifts have different purposes and are used at different stages of life.
"You would never eradicate the surgical facelift for more severe patients with a lot of sagginess or problems that we can't fix with the non-surgical approach. Non-surgical is something that you are doing gradually over a period of time, you're not spending thousands of dollars in the one hit, it is a gradual treatment to maintain and prevent ageing."
Although, ultimately, as Dr Shenouda puts it: "The most important thing is people's happiness and making people feel good about themselves. That needs to come from within."
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