When a friend contemplates two options for getting rid of her waddle, LAURA KEOGH guides her through the stressful decision-making process.
If the beauty industry were Vegas, a friend of mine would be considered a whale at its casinos; she’s always willing to gamble large, especially when the stakes are high. From peels to injectables, she bests me in terms of the number of procedures and treatments she has under her belt. Therefore, it wasn’t shocking when she pulled me aside after a business meeting to get my opinion on the state of her mid-40s neck. “I want to get something done to tighten it. What do you think?” she asked. I gave her my take and offered a few suggestions. I figure she’d have one of them done in the next five minutes and then be in her yoga class the next morning. It wasn’t the case. When it comes to our image, are there really any simple solutions – or easy decisions – out there?
My friend – let’s call her Abbie (name has been changed) – is one of the most salt-of-the-earth kinds of people: warm, thoughtful and kind. She’s also a really successful chick. An accomplished member of the media, Abbie spends a lot of her time appearing on TV, having her picture taken and generally being out there. She laughs awkwardly, though, if you joke about her success. Recently, Abbie found herself becoming more self-conscious about being consistently photographed. “Over the past 2-3 years, my skin has changed so much there is no straight line against my jaw line anymore and my neck has started to slacken, there’s a tiny waddle.” Unfortunately being subjected to the public doesn’t help. Plus, as she explained, “I have a demanding and stressful job and it shows up in my face.”
A few weeks later, Abbie emailed me. She wanted to know what I thought about the facial rejuvenation method known as Thermage. Using radio frequency, this treatment heats the deeper layers of your skin, triggering its natural renewal process. When shiny, new collagen reaches the surface – shazam – you look great. Considered a non-invasive procedure, it boosts little to no downtime.
To suss out if she would be a good candidate for plastic surgery, Abbie had already met with widely respected Toronto surgeon Dr. Sandy Pritchard, who told her she still looked too young. After hearing those beautiful words, Abbie was happily on the hunt for an alternative solution. “I was relieved I didn’t need surgery. I felt too young even though I know many woman who have done it earlier. I have that fear of changing who I am.”
Our email exchange consisted of all I knew about Thermage: the pros, the cons, the people I know who have experienced it, the research – even the hearsay. But Abbie also wanted the scoop on Ulthera.
The new kid on the block, Ulthera “triggers the body’s natural healing response” by using ultrasound to deliver energy to the deeper layers of the skin, according to a release by the company. The big news is that it allows the technician to view below the skin’s surface and treat the area more precisely. Beyond seeing Dr. Oz wow an audience with the device and reading about it in the media, we both needed to hear more about the method. We decided that Abbie’s best strategy would be to visit the doctors she respected most and get their opinions.
Dr. Pritchard – one of only a few doctors in Ontario who does the treatment – also offers Thermage but is encouraged by the positive research on Ulthera. It has earned FDA approval for the eye area, but “outside the U.S., clinicians have begun performing Ultherapy using a ‘dual plane’ approach to create significant improvements in the lower face and neck. In one procedure, patients are treated at two different depths, affecting twice the volume of tissue” explained a company release. Dr. Pritchard said he considered the ultrasound’s ability to view the skin tissue being treated a unique safety feature. He felt Abbie was an ideal candidate since her skin wasn’t too lax, and she liked that many people working in his office had tested the procedure and looked great. Plus, in preparation for the 30-minute treatment, a pain killer would be administered to alleviate any discomfort. She booked an appointment.
Dr. Lisa Kellett is like the Glinda the Good Witch of dermatology – you just know she’ll kindly and expertly save you from any skin woes. She has a fancy clinic in Toronto, where Abbie is a loyal patron. A consultation revealed that she’s a “perfect candidate” for Thermage. Since Dr. Kellett is, as Abbie described, “very open and candid,” she trusts her opinion. “Lisa doesn’t over-promise and is honest. Plus she has done Thermage herself and looks great,” she told me. Abbie appreciated the before and after images Dr. Kellett shared, and felt comforted that the photos showed natural-looking improvements. However, with every treatment, there is a horror story, and Thermage is no exception. Tales of pure pain for 40 minutes emerged from the gossip mill, and Abbie couldn’t ignore them. Dr. Kellett explained that her equipment features a new vibrating tip that reduces discomfort. Of Course the Good Witch would have a wand that eliminates pain. Abbie booked an appointment.
With two appointments and two weeks to go, Abbie called me to commence a summit meeting on non-invasive procedures. Over the phone, we quickly ran through the benefits and drawbacks of each. Abbie felt encouraged by Thermage’s long track record, but was still bothered by the pain reports. I, on the other hand, felt that ultrasound was a trusted medical practice and figured it was a good thing the technicians could see what the hell they were heating. Plus, you could have drugs. “Why not try the new one?” I softly urged. I also told her the decision was intimately hers, and she needed to feel comfortable with it.
A few days later, Abbie wasn’t any closer to making up her mind. In the middle of a stressful workweek, she felt overwhelmed by the remaining research she wanted to do to address her concerns for both procedures. I offered to step in – I phoned a New York City derm friend and also spoke with a girlfriend who had tried the Ulthera treatment. The next day, I reported that both were in favour of it. Abbie told me she’d emailed Dr. Kellett, who said she could offer her medication to manage pain since it was a big concern for her, even though it is not needed for the procedure. “Then do Thermage,” I said.