In honour of Valentine’s Day, Team Costhetics wants to talk about love affairs…specifically Australians love affair with cosmetic injectables.

If you’ve had any needling suspicions about this popular approach to facial rejuvenation, please keep reading. Cosmeceutical injections, cosmetic treatments that employ pharmaceutical-grade products, are helping millions of people maintain a fresh, youthful appearance without cosmetic surgery.

Australia Goes Overboard for Cosmetic Treatments

Hamlet’s quote, “Frailty, thy name is woman,” has morphed through the years into “Vanity, thy name is woman.” We’d like to amend the Bard’s words again to say, “Vanity, thy name is Australian woman…and man, too.” In a recent article, SBS reported we are spending a billion dollars each year on cosmetic enhancement, outspending Americans by about 40% per person.

A tremendous percentage of that spend both below and above the equator goes for anti-ageing medicines delivered by needle. The benefits of cosmetic injectables vs. surgery are well-documented:

  • No cutting
  • No scars
  • No risks from general anaesthesia
  • Shorter downtime
  • Lower cost

All that and the possibility that injectables may delay the need for a surgical facelift? No wonder so many Australians are saying, “Give me the needle!”

The 1-2-3 of Cosmetic Injectables

Most people think there are only two kinds of cosmetic injectables. In fact, there are three:

  • Neuromodulators (anti-wrinkle injections) – to weaken and paralyse facial muscles
  • Dermal fillers – to replace lost volume and help support facial skin
  • Fat-targeting acid – to dissolve small quantities of fat beneath the chin

Despite the name, microneedling is not a cosmetic injectable treatment per se. In microneedling, multiple tiny, sterile needles are used to puncture the skin. This controlled injury helps to stimulate collagen production. It is possible to use microneedling to deposit certain types of dermal filler into deeper layers of the skin. This treatment can be especially effective in treating acne scarring.

Anti-Wrinkle: What’s Good Keeps Getting Better

“With comprehensive facial analysis and careful injection technique, (anti-wrinkle injections) enables plastic surgeons to restore a more youthful facial appearance, in a safe and efficient office procedure,” says Dr Rod Rohrich, Editor-in-Chief of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery in the article ‘Advances and Refinements’ in Neuromodulators for Facial Rejuvenation. 

Neuromodulators, aka anti-wrinkle injections, were approved for cosmetic use in 1996, and are injectable drugs that restrict facial muscles from contracting and forming dynamic wrinkles that can lead to static wrinkles. What’s the difference?

  • Dynamic Wrinkles – These ageing lines form in facial skin. The skin stretches naturally to accommodate facial muscle movement when you laugh, frown, pucker up, drink coffee, smoke, smile, squint, etc. Youthful skin easily returns to its smooth, unwrinkled state when muscles relax again. As we age, however, skin elasticity decreases and the ability to bounce back is lost.
  • Static Wrinkles – These often deeply etched facial lines remain in place after we stop using the muscles that cause them. Factors that contribute to static wrinkles include the loss of fat, collagen, and skin tone due to ageing. Gravity also plays a role.

Anti-wrinkle injections temporarily block muscular nerve signals. This weakens the muscles ability to contract, leaving the face looking more relaxed and youthful. Anti-wrinkle injections are recommended for correcting:

  • Overall ageing face
  • Outer eye wrinkles (crow’s feet)
  • Frownies (forehead lines)

Anti-wrinkle injections can even help combat excessive sweating or oiliness. They are not appropriate for treating facial wrinkles caused by

  • Sun damaged skin
  • Lax skin

During the treatment your injector will use a very small needle to target the specific muscles responsible for wrinkles and furrows. The treatment doesn’t take long and there is no downtime.

When administered properly, anti-wrinkle injections minimise the appearance of wrinkles without affecting your ability to make natural facial expressions. A little anti-wrinkle goes a long way. A minute amount injected into the underlying muscle helps keep your face wrinkle-free for approximately three months. Regular touch-ups can help you keep skin smooth.

“The face has many underlying sensitive structures, for example: nerves, vessels and eyes, when treating wrinkles,” Dr Terry Loong told Marie Claire. “If the person administering the injections is untrained and not careful, there’s risk of damage, infection, artery occlusion leading to tissue death and scarring. He says patients should work with “a registered medical professional who understands the anatomy of the face and knows the areas to avoid.”

