Saturday, March 12, 2011

How To Look As Young As You Feel ............ By Giving Nature A ‘Helping Hand’

Some people look young at their death bed, and that is because their die young. Think Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

Most of us aspire to live a long and productive life as we are too busy enjoying all the finer things and people in our lives, and want to contribute to the society we live in. We earnestly do our best to exercise regularly and eat well, and we often feel fit and healthy on the inside. Unfortunately looking at the mirror reminds us of our journey through life and the passing of time, which does not always evoke comfortable feelings as we look back and long for the lost opportunities of our bygone youth and our fading beauty.

The wrinkles, the red and brown marks, the gauntness and droopiness: they all conspire to tell the world that we are getting towards our ‘use-by’ dates. Our self esteem plummets in friendships and relationships, and we feel less competitive in the job market against the younger and more attractive contenders. It is not fair. We all want to be liked for our life experience and inner beauty, but other people and society cannot help themselves and will judge us based on our ‘looks’ whether we like it or not.

The majority of people are not keen on or simply terrified of undergoing the knife. Cosmetic surgery looks glamorous and miraculous on shows like Extreme Makeover, but the reality is that surgery is painful, can cause scarring and permanent nerve damage, and some celebrities who have been ‘over-cooked’ just simply look ghastly and hideous. We all have read stories of young and healthy people who had died unexpectedly during or shortly after a routine liposuction procedure. Not to mention the weeks to months needed for recovery, and the significant expenses involved. This is not to say that some people with significant issues do genuinely benefit from appropriate cosmetic surgery and the risks can be mitigated by choosing a reputable surgeon.

We would all like to age gracefully, but also feel empowered to give nature a bit of a ‘helping hand’ to look more youthful. The name of the game is to look ‘natural’, like a younger version of ourselves with more vitality. We start pondering and researching what we could do to restore a more youthful face, who to help us, and how much it is going to cost. We want minimally invasive, low risk and affordable treatments that produces visible results.

For the motivated person who is ready to take action, the best bet is to make an appointment with a reputable cosmetic doctor to work out a personalised treatment plan that best suits your personal preferences, goals and budget. Many people spend months in the ‘thinking’ stage, crawling through the internet for information. Either way, an understanding of the basics of an ageing face would empower and guide us to make informed decisions.

Our faces age in a three dimensional way. Notice how babies have flawless complexions, no wrinkles or folds, full cheeks and a sharp well defined jaw line. There is the saying that our faces evolve from a rounded grape to a shrivelled sultana as we age. A basic outline of the three broad strategies for beautifying an ageing face:

1. Pigment and Redness: These are blemishes on the surface caused by the sun and the ageing process. We also have dull skin, poor tone and open pores. The skin no longer has it’s youthful glow and even colouring, and feels crepey. General treatment strategies would start with using medical grade skincare that actually treats the signs of ageing. The most proven ingredients that actually deliver results are vitamin A, vitamin C and glycolic acids, which should form the core of all skincare routines. There are also a whole host of ingredients like niacinamide, green tea etc that deliver some skin benefits. Supplementing a homecare regime with a series of chemical peels in the clinic can enhance the results achieved. The most powerful treatments would be to perform intense pulse light (IPL) for photo rejuvenation of the skin, or resurfacing the face with a laser to remove the superficial layers of damaged skin and stimulate long term collagen regrowth.

2. Wrinkles: These are divided into dynamic wrinkles which occur with movement and static wrinkles that occur at rest. The first signs of ageing are usually the dynamic wrinkles around the eyes when we smile called crows feet. Other dynamic wrinkles are the frown lines between the eyebrows and the horizontal forehead lines when we lift our eye brows. These lines of expression are often softened with anti-wrinkle injections. It is important not to over treat with anti-wrinkle injections or the face would look plastic with a startled expression. With the passage of time, a lot of these untreated dynamic wrinkles would become etched on our faces to become static wrinkles that are visible even we rest our faces. These fine lines tend to be most visible around the eyes and mouth, and can be softened with a combination of anti-wrinkle injections to paralyse the underlying muscles and dermal filler injections to plump out those lines. The great thing about anti-wrinkle injections is that there is no downtime and it is a relatively quick and pain free procedure.

3. Volume Loss: The decline in our facial volume due to atrophy of muscle and bone and sinking of fat start in our 20s but become more visible in our 30s and beyond. From the tear troughs under our eyes, the sunken cheeks, the thinning lips and lip lines, the nasal lines between the nose and mouth, the mouth lines between the mouth and jaw, and the jowls from the excess facial skin sinking downwards. This ‘skeletonised’ face can be quite depressing and is the most difficult ageing change to camouflage with make-up. In days gone by, surgeons injected excess fat obtained from liposuction of the body to plump up the face but this often leads to unpredictable and patchy results. Today the most popular treatment is to use naturally occurring and allergy-free dermal fillers to revolumise the sunken face. This involves a series of treatments using a combination of dermal fillers of varying viscosity expertly injected into the cheeks, lips and around the mouth, and the jaw lines, to recreate the contours of youth. This procedure is often referred to in the media as the ‘liquid facelift’ or the ‘natural lift’. In experienced hands, the results can take years off the face and still look very natural. It is important not to overfill the face or the result would be ‘trout pout’ or ‘pillow face’ which look very unnatural.

Hopefully the article above has enlightened you on the techniques cosmetic doctors use to assess and treat the ageing face. It is also important for clients to help themselves by living a healthy lifestyle: staying out of the sun, wearing SPF 30+ sunscreen, stop smoking, eating healthy food, drinking lots of water, getting lots of sleep, exercising regularly and thinking positive. Some of these lifestyle modifications are free, but the results of feeling better and younger on the inside are priceless when combined with cosmetic treatments performed by your doctor in the clinic.

The article above reflects the views of the author only. Dr Christina Tan is an experienced cosmetic and laser physician based in Melbourne.


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