Are you looking for a way to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, frown lines, or sagging skin? You’re not alone. Each year, millions of people opt for minimally invasive or nonsurgical procedures to alter the appearance of their skin.
In 2019 alone, Botox topped the list of cosmetic minimally invasive procedures, with 7.7 million injections — the highest number to date. This was followed by soft tissue filler with 2.7 million and chemical peels with 1.3 million procedures.
Overall, nonsurgical cosmetic procedures were up 2 percent in women. This comes as no surprise, since these noninvasive procedures are generally more affordable and require less recovery time than surgical ones.
Let’s get into the benefits and limitations of different nonsurgical approaches to facial rejuvenation.
Although a nonsurgical cosmetic treatment likely won’t give you the same dramatic results as a surgical facelift, noninvasive procedures can be very effective at targeting:
- wrinkles and deep creases
- loss of facial volume
- skin tone and texture
With that in mind, here are some of the key benefits of nonsurgical cosmetic treatments.
- More affordable. Compared with surgical facelifts, nonsurgical or minimally invasive procedures are a fraction of the cost. On average, a surgical facelift costs around $7,600. A Botox treatment costs about $400, and a chemical peel will run you around $650 to $700.
- Less recovery time. In general, the recovery time is significantly less. With some procedures, you can be back at work the same day.
- In and out of the doctor’s office quickly. Many nonsurgical treatments take less than an hour to complete.
- Less discomfort. Compared with a surgical procedure, nonsurgical treatments typically have minimal aftercare. In many cases, you can manage any discomfort with over-the-counter pain medication.
- Fewer risks overall. Because you don’t need general anesthesia or large incisions, fewer risks are typically involved with nonsurgical cosmetic procedures.
According to Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, MD, board-certified dermatologist of Westlake Dermatology, skin laxity is only one component of aging. She explained that loss of volume in your face is also an important cause of premature aging.
“A surgical facelift won’t fix many of the fine lines and crepe-y skin texture that develops with age. That is where fillers and skin resurfacing devices like lasers come in,” she says.
The treatment that works best for you will depend on what you most want to change. Some of the most popular requests include:
- tighter skin
- fewer wrinkles
- more radiant skin
All these can be addressed without going under the knife. Depending on your concerns, your dermatologist or plastic surgeon can help you decide on the type of nonsurgical procedure that will work best for you.
Let’s look at some of the possible options.
When it comes to reducing the appearance of wrinkles and frown lines, injectable therapies such as Botox and other botulinum toxin injections are the clear winner.
Injectables such as Botox, Dysport, Jeuveau, and Xeomin are derived from botulinum toxins, which are safe in small amounts. These treatments work by temporarily blocking nerve signals and muscle contractions in the areas where they’re injected.
Considered safe and effective, these treatments help improve the appearance of wrinkles and frown lines, especially in areas around the eyes and between the eyebrows. They may also slow down the formation of new wrinkles or crease lines by preventing the contraction of some facial muscles.
The risks of Botox and similar neuromodulator injections include:
- occasional headaches
- eyelid drooping
- in rare cases, toxin spread from the injection site
Botox results last around 3 to 4 months, and the average cost of a Botox procedure is about $400.
Dermal fillers are another option for wrinkle reduction, said Nikhil Dhingra, MD, of Spring Street Dermatology. In addition, dermal fillers can also help restore lost volume to certain areas of your face.
Dermal fillers are injectable treatments that consist of gel-like substances, such as hyaluronic acid, poly-L-lactic acid, or calcium hydroxylapatite. Your doctor will inject these substances beneath your skin.
Some popular dermal fillers include:
“These are excellent for a ‘liquid lift,’ which can prop up cheekbones, reinflate chins and jawlines, and enhance facial contours to restore a more revitalized face,” Dhingra said.
Dermal fillers last about 6 to 12 months and may require upkeep to maintain the results. In general, dermal fillers cost around $625 to $800.
As far as downsides, Dhingra said they carry a small risk of:
Dhingra also warned about more serious, though rare, complications like blindness. Because of the possibility of this serious side effect, it’s essential that dermal filler treatments are done by a highly trained board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
Another rare yet possible complication is tissue death. This happens when the filler gets into a blood vessel and blocks blood flow to your skin, causing skin death. This can be catastrophic if not recognized early, and can lead to wounds on your nose, lips, or cheeks.
