Is it more effective to freeze your love handles, killing the fat cells between two super-cooled plates in a procedure known as cryolipolysis, or vacuum them away with liposuction? And which lasts longer, a surgical facelift or facial skin tightening via a laser?

Consumers often are in the dark about the most effective and safest cosmetic dermatology procedures to improve skin texture and color and remove subcutaneous fat, a surging $10 billion industry in the United States. One reason is a dearth of comparable research trials, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.  The study, published in the January issue of the journal Dermatologic Clinics, reviews existing research and identifies which procedures have been proven safe and effective and which ones have less evidence behind them.

“Many treatments gaining popularity are novel techniques that use complex devices, such as lasers and ultrasound, but there is sparse research evaluating their long-term effects,” said lead author Murad Alam, MD, chief of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We need more prospective studies comparing different treatments for the same problem head-to-head, so doctors and consumers know what’s best and safest.”

Best-Known, Proven Procedures

Alam said the cosmetic dermatology surgical procedures that are well-known to be safe and effective when done by a trained, board-certified physician include: injected neurotoxins to smooth wrinkles; liposuction to remove fat; and lasers to treat broken blood vessels, port wine stains and rosacea and for removing brown spots and hair.

Newer, Lesser-Known Procedures

Other procedures that may be effective but have less evidence behind them include devices that use infrared light or ultrasound to purportedly shrink and tighten the skin, low-level laser light for fat removal, and fat “melting” by super cooling the fat cells, Alam noted. These are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and data show they work and are safe short term. But these procedures are newer and therefore less is known about their long-term safety and effectiveness.

“Patients need to be smart consumers and ask their doctors better questions such as, ‘How does procedure A compare to procedure B?’”Alam said. "Is there research comparing treatments, such as a facelift versus non-invasive skin tightening? Is there evidence regarding the degree of improvement and how long the results will last? How long has a particular procedure or device been approved, and would the doctor be comfortable recommending it to a friend or family member?’”

Here are findings from Alam’s review of 98 studies on cosmetic dermatology procedures:

Injectable botulinum toxins tape A or neurotoxins: “These have been around for 20 years and during that entire period, when an approved pharmaceutical product in approved doses is used for cosmetic purposes, there have not been any instances of serious reactions,” Alam reported.

Liposuction: “Tumescent liposuction, the kind when you inject fluid into the area where you are removing fat, has been shown to be exceedingly safe,” Alam said. “The main potential complication, excessive bleeding, simply doesn’t occur with that form of liposuction when appropriate rules are followed because the anesthetic used in the procedure prevents bleeding.”

Low-level laser light for fat removal: “Some companies sell products they claim can cause changes in skin and subcutaneous tissue,” Alam said. “One of these devices has been approved for reducing fat. It’s safe, but we have very limited information about its degree of effectiveness or how long the result lasts.”

Fat freezing: A device sandwiches the fat on the abdomen or thighs between two cooling plates. The fat cells die and are absorbed by the body. “It’s FDA approved and does work,”Alam said, “but we don’t know how long it lasts or how many cubic centimeters of fat will go away in different patients. While it appears to be safe and is a promising treatment, we won’t know for several more years if there is a downside or if fat removal is truly permanent.”

Non-invasive skin tightening: These devices use radio-frequency energy or infrared light or ultrasound to heat and shrink the skin. “Some tightening definitely occurs,” Alam said. “What we don’t know is exactly how much tightening goes on, who it will work on or how long it will last.” One study compared facelifts to these minimally invasive methods and found that they provided approximately one-third the tightening benefits of surgical facelifts.

Obstacles to Big Research Trials

Several obstacles prevent conducting large-scale research trials on cosmetic procedures and devices, Alam said. Because the FDA’s approval mechanism for devices is less rigorous than for drugs, the agency doesn’t compel pharmaceutical companies to do large trials. Thus, companies may test a device on as few as 50 or 100 patients. As soon as a mechanism gets approval, companies aren’t motivated to do more testing or to compare one procedure to another.

Nor is there government funding for cosmetic surgery trials. Recently, the FDA asked companies with recently approved devices to continue monitoring patients even after approval to make sure no new problems are uncovered later.

Finding the Right Treatment

“Selecting the right cosmetic treatment for a patient is not a trivial matter,” Alam stressed. “Patients should get treatments from experienced practitioners with access to the data and an ability to evaluate it, rather than someone at a nearby spa who just has one laser, is minimally trained and is not able to evaluate the scientific evidence but eager to use this device for every patient complaint.”

Patients should be aware there are often many different types of treatment for the same cosmetic concern, Alam said. One of these may be most appropriate for the patient’s specific issues and personal preferences (such as degree of downtime that is tolerable). “Experienced physicians can help patients select the treatments that are best for them,” he noted.

To find a skilled cosmetic dermatologist, patients can look for members of major dermatology associations, such as the American Academy of Dermatology or the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Association websites will often provide contact information about such physicians in a specific geographic area. It is also useful to ask physicians if they have specific training in cosmetic dermatologic surgery and what types of procedures they do often.

