Cosmetic Procedures Without the Cutting: A Guide to Noninvasive Treatments

The latest beauty-enhancing options that skip the knife.
Noninvasive beauty treatments
Illustration by Ellen Weinstein.

 

The cutting edge in cosmetic procedures nowadays is … not cutting. As all kinds of face and body treatments grow more popular year after year, it’s the noninvasive ones, like Botox and facial fillers, that are outpacing surgical measures two to one, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

It makes sense. Noninvasive methods and “cosmeceutical” products cause less discomfort and involve far less (if any) downtime than going under the knife. These procedures may also be more affordable than surgery, but make no mistake: you can still shell out a pretty penny, as it were. In fact, we calculated that if you went all in this year for a full suite of non- surgical upgrades, from replenishing hair on your head to tightening your bottom, you could easily spend more than $30,000. And while some treatments are one-and-done, for others you’re looking at shelling out more for maintenance later on.

We polled doctors and other providers on the estimated time and price of treatments tackling the most troublesome face and body issues reported by women and men — wrinkles, blemishes, sagging, fat, cellulite, unwanted hair loss or growth. Which treatments work? Are they worth the money? Science has verified the efficacy of some (like Retin-A and Kybella); other methods have made their case by satisfying customers. Whatever method you’re considering, check with your doctor first; it also wouldn’t hurt to consult trusted friends who’ve had it done.

Face and Body Treatments

Even the fittest among us have “problem areas” — witness those paparazzi shots of movie stars with cellulite. As we age, things just aren’t as firm as they were. There’s no shame in seeking a little clinical help to minimize love handles, crepey or cottage cheese thighs or a double chin. And while such reshaping used to mean a surgical technique like liposuction followed by a recovery period, most noninvasive procedures today have little or no downtime and can be done on your lunch break.

Cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting)

PRICE

$3,000 for abdomen

WHAT IT DOES

Eliminates stubborn fat by freezing fat cells to death; performed on chin, abdomen, thighs or other areas

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

For most patients, 4–5 sessions

MAINTENANCE

Not needed if you don’t gain weight back

ANNUAL COST

$12,000–$15,000 over 1–2 years for abdomen

Radiofrequency skin tightening (Venus Legacy)

PRICE

$259–$329 for thighs

WHAT IT DOES

Smooths cellulite and tightens skin by heating an underlying layer to stimulate collagen production

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

5–8 sessions

MAINTENANCE

Every 3 months

ANNUAL COST

About $1,050 for thighs

Whole-body cryotherapy

PRICE

$70

WHAT IT DOES

Said to aid weight loss, clear acne and bring other benefits through exposure to minus-200-to-300- degree F temperatures for several minutes*

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

2-4 sessions per week for 4–5 consecutive weeks

MAINTENANCE

Weekly

ANNUAL COST

About $4,500

Deoxycholic acid injection (Kybella)

PRICE

$1,200–$2,700 per session, depending on size of area being treated

WHAT IT DOES

Dissolves subcutaneous fat to eliminate double chin

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

2–6 sessions

MAINTENANCE

Not needed unless you gain weight

ANNUAL COST

$6,400 on average

*The FDA warns that the benefits aren’t proven, and the American Academy of Dermatology reports that some people have suffered from frostbite and other cold-related injuries.

Skin Treatments

Wrinkles are the main indicator we associate with age, but they’re not the half of it. Skin sags. Cheeks lose fullness. And even younger people can have blemishes from acne or the sun.

Retinoids (Retin-A, retinol)

PRICE

About $65 for a 45-gram tube, generic formula

WHAT IT DOES

Prescription or over-the-counter cream plumps skin by boosting collagen production; reduces fine lines and wrinkles; reverses sun damage

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

12 weeks

MAINTENANCE

Weekly to daily, depending on tolerance

ANNUAL COST

$130 if you use two tubes per year

Neuromodulators (Botox)

PRICE

$300–$550 for one area

WHAT IT DOES

Relaxes lines, such as on forehead, by block- ing nerve signals to the muscles

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

1 session

MAINTENANCE

Every 3–4 months

ANNUAL COST

About $1,200

Laser skin resurfacing (Fraxel)

PRICE

$1,500

WHAT IT DOES

Erases sun damage and fine lines via directed pulses of light that remove skin layer by layer

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

1–2 sessions

MAINTENANCE

Every 1–2 years

ANNUAL COST

$1,500– $3,000

Dermal fillers (Juvéderm)

PRICE

$860–$1,200 for Juvéderm Voluma injections to restore cheek fullness

WHAT IT DOES

An injection, often of a gel containing a substance like hyaluronic acid, restores fullness and smooths out wrinkles

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

1 session

MAINTENANCE

Every 1–2 years

ANNUAL COST

$700–$1,200

Hair

If only our follicles would produce hair where we want it and not where we don’t. For both men and women, restoring thinning hair on our heads and getting rid of it on our bodies can be a constant battle. Hair management is also the most varied category of nonsurgical beauty interventions; you can turn to prescription drugs, tattoos, lasers and even having your own blood run through a centrifuge and injected into your scalp (PRP or platelet-rich plasma).

Microblading

PRICE

$550

WHAT IT DOES

Fills out eyebrows using semipermanent tattoos

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

1–2 sessions

MAINTENANCE

Every 6–12 months

ANNUAL COST

$900

Laser hair removal

PRICE

$45–$420, depending on size of area

WHAT IT DOES

Permanently reduces unwanted hair on the face, legs or elsewhere by destroying follicles with a laser

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

6–12 sessions

MAINTENANCE

As needed, if hair grows back

ANNUAL COST

$270– $5,000 in the first year

Latisse

PRICE

$15 per week

WHAT IT DOES

Prescription drug, applied at home, stimulates growth of thicker, longer eyelashes

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

Applied daily, should produce fuller lash growth in 16 weeks

MAINTENANCE

Daily to twice a week

ANNUAL COST

$780

PRP Therapy

PRICE

$1,200– $2,000, depending on number of syringes needed

WHAT IT DOES

Injection of your own blood platelets into your scalp may help regrow hair that has recently begun thinning

FREQUENCY FOR RESULTS

3 treatments, 6 weeks apart, with visible results after 4–8 months

MAINTENANCE

Every 6–24 months

ANNUAL COST

$4,800– $8,000 for first year, then about $2,400 per year

Beauty hacks

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Beauty Uncut”.

Categories: Fashion, Style, Beauty, Feature Story, Health