Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Can Make-up Actually Improve Your Skin? March 6, 2014

Filed under: beauty,make-up — askanesthetician @ 8:00 am
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The older I get the more I need make-up.  Though that doesn’t mean that I won’t leave the house without a full face of make-up it does mean that I have realized that a few strategically placed make-up products do make a big difference in my appearance.  Some days I have the time and the inclination to put on eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara along with my other essential make-up steps, and other days I just make sure that I fill in my brows with brow powder, use undereye concealer, face powder, face concealer, and a little lip tint.  It’s the little things that can make a big impact.  You don’t have to use a lot of make-up to look polished and put together even if all you are doing is going to the grocery store.  No one has flawless skin; everyone has a beauty feature or two that make-up can help look better.  For instance, my brows are sparse so filling them in with brow powder makes a big impact on my face.  I never seem to get enough sleep so using undereye concealer helps me look more rested.  And no matter how much skincare knowledge I amass my skin still has post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, blackheads, breakouts, and blotchiness so using a foundation (either powder or cream) and a concealer makes me feel like I am putting my best face forward to the world (even if that world is just the grocery store clerks and patrons).  Make-up gives you confidence.  Make-up is fun.

But some people still worry that wearing make-up on a daily basis, particularly foundation, is actually bad for their skin instead of good for it.  There is a persistent skincare myth that our skin needs to “breathe” and by wearing make-up we are preventing that important function from taking place.  I’ve already debunked this myth in a previous post: Does Your Skin Need to Detoxify/Breathe?, but I’ll revisit the topic here briefly. I quoted Discovery Health in that previous post and let me once again share what they had to say about this topic:

Every day, a barrage of advertisements for various cosmetics, oils and ointments assault our eyes and ears, all claiming to “let your skin breathe.” But does your skin actually “breathe”? Does it really take in enough oxygen to keep you alive?

Not unless you’re an amphibian, an earthworm or a Julia Creek dunnart. Although it can’t perform the functions of respiration, your skin can absorb fat-soluble substances, including vitamins A,D, E and K, along with steroid hormones such as estrogen. Many menopausal women, for example, have estrogen patches to thank for their relief from hot flashes, while nicotine patches have relieved cravings for many smokers trying to kick the habit. So, while the skin can’t breathe, it can take substances from the outside and bring them in, including a little oxygen.

The skin and its appendages, such as hair and nails, make up the integumentary system. The word integumentary comes from Latin, meaning “to cover,” and that is the skin’s main purpose — to keep the world out and our internal organs protected. By its very nature, skin does not help us breathe.   …

What does help us breathe is the respiratory system. The respiratory system is responsible for getting oxygen to our blood and removing carbon dioxide from the body. When we inhale, we take in oxygen through our mouth and nose and into the lungs. In the lungs, the oxygen flows into the blood through the arteries, while veins deliver carbon dioxide back to the lungs. From the lungs, we exhale the carbon dioxide back out into the atmosphere, and the process begins again.

So why might we be led to believe that oxygen can pass through the skin?

Misconceptions and Myths

Many people are convinced that we pull in oxygen through our pores, and cosmetic companies capitalize on this belief — at least through unspoken messages — by claiming that their products “let the skin breathe.” If pressed, the manufacturers would probably say what they really mean is that the cosmetics and creams are non-comedogenic, meaning they don’t block pores. This prevents acne from building up, not suffocation. Some companies take it a step further and claim that their products contain oxygen that your skin will absorb. Since your skin doesn’t have the capacity to absorb and use oxygen, dermatologists warn that this is totally bogus. The closest thing to pure oxygen in a skin care product is benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria by oxidizing fatty acids.

Many people believe the urban legend that Buddy Ebsen, cast as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” nearly died because the aluminum in the makeup that gave him his silvery sheen clogged his pores. In fact, Ebsen did wind up in the hospital and was replaced, but it was attributed to an allergic reaction or an infection in his lungs caused by the aluminum dust. Needless to say, the makeup was modified for new scarecrow Jack Haley, and he danced through the role without incident.

Another famous movie incident involves 1964′s “Goldfinger.” After discovering his secretary has betrayed him, the villain Goldfinger paints her entirely — hair and all — with gold paint. Looking at her lifeless body, James Bond explains that the paint closed the pores she needed for respiration. In 1964, it seems, this was a medically accepted belief. The filmmakers took no chances and were careful to leave a patch of actress’s Shirley Eaton’s skin unpainted when shooting the scene.