What You Should Know about Dermal Fillers & Anti-Ageing

Dermal fillers are the granddaddy of injectables. They have been used in cosmetic medicine since the last century. In 1981, bovine collagen was approved as the first injectable. Now, like anti-wrinkle injections, there are many types of dermal fillers offered under a variety of brand names and improvements continue to be made.

Fillers are gels and are differentiated by:

  • Level of viscosity
  • Duration of benefits
  • Ability to stimulate collagen production

Dermal filler injections are not one size fits all, a trained professional has the skill to assess your face. The knowledge they gain during a consultation and examination helps injectors advise you as to the type of filler to use. They can guide you based on the unique nuances of your skin, not simply your facial rejuvenation goals.

Those goals most often include:

  • Soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Erase under-eye circles
  • Restore lost facial volume
  • Plump thinning lips
  • Fill in facial depressions
  • Erase nasolabial folds (‘marionette lines’ between the nose and mouth)

Different gel formulations are injected into the skin with tiny needles. They work to help solve facial ageing problems in a way unique to their properties. Here’s a quick look at just some of what different fillers can do to give you back your youthful face:

  • Acting like a sponge to absorb water and plump the surrounding area.
  • Promoting the skin’s own production of collagen.
  • Avoiding an allergic reaction as the ingredient already exists in the body.
  • Offering short-lived results (three months), allowing patients to try out a new look and have the filler dissolve or be removed if they are dissatisfied.
  • Offering long-lasting results (a year or more) and considered semi-permanent.

Dermal filler injection appointments are brief and require no special preparation. Some fillers contain a pre-mixed local anaesthetic to make patients even more comfortable. When the treatment is complete, it can take up to a week for an injectable filler to settle into place. Results are also initially masked by any swelling caused by the treatment

Here’s something you may not know: Saline (salty water) may be used to give yourself a trial run with fillers. While not entirely accurate, Glamour Magazine says, “…it can give you an idea of whether the treatment would suit you.”

Stick It to Your Double Chin with Fat-Dissolving Acid

The newest member of the cosmetic injectable family is a unique kind of injectable material. Unlike fillers, this synthetic injectable has been approved to destroy fat cells beneath the chin, known as the submental area. Once the cells are destroyed, fat can no longer be stored, and patients enjoy a more sculpted jawline as a result. The process is a gradual one. It takes time for the body to metabolise dead cells and flush them out.

The first step in this treatment is a topical numbing agent to reduce discomfort. Then, as many as 50 injections may be given in a single session, though 20 to 30 injections are considered average. The session takes less time than it does to get a facial and patients are able to return to work immediately.

The more treatments you have (up to six), the greater the improvement. According to clinical studies involving more than 1500 participants, patients reported their chins looked:

  • 8% better after 1 treatment
  • 28% better after 2 treatments
  • 55% better after 4 treatments
  • 72% better after 6 treatments

These injections are facial rejuvenation goodies that just keep on giving. Results are noticeable in approximately four to six weeks and may last for years.

It’s Not Sharp to Use Cut-Price Injectors

Tempting though it may be, you really should avoid a ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ perspective regarding cosmetic treatments. A cut-rate price often correlates with settings where unsafe, off-market products are being injected by poorly trained injectors. This is what leads to frozen or overly injected faces, as well as costly do-overs you see featured on reality shows liked Botched.

There are 43 muscles in the human face, but only a select few should be treated to reduce and eliminate signs of facial ageing. How do you know which muscles need help? You don’t, but a skilled injector with a background in cosmetic treatments and experience with cosmetic injectables does. In the article Australians Are Having More Cosmetic Procedures than Americans, Dr Douglas Grouse, underscores the importance of knowing where you’re going for injectables. “It’s imperative that people are made aware how vital it is to visit a medical practice where there are trained people to help you in a safe medical environment when having a cosmetic procedure,” he says.

Grouse urges patients to work with cosmetic physicians “who will help you focus on looking better, not different, and most importantly maintain realistic outcomes by always putting patient safety first.” Costhetics couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

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