Make sure your doctor or plastic surgeon has extensive experience with filler procedures and is prepared with a “disaster kit” to treat and reverse this condition if it’s recognized early enough.
As we age, our skin loses its elasticity, resulting in a looser appearance. To help tighten skin and achieve a younger-looking face, experts often use one of the following energy-based skin-tightening treatments.
One popular noninvasive technique is Ultherapy, which delivers ultrasound heat energy to lift and support deeper layers of skin around your chin and face area.
This procedure is more expensive than some other nonsurgical treatments. On average, nonsurgical skin tightening costs about $2,000. Results from Ultherapy last for several months to a year.
Short-term side effects may include:
- on rare occasions, bruising or numbness for a few days
Microneedling with radiofrequency is another common technique that’s used to help create firmer, smoother skin.
With this procedure, a doctor uses small needles to deliver heat-based energy to the lower layers of your skin. This can help generate new skin tissue and collagen — especially helpful for issues related to sagging skin, scarring, and skin texture.
The cost of microneedling depends on the size of the area that’s worked on and can range from $100 to $700 per session. You may need several sessions for best results.
Although it’s considered safe for most people in good health, the procedure may not be safe if you’re pregnant or take certain acne medications.
The most common side effects include minor skin irritation right after the procedure, as well as redness for a few days. Less common side effects include:
- prolonged healing
Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser skin resurfacing can help improve the texture, smoothness, and appearance of your skin.
If you want to improve your skin texture or have pigment issues, chemical peels may be a good option.
“There are a great variety of peels on the market, some suitable for all skin types while others — more potent ones — are typically reserved for skin with less pigment to avoid the risk of complications after treatment,” Dhingra said.
The cost of a chemical peel is about $650 to $700.
The most common side effects, which typically last a few days, include:
- mild swelling
Less common but more serious side effects can include:
- scarring or blistering
- skin discoloration
Microdermabrasion is often used as a superficial exfoliation to renew overall skin tone and texture. It’s considered a safe treatment for most skin types and colors.
This minimally invasive treatment is done in the doctor’s office and typically takes about an hour, with little to no downtime afterwards.
Microdermabrasion can help improve the appearance of:
- wrinkles and fine lines
- sun damage
- hyperpigmentation or age spots
- acne scarring
- enlarged pores
- stretch marks
A typical microdermabrasion procedure costs about $136.
Common side effects, which often go away a few hours after the procedure, include:
- mild tenderness
- slight swelling
Laser skin resurfacing
Laser skin resurfacing is another nonsurgical treatment. It’s often used for:
- age-related skin issues
- sun damage
- acne scars
- uneven skin tone
Your doctor will determine the type of laser — ablative or nonablative — depending on your needs. An ablative treatment removes the outer layers of the skin, while nonablative laser treatment stimulates collagen production beneath the skin’s surface without removing the top layer.
It may take several treatment sessions, but results typically last for several years. Laser skin resurfacing can cost anywhere between $1,200 and $2,000.
Healing typically takes several days, and the most common side effects include:
- rash or redness
Nonsurgical treatments are an excellent choice for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, as well as improving skin tone and firmness.
However, these procedures do have limitations.
“For patients with severe skin laxity of the lower face, neck, and eyes, nonsurgical treatments are sometimes not adequate to fully correct these concerns,” explains board-certified dermatologist Jessica Weiser, MD, FAAD, founder of Weiser Skin MD.
Results are also not permanent and typically require maintenance and upkeep.
To minimize risk and maximize results with any procedure, it’s important to work with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon who has extensive experience with these techniques.
Nonsurgical cosmetic treatments offer natural-looking results, are cost-effective, have fewer risks, and require minimal downtime compared with surgical facelifts. They can be an effective option for:
- reducing the appearance of wrinkles and frown lines
- adding volume and firmness to your skin
- improving the texture and smoothness of your skin
Although risks and complications are a possibility with any technique, side effects from nonsurgical facelift procedures tend to be minimal. The most common side effects typically include:
To minimize complications, it’s important to always work with an experienced board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.