Having gotten that issue out of the way, let’s focus again on the actual topic of this post: can using make-up actually help or even improve the appearance of your skin?  Esthetician Renee Rouleau certainly thinks so:

The fact is, wearing makeup (appropriate for your skin type) offers a barrier of protection against harmful UV rays. UV rays from the sun is the #1 reason for skin aging. It’s not genetics, smoking, and believe it or not, even age. The sun is the skin’s WORST enemy. Most types of makeup contain sunscreen and even if they don’t indicate an SPF number, most have UV-protecting ingredients like Titanium Dioxide. Based on this benefit from wearing makeup, I never leave my skin bare and never suggest my clients to do so either. So do your skin a favor and start wearing makeup NOW, to prevent wrinkles in your future.

(From Is Wearing Foundation Makeup Daily Bad for Your Skin?)

And what of make-up that promises anti-aging or the like?  The New York Times explored this topic in the article Promises from the Powder Room:

Light-reflecting. Acne-fighting. Energizing. Face powder, long associated with grandmothers and a dusty, chalky look, has been remade. Some companies say the product is not only a cosmetic, but also a face treatment, and are loading it with SPF, antioxidants and vitamins. …

Marketing hype aside, some doctors agree that powders pack more of a punch these days. “People have seen the utility of BB creams; they like getting many effects from the same products,” said Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic dermatologist in private practice in Manhattan and founder of “These are great for people who want fewer products to apply, and an oil absorber.”

But others say that the “poof — all gone” effects that these powders promise are basically stardust and mirrors. “I’m increasingly skeptical with products that over-promise,” said Ron Robinson, a Manhattan chemist specializing in the technology of cosmetic ingredients and the founder of, which reviews new products. “Where’s the clinical testing that validates their claims?”

“The blurring component is true,” he said, but “claims that it will reshape, sculpt and improve wrinkles are benefits few skin-care creams and serums designed to plump and firm the skin can offer.”  …

“There’s a real science to these products and to the ingredients in them, which help and maintain the skin,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. But he pointed out that a powder’s visual effects vanish once the product is removed; its particles are too big to penetrate skin.

As for long-term benefits: “That has yet to be determined,” Dr. Zeichner said. “If you use products like this on a regular basis and take care of your skin, it’s possible these powders can help slow down the aging process.”  …

Dr. Francesca Fusco, a Manhattan dermatologist, says she is firmly pro-powder, at least when it comes to the new modern products. “A powder won’t replace your moisturizer, serum or retinol, but it’s a great added extra,” she said. “For not a lot of money you can get a flawless look. And that’s better than using nothing.”

So when it comes to your make-up should you trust it to transform your skin long after you remove it?  Personally I am still very skeptical that a few extra ingredients mixed into your cream or powder foundation will be your anti-aging or anti-acne answer, but the better you look the better you feel and that is truly transformative.

My Related Posts:

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The Transformative Power of Make-up March 5, 2012

Filed under: beauty,make-up — askanesthetician @ 6:00 am
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If you like fashion then you are already keenly aware of the fact that Fashion Week has been going on all over the world for the last few weeks – New York, London, Milan, and now Paris.

During all these different fashion weeks The New York Times always has a fun feature called Model Morphsis that allows you to see simultaneously what models look like before and after they are made up for fashion shows. This tool allows the viewer to really understand just how transformative the application of make-up can be.

One more thing – if you are secretly hoping (I’ll admit I kinda was) that the models look terrible without make-up you’ll have no such luck.  But the before photos do make it clear that even models do not have perfect looking skin and show up for work with dark under eye circles.

Have fun looking through the different make-up looks!  Now if I could only have been born with those model cheekbones.


Should You Buy Home Laser and Light Devices? Do They Really Work? October 27, 2011

In our quest to look our best many of us have contemplated buying a handheld home skincare device.  Perhaps a light device that claims to erase acne or get rid of wrinkles (check out this new gadget from Japan).  Or maybe a home laser device that will remove unwanted hair (I’ve definitely considered that one).  These devices cost hundreds of dollars and make big promises.  Their appeal is obvious – invest your money once in a device and use it in the privacy of your home, on your time and schedule.  No more trips to the spa or doctor’s office for light treatments and laser hair removal.  The device is yours – for always and forever.  But before you invest in a handheld piece of skincare equipment think again.  Many of these devices are not worth both the investment of money and time.