By Marla Paul,  health sciences editor at Northwestern.

Source:   Alam M, Olson JM, Asgari MM.  Needs Assessment for Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery. Dermatology Clinics, January 2012.

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Comments

I guess nothing came of those people who advocated opposition to 'beauty' as a part of human relations and human attraction. It seems people just can't shake the desire to be more beautiful, no matter how difficult that goal is to achieve. What you think is beautiful and what I think is beautiful may be different. But we still each in our own way strive to be more beautiful.

I always wondered whether these cosmetic surgeries are effective or not. If yes, which one is the best for long term and which will not have a bad effect on my skin, body and health. Thanks a ton for sharing this information.

skin tightening procedures are a short term fix as opposed to eating right and taking care of your self the natural way.

Hi, I think that it is very important to research the background of your surgeon before going under any surgery. Also ask as much as possible about the procedure and the side effects. Regards

I agree with eselee46 many doctors out there don't bother to explain the side effects and what are you getting into. Also it is the patient's duty to do the the research

The safety of cosmetic surgery is proportional to the professionalism of the surgeon and this is linked to the price of 'intervention.

You had post valuable information about Cosmetic Surgery and Treatments here.Very useful information.Hoping more posts from you.

This is a very helpful post. thank you very much for sharing this informative blog post. keep up the good work.

Nice post,Consumers often are in the dark about the most effective and safest cosmetic dermatology procedures to improve skin texture and color and remove subcutaneous fat.Thanks for share these things.

Non-invasive skin tightening: These devices use radio-frequency energy or infrared light or ultrasound to heat and shrink the skin. “Some tightening definitely occurs,” Alam said. “What we don’t know is exactly how much tightening goes on, who it will work on or how long it will last.

The problem with surgery, any surgery, is that you can never really get 100% perfect results. Aesthetic surgery can deliver great results, however the side effects can be terrible. Also the class of patient (Client) that is interested in aesthetic surgery is usually extremely picky, and so is unlikely to be completely satisfied after the plastic surgery procedure.

Personally I like the idea of the non-surgical aesthetic procedures such as botox, since at least if side effect occure they aren't permanent. I would advise non-surgicals to most candidates, as long as their skin is not too far aged.

Very well written, I agree that both surgeon and patient need to be in total agreement on any and all procedures. We take every effort at our Cosmetic surgery practice to never suggest any treatment plan that that is excessive. No one should be shocked by the results, but they should notice that something is different.

Thanks for posting this I am considering getting a nose job and I want to do as much research before I see a doctor.
I really appreciate your post.

This may sound a cliche, but a proper diet really is the key. I've been trying to lose weight for 4 years now. I did pilates and tai-chi, ran 4x a week and hit the gym thinking I'd lose weight with these activities. I didn't pay any attention to my diet, and that was why none of them worked. Last year, I finally faced the truth that I had to leave Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Wendy's behind. Now I'm seeing results, and I couldn't be happier. Don't give up ladies!

We all have different choice, but I think natural will be more beautiful...

People should be accepted for who they are and who they will eventually be in the future (aging cannot be controlled).

So stop the botox and spend the money on something else!

I believe that being on a healthy diet is far better than any cosmetic surgery. It will make your skin glow and totally younger, and that is, without any invasive procedure.

Do you think bad FDA’s approval mechanism is reason of approval machines for cryo lipolysis which probably do not work? Positive results of FDA are sharing to next countries and affect consumers' views.

Before entering such an operation like surgery, surgeon and patient should have an agreement for the side effects of operation.

Interesting topic! We are all thankful for the advance in cosmetic surgery but we shouldn’t forget about the side effects. Doctor and patient must discuss not only the technique of the procedure and the outcomes but also the possible side effects.

Thanks for this article! One of my friends was thinking about getting cosmetic services in Chicago, but she didn't know how safe the different procedures were! I'll share this with here to help her make the decision!

This article is amazing! I know I can come here and get a great read all the time and will continue to recommend to my friends

The concern over hair loss has been present since time immemorial. Alopecia, baldness or loss of hair is an emotionally distressing problem. The condition is related with noteworthy emotional discomfort and may result in severe individuality dysfunction. Most men will build up male pattern baldness (due to male hormones) until approximately 40-45 years of age. Women can also suffer hair loss. The female pattern sets in at a later age than in men and is usually limited to the top of the head. Baldness is related to aging, heredity and sometimes other factors like hormonal imbalances, infections of the scalp, immune disorder, certain medications, burns etc. It can also result from physical and mental stress or excessive cosmetic abuse of hair. Medical and surgical treatments are now available to manage this problem.

As with any other surgery keep in mind the risks and costs involved if the procedure goes wrong.
Its risky to tinker with nature

It saddens me that some women feel the need to have the body surgically altered. You are all wonderful human beings just the way you are. Surely the root cause of this is an underlying issue, perpetuated by a system that promote false and detrimental values.

Why deal with the external manifestations when you can deal with the underlying issues.

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