Patients ask me all the time…”How do I fight off the effects of gravity, and do I need surgery to do that?” The good news is that we now have more tools than ever before to defy the effects of aging. In order to get the best results, it is essential to know what each tool can do, but perhaps even more importantly, what it cannot do. By picking the right tool for each area of your body – whether surgical or non-surgical – you will have a better chance to get the result you are seeking.
As we age, the loss of elasticity of our skin results in the appearance of sagging. Brows can look low, eyelids can sag, and jowls invade once beautiful jawlines. Laxity in the neck can result in drooping that is especially noticeable when looking down or in pictures taken from the side. Sagging of the breasts, technically known as breast ptosis, may result not only from aging and the effects of gravity, but from the after-effects of pregnancy and breast feeding. Pregnancy can have a profound affect on the tummy area and can lead to loose skin as well as separation of the muscles which leads to an appearance of rounding. Weight fluctuations can also have a profound effect. If you gain and loose weight frequently, and especially if you loose a large amount of weight, the laxity and sagging will be much greater, particularly contributing to laxity in the tummy and thighs.
Non-surgical treatments have a critical role in preventing aging and the effects of gravity, but when actual sagging occurs, surgery is typically the best and often only solution to get the changes you want. Currently non-surgical treatments have little capacity to tighten loose skin, particularly in the body region. But non-surgical treatments can do a wonderful job addressing wrinkles due to muscle hyperactivity (Botox®), of softening the appearance of deeper creases in the face (dermal fillers), of reducing isolated areas of fat accumulation (CoolSculpting®), and improving the texture and appearance of the skin(skin care, lasers, chemical peels).
In the face, if you really want to tighten sagging jowls, lift a droopy brow or eyelids, or to address loose skin in the neck, surgery is definitely the way to go. A brow lift can reposition the brows and help create a more open, bright look to the eyes. An eyelid lift can smooth the skin of the upper eyelid or soften the appearance of “bags” of the lower eyelid. A facelift can improve the cheek contours and reduce jowls, creating a more youthful, smooth jaw line, and a neck lift can tighten and smooth the neck. While surgery is the dominant solution for defying gravity in the facial area, there are situations where non-invasive procedures can play a role. For example, if a patient has very early jowling and isn’t yet ready for a face lift, placing fillers along the edge of the jowl and along the jawline can camouflage the appearance, although it will not “lift” it away. If a patient has lost volume of the upper cheek area, injecting the area with fillers can replace volume and give the appearance of lifting the midface.
In the facial area it is extremely common to combine surgical and non-surgical approaches to optimize your results. For instance, while a face and neck lift will help you defy the effects of gravity, the surgery will not change the overall appearance of your skin. A skin care program can work wonders to enhance the results of your surgery by smoothing rough spots, evening the color of your skin and reducing dark spots, shrinking pore size, and creating a healthy glow to your skin.
In the breast and body areas, non-surgical approaches have little to offer in terms of actual lifting of tissues in order to defy gravity. This is because current technologies do not sufficiently tighten skin to create dramatic improvements, nor can they effectively tighten the soft tissues under the skin. If you really want to tighten sagging tissue back to its youthful position, surgery is required. In the breast, this means undergoing a breast lift (mastopexy) either with or without implants. In the tummy area, this means an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) with or without liposuction. In recent years, buttock lifts and thigh lifts have become increasingly common.
While there are plenty of non-surgical technologies being marketed that tout skin tightening, they have not been proven to work. In fact, some of our patients have said they tried these treatments, especially in the body areas, and most felt that they had either no result or that the results were so minimal that it was not worth the investment.
If you are interested in counteracting the effects of gravity, come and consult with one of the board-certified physicians at the Emory Aesthetic Center. We can go over options specific to your individual needs, and help you understand which surgical or non-surgical treatments are best for you.
or call us at 404-778-6880 to schedule a consultation
About Dr. Eaves
Dr. Eaves recently returned to Atlanta, Georgia, to head the Emory Aesthetic Center as Medical Director, having previously completed his plastic surgery residency as well as a fellowship in endoscopic and minimally invasive plastic surgery at Emory University, The Emory Clinic, and associated hospitals. Before joining the Emory Aesthetic Center, Dr. Eaves was a partner in Charlotte Plastic Surgery for more than fifteen years and served as group president from 2010-2012.
His professional and institutional committee memberships and offices include an impressive list of national, international and local plastic surgery organizations, societies, boards, task forces, advisory councils, coalitions and foundations, including having served as President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) from 2010-2011 and Trustee (2011-Present).
Dr. Eaves’ primary areas of academic inquiry have been in minimally-invasive and endoscopic aesthetic surgery, patient safety, system and process improvement in plastic surgery, evidence-based medicine applied to plastic surgery and recontouring surgery after massive weight loss. He has received several patents for new medical devices he developed, and has made major clinical service contributions to his field. Dr. Eaves has published more than 100 articles, book chapters and book reviews on plastic surgery in peer reviewed publications, as well as manuals, videos, computer programs and other teaching aids and has coauthored the first textbook on the topic of endoscopic plastic surgery.