In her book Feed Your Face Dr. Jessica Wu cautions against buying a handheld focused heat devices like Thermaclear or the Zeno Mini to treat acne (page 91):

There is some scientific evidence that heat may help clear acne.  Pulsed light, lasers, and radio-frequency devices (which are available only at a doctor’s office) have all been shown to kill the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes as well as temporarily decrease inflammation and shrink oil glands.  There are two main differences, however, between these medical instruments and a gadget you can buy at a drugstore:

1.  Lasers and other medical-grade devices typically come outfitted with a fan or a chilled tip so the laser can reach deep into the dermis (where your oil glands and bacteria sit) without burning through the top layers of the skin.  A store-bought device, especially one without a cooling system, won’t penetrate as deeply and therefore can’t be as effective.

2.  Studies show that killing P. acnes bacteria alone isn’t enough to stop breakouts.  To treat acne most effectively, you also need an anti-inflammatory component.  Even some of the antibiotics we commonly use to treat acne (substances that by definition are intended to kill bacteria) are prescribed at very low doses that are meant to reduce inflammation rather than kill P. acnes.  Medical grade lasers work because they kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, something handheld devices can’t.

Before you invest in any device there is something to keep in mind – the FDA clears medical devices for safe use but not devices labeled beauty devices.  The majority of handheld devices are marketed as beauty devices which means that they aren’t necessarily entirely safe for home use.  According to The New York Times article Taking Home the Lasers, Pulsers and Sonic Care there are many medical and compliance issues to keep in mind when it comes to these devices:

Dr. Sandra Lee, a dermatologist in Upland, Calif., fears patients will develop what she calls laserexia. “If it says, don’t use more than once a day, but if you’re a teen and you use it more than once a day, are you then at risk for scarring?” Dr. Lee said. “I worry about misuse.”

Some machines (among them TRIA Skin Perfecting Blue Light; LightStim for Wrinkles; and Levia Personal Targeted Phototherapy, which helps with psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo) have been peer-reviewed by medical experts, but not all. And the Food and Drug Administration clears only medical devices, not beauty devices, a distinction not always obvious to consumers.

“It gets squishy when companies say ‘We’re not making medical claims; we’re making beauty claims,’ ” said Dr. Mathew M. Avram, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center in Boston. “What is a medical claim? It becomes a hard area to define.”

“If you make a claim that you can benefit someone’s appearance and you’re going to use a device to accomplish that,” he continued, “I think there needs to be the same level of scrutiny that a device used in a physician’s office would undergo.”

There have been some crackdowns on unwarranted claims. Last spring, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) requested substantiation for promises made by VISS Beauty, for its Intense Pulsed Light Hair Removal Device. When the company refused to participate in a NAD review, the division referred the claims to the Federal Trade Commission and the F.D.A. And in September, the Federal Trade Commission shut down two smartphone apps, AcnePwner and AcneApp, for claiming that they could treat pimples with lights emitted from their display screens.

Even with effective devices, “there may be unforeseen uses and unforeseen consequences that may arise,” said Dr. Avram, listing the possibility of scarring, soreness, redness and hyperpigmentation, not to mention product malfunctions.

There’s also the “slight potential” for squamous or basal skin cancers from the ultraviolet light sources, said Dr. Neil Sadick, a clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, though he said that at-home devices used less energy than the machines in doctors’ offices.

The biggest hurdle, doctors say, is patient compliance; it requires some fortitude to beam a laser on your legs for 20 minutes a day. Dr. Sean Benham, a hair-loss and hair-transplant specialist in Santa Monica, Calif., likes the HairMAX LaserComb, a light-based hair-restoration device that costs about $600. But he said he saw many patients who simply tired of the routine, which involves “combing” the hair with an electronic wand for about 10 minutes, three times a week.

“People drop out of using it,” Dr. Benham said. “It’s so complicated and demanding, most of my patients say it just sits by the TV.”

