Can Nonsurgical Face-Lifts Zap Wrinkles?

Kathy and Karen Ritter, 43-year-old twin sisters, say they've shared all of their great milestones in life — but the arrival of crow's feet isn't one of them.

The Ritter twins — now Karen Cascadden and Kathy Fitch — turned to Good Morning America to document their battle against their aging skin, with each one trying a new form of nonsurgical face-lifts.

When they were little girls growing up in Reading, Mich., Cascadden and Fitch were known as the Ritter twins, and to this day people have trouble telling them apart.

When each married and it was time to settle down, they both moved to Bradenton, Fla., to raise their families. Fitch is a teacher and Cascadden is an assistant superintendent at the Manatee County Schools and a Mary Kay beauty consultant.

Cascadden and Fitch said their spots and fine lines came from spending too much time in the sun. After the procedures, the twin sisters said they couldn't be more happy with the results of their different procedures.

Dr. Howard Sobel, a dermatologist based in New York City, used the "cool-touch" laser on Cascadden, while Dr. Michelle Copeland, a New York-based cosmetic plastic surgeon, used a "rejuvenation-combination" technique for Fitch.

The so-called non-ablative therapies, which involve no cutting, are gradually making their way onto the market in major cities.

Procedures Aimed at Younger Clientele

Unlike traditional treatments, which alter the top layers of skin and require days or weeks of healing, the nonsurgical face-lifts work on the tissue beneath the skin, and can be done in just minutes in the doctor's office.

For procedures, repeat visits are needed, but there are very few down sides, Copeland maintained. Doctors are not sure how long the treatments last, as there have been no long-term studies.

The nonsurgical techniques are aimed at a younger clientele, noted Sobel, those who are too busy to deal with the days or weeks of healing.

"It's important to know that nothing takes the place of a true face-lift if the person has totally lost elasticity in their skin," Sobel said. "The cool-touch is for people in that in-between stage."

The Cool Touch Method

The cool-touch technique takes 20 minutes and the patient is awake during the procedure, Sobel explained.

"We give a topical agent to numb the skin, or if needed a pill to relax you," he said, noting the procedure does sting a little. "It feels like a light rubber band snapping your face."

A device cools the top layer of the skin with a cryogen mist while a laser heats up the water that is under the skin. That helps stimulates the body's cells to produce more collagen, which helps keep skin younger looking.

"This can be done during lunch, and has only a little pain involved," Sobel said. "It is done in 20 to 30 minutes and you can go back to work. There are no real pre- or post-instructions to follow. It is a laser that causes temporary redness but no scarring."

Cascadden said the procedure felt as if she were under a series of hot camera flashes.

The treatment is designed to make fine and deep lines less visible, and also works on acne scarring. Patients may see a blush in the treated area for a short period of time following the treatment, but they can apply makeup and resume regular activities right after the treatment.

Each visit costs about $700, and most people require between three and six treatments.

Sobel said Cascadden's results were very positive. "There was some tightening along and underneath the jawline and in the cheek area as well," Sobel said. Some of her fine lines and spots even seemed to disappear.

"I think we've improved her [Cascadden]," he added, "And I think in a year from now, we'll do some maintenance therapy on her."

The Combination Method

The "rejuvenation-combination" technique works differently, with a combination of procedures. It is considered ideal for people with mildly to moderately wrinkled and sagging skin, but can also tighten skin around the neck and reduce discoloration, visible scars and fine lines.

First, something called microdermabrasion is used to remove the top layer of cells. "We spray fine crystal across the skin and vacuum them off along with the dead cells so this smooths the skin," Copeland explained. "Then there is a light-touch laser, which removes another top layer of cells and helps thermally tighten the skin."

The last step involves using an intense pulse light on the skin, which stimulates the cells to produce more collagen beneath the skin's surface.

"All these things together make each one more powerful," Copeland said. "You get more tightening. More youth."

Fitch said it felt like she had a sunburn following her "rejuvenation-combination."

Patients typically require six treatments of the combination therapy, which can be a week or several weeks apart, with improvements visible in the skin over time. It costs between $500 and $700 a visit, and patients will need at least three visits.

Online Resources:

American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: facial-plastic-surgery.org/ American Association of Plastic Surgeons: aaps1921.org/ American Board of Plastic Surgery: abplsurg.org/ American College of Surgeons: facs.org/ American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: surgery.org/

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