By Leanne Delap with files from Amy Verner
Glam gams are the latest frontier of the cosmetic surgery biz
Everything else has betrayed her. The boobs are setting sail for points south, the eyes are pleating, the jaw line is soft, the neck’s ordered in for crepes.
But the legs are the last to go. Which is why, for the modern woman, they are now the hottest “new” area for non-surgical makeovers. Fat knees creeping in to cramp your miniskirt style? Spider and varicose veins numbering your bikini days?
“Boomers in the past, when they reached a certain age they just wouldn’t wear shorts,” says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett. Now, she says, everyone wants to look and dress 20 years younger.
Kellett treats a lot of veins with either old-school injections or with up-to-the minute lasers. She also excises a lot of dermatofibromas, permanent bumps from shaving. “I see a lot of age spots and freckles also — they can be treated with laser.”
As the obsession with the body increases, so does interest in procedures such as calf augmentation. According to a 2005 survey done for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, thigh lifts, almost unheard of in 1997, are up to about 12,000 a year (compared to about 365,000 breast augmentations).
There are filler injections being used for bony feet, most notably Sculptra, which has U.S. approval as a facial filler for those with wasting diseases. There are machines to melt fat (actually, they speed up your metabolism locally, causing targeted fat cells to shrink), making your thighs — and tummy and butt — look thinner and less cottage cheesy. There are even doctors experimenting with making knees prettier by using Botox.
“We can make legs almost hairless, we can make cellulite smoother, we can reduce pockets of unwanted fat,” says Dr. Stephen Mulholland of Toronto-based Spamedica, who has a program designed to make your gams as glam as possible. “We can make a woman much more confidant in shorts or a bathing suit. We’re banishing sarongs.”
Hair removal is the most obvious quick fix for leg perfection. Laser hair removal is the bomb, and there are now lasers that work for even the fairest haired girls, who previously had to stay the Gillette or the wax course. The new lasers are fairly painless (often likened to the snap of an elastic band) and run about $1,500 for a year’s worth of five whole-leg treatments.
As for the age-old obsession with cellulite, Spamedica pioneered the use of the VelaSmooth, a space-age unit that breaks down fat and lumps. The VelaSmooth is almost too good to be believed. Basically, a vacuum sucks the offending flesh into a pincher, held by a spa nurse. Then radio frequency waves are shot through your bulge, in conjunction with thermal energy delivered via infrared laser.
It feels like having your flesh vacuumed. It also feels a bit hot. In my case it hurt, because they couldn’t get a grip on enough fat. The course of treatment is 16 sessions over eight weeks — time-consuming, but you really do feel like you are doing something to flatten out any bits stubbornly “resistant to exercise.”
In conjunction, you get a course of mesotherapy, injections of aminophylline, Lidocaine and phosphatidyl choline, which are meant to increase fat oxidation. This is generally done four times through the program (which costs about $4,000), but I only had it done once, and I looked like someone had hit me around the middle and top of the legs with a bag of oranges. It hurt loads, but I lost several inches.
Kellett has even used Botox to reduce wrinkles above the knees. She injects it around the patella, or kneecap (it does not affect muscles involved in movement). The result is a “softer” appearance that is not dramatically different but is noticeably smoother. Its effects are most visible on thinner patients, she says, because their lack of subcutaneous fat makes wrinkles more pronounced.
“For people who are really bothered by the appearance of their knees, they are ecstatic after treatment,” she said. “It’s a cure for ‘elephant knees.’ ”
The other major leg issue, especially in swimsuit season, is spider and “blueberry” veins, commonly developed after weight gain or pregnancy. The offending veins are nonfunctional; in the old-school methods, called sclerotherapy, they are sealed off with injections of a saline solution, after which the body disperses the remnants. This method, which usually results in a few days of bruising, remains highly popular, with facilities such as the Ontario Vein Clinic solidly booked for most of the year (it’s busiest in spring).
But Mulholland prefers selective laser, which works in much the same way to seal the vein wall, after which it disappears. The cost is $150-$350 a treatment for small veins, with three to six treatments required. (For larger, deeper problem veins, he uses another kind of laser to seal the leak and disperse the vein.)
Kellett says she doesn’t push her patients to seek treatment, but the more active they are the more eager they are to want to show off. And, she says, “in the summertime, the more likely you are to show off, the more likely you are to seek treatment.”