There are opposing expert opinions to what I have quoted above.  Dr. Leslie Baumann, on her Skin Type Solutions website, has the following to say about handheld home light devices in an article entitled do-it-yourself vs. in-office beauty treatments: Which should you choose?:

At-home vs. in-office light-based treatments 

Dermatologists commonly use blue light in the office to improve acne, but a recent study shows that patients need treatments every three days for optimal improvement.  Not so practical, right?  That’s why at-home devices such as the Tria and Omnilux hold promise for keeping skin clear.  But anti-aging devices are a different story.  At this time, at-home wrinkle-reducing devices aren’t nearly as effective as their in-office counterparts, as while there may be an app for that as close as your phone, medically speaking it’s not going to do much for your skin.  Bottom line:  For acne, at-home devices are a do, but do-it-yourself anti-aging devices are a don’t.

Personally both the time and monetary investment would keep me from purchasing any of these products, but if you feel differently be sure to check out some reviews (like these on Sephora) from actual users before making your purchase.  Certainly none of these products are impulse buy material – be sure to think before you leap into buying such products.


Remember Sassy Magazine? Check out this Website June 2, 2011

If you recognize the magazine cover above then maybe you were something like me growing up.  I’ve written in this blog several times about my great love for glossy fashion magazines, but it took one article in The New York Times (Jane Pratt, Unbound and Ready for the Web) to remind me of the most significant glossy magazine from my teenage years.  The article describes the long-gone but not forgotten Sassy as “the anti-Seventeen”, and I can’t think of a better description myself for this now defunct magazine.  My magazine obsession began with Teen and Seventeen, but I could never relate to the girls in those magazines.  I looked nothing like them, wasn’t cool or popular, and had terrible skin.  When I found Sassy I found a magazine for girls like me.  The magazine really felt like it was written for intelligent teenagers who didn’t want to be like everyone else, who were happy being themselves, and didn’t mind being a little quirky.  Sassy introduced me to music, movies, and books that weren’t necessarily mainstream but were cool.  The fashion was funky and fresh.  Damn!  Why did I throw my old issues away???  After reading The New York Times article I spent an afternoon feeling really nostalgic for both Sassy and even a little bit for that time in my life which is crazy since you would have to pay me millions (or even billions) to relive those years.  Suffice it to say, Sassy had quite the impact on my life.  I mean they put Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love on the cover of their magazine (long before Love cleaned herself up briefly).

So the article in The New York Times is all about Jane Pratt, the founding editor of Sassy and later of Jane (personally I never liked Jane as much as Sassy though I wanted to).  It turns out that Pratt has recently launched a new lifestyle website – xoJane.  Just like the magazines Pratt edited in the past this website has an edge.  Some of the content is not for the faint of heart.  I liked the fact that The New York Times article described it as “the anti-iVillage”.   Well I just had to check it.  I concentrated on reading the articles in the beauty section which are written in a cheeky, irrelevant, intimate tone.  If you want scientific facts about skincare and make-up look elsewhere (like this blog, of course), but if you want to feel like you are getting beauty advice from your slightly bawdy yet very cool girlfriend be sure to check out the articles on this site.  I also liked the fact that the authors of the articles really responded to reader comments though I was a bit shocked by how rude some of the reader comments were.

I really wish teenage girls today had a magazine like Sassy.  Just remember – just because you don’t look like the girls in Seventeen or Teen Vogue doesn’t mean that you aren’t cool.  All the clichés are true – believe in yourself, don’t let others define you, and college is much better than high school.  Now if only I had saved those Sassy magazines.

Update:  It turns out that there is a revival of Sassy in the works.  Read all about it.


Cocktails That Improve Your Skin: As Bogus as It Sounds May 19, 2011


Quite some time ago I wrote a post about how taking expensive supplements aimed at helping you have great skin are a waste of your money (see my post Nutritional Supplements and Your Skin for more information).  Yet I was still surprised to come across the following article recently in The New York TimesImprove Your Skin by Imbibing: Radical or Fadical?, in which the author describes a bunch of cocktails at an exclusive club in NYC that claim to even out your skin tone or diminish fine lines.  Now wouldn’t that be nice – to have a cocktail and get glowing skin as a bonus?  I found the article very funny for a few reasons.  One was the complete enthusiasm and idiocy of the guy who help create the drinks that include his “crystallines” of vitamins, minerals and fruit extracts.  I mean really – does he really believe throwing back a bunch of drinks with a few added vitamins will improve anyone’s skin?  Apparently yes.  The fact that anyone considers this a true way to help improve the look of one’s skin made me snicker. 

