Each year, the field of aesthetics grows and further adapts to the demands and desires of patients. Economic circumstances and social trends are key influences.
In 2013, fewer patients are willing to undergo surgery and instead seek less invasive treatments with minimal downtime. Treatments for the body are in high demand.
And when it comes to marketing, phone book listings are a thing of the past. Marketing success now depends on engaging websites and smart use of social media.
The demand for less invasive and noninvasive cosmetic procedures continues to increase. Economic strain is one reason patients are postponing or sidestepping more invasive and costly procedures in favor of injectable and laser treatments.1 In a new twist, many patients now prefer less invasive treatments that provide relatively long-lasting results over treatments that offer more immediate but more short-lived results. Patients want less risk, less downtime and less financial burden.1
One less invasive procedure that continues to gain popularity is dermal filler injection. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, dermal filler injection was the second most popular nonsurgical cosmetic procedure performed in the United States in 2010.2 (Botulinum toxin type A injection was No. 1.) Fillers are a minimally invasive treatment modality to immediately reduce wrinkles with little or no down time.
The use of blunt cannulas (flexible needleless tubes) to deliver fillers is on the rise among the leading injectors in aesthetics. The incorporation of blunt cannulas is one of the most important changes in the world of dermal fillers.2 The concept is not new, since these tools have been used for fat transfer for quite some time, but the technique is only now gaining popularity in the United States.2
One of the primary advantages of using a cannula is the ability to place the filler with great precision in any facial area, with minimal bleeding or bruising. Cannula delivery of dermal fillers reduces discomfort and downtime after the procedure. Cannulas require fewer entry points into the skin, producing less swelling and infection risk.2 Importantly, the blunt tip prevents intra-arterial injection, which can lead to the most dangerous complications in filler patients.2 The illustration accompanying this article depicts some of the differences between blunt cannulas and traditional needles.
New fillers and techniques are becoming available to meet growing nonsurgical demands. One of the newest hyaluronic acid dermal fillers is Belotero, which the FDA approved for the correction of moderate to severe nasolabial folds in 2011.1 This filler has a unique property: It does not cause bluish discoloration (Tyndall effect) if injected superficially in the skin.
Also on the market are autologous cell therapy fillers such as azficel-T (LaViv) and platelet-rich plasma injections. These treatments use the body's own cells to stimulate collagen.
Blood plasma is a mineral-rich fluid that contains growth factors, antibodies and clotting factors. Platelets exist within the plasma and play a role in healing and repair. By injecting the body's own platelets, such repair factors are put to work and start stimulating rejuvenation. This treatment is used in conjunction with other aesthetic procedures and fillers. Good candidates include patients seeking improved skin texture, skin tightening and thickening or patients who want to improve the appearance of scar tissue. As more research and procedures are performed, more clinical studies are likely to be produced to document the efficacy of such treatments.
Focus on the Body
Newer treatments are expanding the clinical focus of aesthetic medicine beyond the face to target other areas of the body. More patients are seeking body contouring and body rejuvenation through nonsurgical fat reduction with treatments that utilize ultrasound , or cold energy. Both plastic surgery and dermatology offices are offering these services, which require no incisions. These interventions are designed to create a controlled injury to small volumes of fat. Good candidates for treatment include patients who have limited regional fat deposits on the abdomen, flanks, back or thighs.5
A smooth-tipped microcannula enters the skin in a manner that can produce less bleeding and/or bruising.
This patient is a 53-year-old woman. The "after" photo was taken 8 months after two CoolSculpting treatments. Photo courtesy Bowes Dermatology.
Ultrasonic energy is utilized in the Liposonix system to target and injure fat near the focus point of the energy.5 Skin above the focal point and below it is protected. The body then slowly absorbs the damaged fat.
The use of cold energy for fat reduction is known as cryolipolysis. It uses a controlled cooling process to target fat cells without harming skin and underlying structures. Research for this device found that fat cells are susceptible to cold temperatures, causing the affected cells to be absorbed.5 This response takes place over the course of 2 to 3 months as the affected fat in the treatment area is absorbed by the body. Treatments such as Coolsculpting have paved the way for patients to further improve their appearance with a healthy lifestyle (see photos).
Harnessing Social Media
Social media continues to shape the world of business and everyday life. With interactive forums and online reviews of healthcare providers, the days of focusing only on keeping a website up-to-date have passed.
Patients may appreciate social media for the active dialogue with providers and access to trusted educational material, but it can also provide value to aesthetics practices in ways not previously considered.6 As practices and studies are finding, the benefits of social media are far-reaching. Two 2012 reports from large consulting organizations looked at ways in which social media can help accomplish business objectives.6 They determined that social media is a valuable business intelligence tool, a customer service tool and even an avenue for reporting that could lead to better healthcare and improved outcomes.6
For aesthetics practices, the best use of social media is to connect to an audience and establish themselves as trusted friends. In this age of robust technology, progressive providers and practices must focus on the customer experience and can further differentiate themselves with the help of social media.6
In the field of aesthetics, advancement is inspired by innovation. By keeping up-to-date on new techniques and treatment modalities, providers not only stay competitive but also determine the best options for patients. These efforts must include new techniques and technology. Today's patients are opting for less downtime and treatments that are results driven and have a low side effect profile. Today's aesthetics practice also involves a growing relationship and reliance on social media forums.
The economy, as well as the wants and needs of patients, will inevitably change with time. The current trends in aesthetics forecast a bright future with growth for the industry in previously untapped areas.
1. Callender V, et al. Hot aesthetics procedures for 2012, Part 2. Practical Dermatology. 2012;February:35-40.
2. Aesthetic Medicine News. 'Needle less' filler injection using flexible cannulas. http://aestheticmedicinenews.com/needle-less-filler-injection-using-flexible-cannulas.htm
3. Niamtu J. Filler Pearls: refining the art of injection. Practical Dermatology. 2012;February:23-26.
4. Weinkle S. Master the art of aesthetic injectables. Practical Dermatology. 2012;February:11.
5. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Non-Surgical Fat Reduction. http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/body/non-surgical-fat-reduction
6. Lewis PD. 4 Ways Social Media Can Improve Your Medical Practice. http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/06/25/bisa0625.htm
Kimberly Cray is a physician assistant at Bowes Dermatology in Miami, where she specializes in aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to the Aesthetics Practice Today blog at www.advanceweb.com/NPPA. Cray has completed a disclosure statement and reports no relationships related to this article.