Before you think that perhaps there is some truth to this club’s claims that drinking their cocktails will make you look like a super model remember the following – alcohol will dehydrate your skin and can give some people undereye circles and puffiness.  As long as the alcohol stays in those expensive cocktails no one’s skin is going to be looking any better.  Luckily the article ends with a good dose of real fact from Dr. Patricia Wexler, a celebrity dermatologist based in NYC.  She explains:

that alcohol actually had a dehydrating effect, and that it could lead to puffiness, especially if plenty of other, nonalcoholic fluids weren’t consumed along with it.

As for the notion that a measured amount of alcohol in a carefully composed elixir could turn back time, “Nothing in a cocktail will give you younger skin,” she said in an e-mail. “But your judgment might be impaired, and you might see Angelina in the mirror.”


So if you happen upon a cocktail in your neighborhood club that promises to fight acne or make your fine lines disappear just remember that this cocktail won’t make you look better, but it can, as any alcoholic drink can, make you feel better.  Bottoms up!


Is Permanent Make-up Worth the Risks? March 14, 2011

Filed under: beauty,make-up — askanesthetician @ 7:29 am
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Ever wonder what it would be like to wake-up in the morning already wearing your make-up?  There is a solution if you never want to have to apply your make-up again.  That solution is permanent make-up which is a tattoo done on areas that women (or men) traditionally use cosmetics.  For instance you could tattoo on your eyeliner, your lipliner, and define your eyebrows with permanent make-up.  While permanent make-up has worked out well for some for others permanent make-up has turned into a disaster.

Before considering if permanent make-up is right for you first and foremost you should know what the FDA regulates when it comes to tattoos and permanent make-up and what risks are involved when you seek this type of service:

FDA considers the inks used in intradermal tattoos, including permanent makeup, to be cosmetics and considers the pigments used in the inks to be color additives requiring premarket approval under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. However, because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA traditionally has not exercised its regulatory authority over tattoo inks or the pigments used in them. The actual practice of tattooing is regulated by local jurisdictions.

During 2003 and 2004, FDA became aware of more than 150 reports of adverse reactions in consumers to certain permanent makeup ink shades, and it is possible that the actual number of women affected was greater. The inks associated with this outbreak were voluntarily recalled by the company that marketed them in 2004. In addition, concerns raised by the scientific community regarding the pigments used in these inks have prompted FDA to investigate the safe use of tattoo inks. FDA continues to evaluate the extent and severity of adverse events associated with tattooing and is conducting research on inks. As new information is assessed, the agency will consider whether additional actions are necessary to protect public health.

In addition to the reported adverse reactions, areas of concern include tattoo removal, infections that result from tattooing, and the increasing variety of pigments and diluents being used in tattooing. More than fifty different pigments and shades are in use, and the list continues to grow. Although a number of color additives are approved for use in cosmetics, none is approved for injection into the skin. Using an unapproved color additive in a tattoo ink makes the ink adulterated. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are not approved for skin contact at all. Some are industrial grade colors that are suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.

Nevertheless, many individuals choose to undergo tattooing in its various forms. For some, it is an aesthetic choice or an initiation rite. Some choose permanent makeup as a time saver or because they have physical difficulty applying regular, temporary makeup. For others, tattooing is an adjunct to reconstructive surgery, particularly of the face or breast, to simulate natural pigmentation. People who have lost their eyebrows due to alopecia (a form of hair loss) may choose to have “eyebrows” tattooed on, while people with vitiligo (a lack of pigmentation in areas of the skin) may try tattooing to help camouflage the condition.
Whatever their reason, consumers should be aware of the risks involved in order to make an informed decision.

 A few other things, besides what was mentioned above, should be noted about permanent make-up.  One is that it isn’t entirely permanent; it can begin to fade over time.  Another thing are the risks involved with getting any sort of tattoo.  The FDA website explains the risks as follows:

  • Infection. Unsterile tattooing equipment and needles can transmit infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and skin infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) bacteria*. Tattoos received at facilities not regulated by your state or at facilities that use unsterile equipment (or re-use ink) may prevent you from being accepted as a blood or plasma donor for twelve months.
  • Removal problems. Despite advances in laser technology, removing a tattoo is a painstaking process, usually involving several treatments and considerable expense. Complete removal without scarring may be impossible.
  • Allergic reactions. Although FDA has received reports of numerous adverse reactions associated with certain shades of ink in permanent makeup, marketed by a particular manufacturer, reports of allergic reactions to tattoo pigments have been rare. However, when they happen they may be particularly troublesome because the pigments can be hard to remove. Occasionally, people may develop an allergic reaction to tattoos they have had for years.
  • Granulomas.These are nodules that may form around material that the body perceives as foreign, such as particles of tattoo pigment.
  • Keloid formation. If you are prone to developing keloids — scars that grow beyond normal boundaries — you are at risk of keloid formation from a tattoo. Keloids may form any time you injure or traumatize your skin. Micropigmentation: State of the Art, a book written by Charles Zwerling, M.D., Annette Walker, R.N., and Norman Goldstein, M.D., states that keloids occur more frequently as a consequence of tattoo removal.
  • MRI complications. There have been reports of people with tattoos or permanent makeup who experienced swelling or burning in the affected areas when they underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This seems to occur only rarely and apparently without lasting effects.

There also have been reports of tattoo pigments interfering with the quality of the image. This seems to occur mainly when a person with permanent eyeliner undergoes MRI of the eyes. Mascara may produce a similar effect. The difference is that mascara is easily removable.

Another very important thing to consider before having permanent make-up done is the amount of training and experience the person you are going to has had.  That is where things can get tricky.  Neither the federal government nor the FDA regulates or mandates the training or practice of permanent make-up, that is left up to each individual state to determine.  If you really want permanent make-up done be sure to thoroughly check-out the place you do it at.  Ask about training and experience.  I would also ask to speak to past clients.  Make sure the place is clean and sterile.  So many health issues can arise from an unclean environment or instruments.  Make sure you do not put yourself at risk unnecessarily.

**The FDA is hosting a webinar on tattoos and permanent make-up March 15.  If this topic interests you this would be a great way to learn more.**


Sources and Further Reading


New Trends in Anti-Aging Procedures: “Vampire” Facelift and Ultherapy March 7, 2011

I recently read with great interest two articles about new in office anti-aging procedures.  The first article was in Harper’s Bazaar, and it was about a new nonsurgical browlift called Ultherapy.  The second article was in The New York Times Skin Deep series about a new trend in facelifts called the “vampire facelift”.    Neither of these procedures are surgical or invasive.  The so-called vampire facelift falls under the category of “liquid facelifts” which is a facial rejuvenation procedure that normally means fillers and Botox are used to create a temporary change in the appearance of one’s face without surgery.   Ultherapy uses ultrasound technology and heat to lift the brows and rejuvenate one’s appearance.

I’ll begin by discussing the vampire facelift.   Let me quote The New York Times article in order to further explain the vampire facelift:

[this procedure] entails having blood drawn from your arm, then spun in a centrifuge to separate out the platelets. They are then injected into your face, with the hope of stimulating new collagen production. Selphyl, as the system is called, arrived on the booming facial-rejuvenation market in 2009, and is now used by roughly 300 doctors nationwide in the name of beauty, said Sanjay Batra, the chief executive of Aesthetic Factors, which manufactures the Selphyl system.

Why would someone choose to pursue this procedure as opposed to having Botox and fillers injected into their face? 

Ghoulish as the procedure sounds, some patients prefer the idea of using their own blood rather than a neurotoxin or synthetic filler to rejuvenate their faces. “We all want to look better,” said Joan Sarlo, 56, who underwent a Selphyl “vamp-lift” performed by Dr. Lisa A. Zdinak, a Manhattan-based doctor whose specialty is ophthalmic plastic surgery. But the “less unnatural the better,” Ms. Sarlo said. “What could be better than your own blood?”

Some doctors say that fillers taken from one’s body are less likely to cause irregularities and bumps in thin-skinned areas than synthetic ones like Sculptra Aesthetic. But at this point, it’s hard to tell whether “platelet-rich fibrin matrix,” or P.R.F.M. (the medical term for the golden-hued platelets that Selphyl extracts), is an effective filler for hollowed-out cheeks and wrinkles.

But for me the crux of any cosmetic procedure comes down to safety and proof that the procedure is safe through FDA approval as opposed to testimonials and heresy.  And here is where things get messy, excuse the pun, with the vampire facelift:

What’s more, doctors and consumers aren’t clear on where Selphyl stands with the F.D.A. In a YouTube video featuring Dr. John Argerson, a board-certified family medicine doctor who works out of Refine MediSpa in Johnson City, Tenn., tells consumers that Selphyl is a “newly F.D.A.-approved filler” for nose-to-lip folds. And in a December 2009 article in Dermatology Times, a trade publication, Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a board-certified dermatologist, said Selphyl is “a new F.D.A. approved dermal filler.” This week, Dr. Hirsch, who doesn’t use Selphyl in her practice, said that she couldn’t explain why she misspoke, adding in an e-mail that “the lack of clarity between F.D.A. approval versus F.D.A. clearance to market is a key point.”

Indeed. The F.D.A. has not approved or cleared P.R.F.M. derived in a Selphyl centrifuge to be marketed for facial rejuvenation. In 2002, the agency cleared a blood-collection system called Fibrinet, whose platelet-rich byproducts orthopedic doctors then used to speed tissue repair. In 2009, this same machine was born again as Selphyl, and since then, the company promoted it as a way to “reverse the natural aging process.” This week, Shelly Burgess, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said that Selphyl’s maker would have to file an amendment to get clearance to market its blood collection system in a new way, and no such amendment could be found at this writing.

Asked whether Aesthetic Factors’ marketing of Selphyl for cosmetic rejuvenation violated any F.D.A. policy, Ms. Burgess simply wrote, “As a regulatory agency we would not discuss whether a firm’s claims violate our regulations.”

In light of the fact that there is little to no clinical data that this procedure works as claimed, and furthermore since the FDA has neither cleared nor approved this procedure I would steer clear of doing it until there is such approval.  There are so many safe options for liquid facelifts that there is really no need to try something that is still in trial stages.  Who knows?  Maybe 15 years from now a vampire facelift will be the norm but until then I would suggest that you proceed with caution.



Ultherapy is very different from the vampire facelift described above.  This procedure uses ultrasound heat on your forehead in order to greatly increase collagen production beneath the skin’s surface.  As collagen production increases in that area of your face your brow firms.  Immediately after getting the treatment you will see a smoothing effect, and as your collagen production increases over time your results will improve in the months to come.  And what might be the best news of all, these results are pretty much permanent though some patients may need a touch up in a year.  Ultherapy costs somewhere between $1,000 to $4,000 and has been cleared by the FDA for use on the forehead (according to the Harper’s Bazaar article).  If the machine is used incorrectly a burn could result because of the intense heat generated by the machine.  That heat can also make the procedure less than comfortable. 

According to an article in the April, 2011 issue of Vogue (which I can’t find online unfortunately) Ultherapy can be used on both the face and the neck not just the forehead.  The article explains how Ultherapy works thusly:

Thermal energy bypasses the upper layers of the skin (those conventionally targeted by Fraxel and Thermage), safely heating the underlying connective tissue that lines the facial muscles.  That tissue contracts, resulting in an immediate tighting and, ultimately, a tangible lift.  …  In an attempt to target multiple layers of tissue, doctors then set the device to a shallower depth and make a second pass with the hand piece, this time intentionally aiming its heat at the skin’s upper layers in order to stimulate line-smoothing collagen production.

Furthermore, according to the Vogue article it takes about an hour to complete both the neck and the face using ultrasonic imaging so the doctor performing the procedure can view each layer of the muscle and skin as they work on the patient.  Risks include some swelling and bruising and a feeling of tightness for a few days following the procedure.  And one more thing, the procedure doesn’t feel so great.  It can feel like a hot prickling sensation to intense and short bursts of pain.  

Overall as an option for slowing down the aging process Ultherapy sounds promising.  You can try it out if you feel that your face needs a lift but you aren’t ready for a facelift yet.

One more note – it turns out both of these procedures have been featured on The Rachael Ray Show , How to Look 10 Years Younger,  which has made me wonder – do I need to start watching The Rachael Ray Show in order to keep up with cosmetic procedure trends?  I always thought her show was all about cooking. 


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