When I was younger, I often wondered why handsome men were attracted to me because I never considered myself attractive. I’d look in the mirror to do my hair and makeup in the morning, but rarely after that. I never actually thought about my overall face. Now, when I flip through old photo albums, I realize I was appealing, even if not in a traditional Reese Witherspoon kind of way. Problem is, by the time it registered that I was attractive as a young woman, I had turned into a less fetching older woman. I’m far more emotionally secure today than I was decades ago, and my personality is as stellar as ever, but my face had definitely become less alluring.
A tight neck and jawline had given way to hanging skin and jowls. Once rosy cheeks became dull. Bright eyes now looked sunken. Previously uninterrupted smoothness was punctuated with fine lines, folds, and wrinkles. Many women accept these inevitable changes, but I wanted to do something about them, especially after I learned about aesthetic medicine from dermatologists and plastic surgeons who I interviewed for www.faboverfifty.com.
Aesthetic medicine involves non-invasive to minimally invasive procedures that are designed to help improve a woman or a man’s physical appearance. Even if you’ve never elected to have your frown lines temporarily erased with botulinum toxin injections that paralyze your forehead muscles, you probably know someone who has. But today doctors can go to work with sophisticated machines using different kinds of energy to firm, tighten, smooth, brighten, contour and revitalize the skin all over your body without a single incision. They’re freezing fat cells. Exfoliating dead cells. Heating collagen. Zapping unwanted tattoos, unsightly hair, undesirable discoloration, and much more.
These new game-changing techniques are safer and less expensive than plastic surgery. They often involve little to no downtime. There’s minimal pain and discomfort. And they can help keep you looking rejuvenated for years. Before the invention of these minimally invasive methods to help reverse the signs of aging, plastic surgery was a woman’s only option. No longer. As a matter of fact, many plastic surgeons across the country have reinvented their practices to focus on aesthetic medicine.
GERI’S AESTHETIC ADVENTURE
After seeing the outstanding results of the procedure Dr. Gilly Munavalli performed on 69-year-old Gray O’Neill, I wanted to know what he thought he could do for my face. I was especially interested in reducing the laxity and discoloration around my eyes, and the sagging neck skin, jowls and droopiness around my mouth. Dr. Gilly confidently told me he could improve my concerns with a group of non-to-minimally invasive treatments that would work synergistically, over time, to help achieve natural and noticeable results. I liked what I heard and booked an appointment.
I had the following four procedures:
♦ Jeauveau injections to reduce the dynamic lines between my brows and on my forehead. Recently introduced, these injections don’t create an “artificial, stiff appearance,” Dr. Gilly told me. “You want some movement, rather than a completely frozen look.” I will need to repeat these injections every four months if I want to keep my lines at bay.
♦ A full-face fractional CO2 laser treatment with the Lumenis UltraPulse to stimulate collagen, tighten the skin, minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and even out skin texture and tone. “This device has two handpieces: Its Deep FX provides deeper collagen stimulation for maximum contraction, and its Active FX provides textural improvement,” Dr. Gilly said. He did two passes around my eyes with the Deep FX at a lower density to contract the skin as much as possible.
♦ Liposuction of my neck and jowls, followed by subdermal heating with a laser, to tighten my neck and improve my jawline. Dr. Gilly calls this a “non-surgical neck lift.” Tumescent fluid (eg lidocaine) is injected locally to produce anesthesia, swelling and firmness of the area (“a well established and safe technique,”), and then three small incisions are made under the chin and along the jawline. After using cannulas to remove submental fat and reduce fullness, Dr. Gilly worked with the laser to produce further contraction. “Rather than cutting and pulling the skin to tighten it, we’re relying on heat,” he said.
♦ A microneedling treatment from mid cheek to the bottom of my neck using radio frequency (RF) energy to induce the body’s natural healing response to regenerate collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. “While this RF device safely heats the mid dermis for maximum contraction of the skin, it doesn’t affect the skin’s surface or the pigment,” Dr. Gilly explained. It also further tightens the cheeks, jawline and neck following liposuction. .
It took about three hours for Dr. Gilly and his team to perform the menu of treatments, although it felt like far less time. Semi-conscious throughout the session, I experienced discomfort at one point, but soldiered on. It was bearable. Aesthetic medicine may be minimally invasive, but CO2 laser and RF energy actually injure the skin in order to stimulate cell turnover, which slows down as we age. These treatments also revive the production of proteins that give the skin elasticity and firmness. Declining proteins such as collagen often causes increased laxity, folds, wrinkles and fine lines.
A picture says a thousand words, but I looked a lot grimmer than I felt. I had no pain, despite the swelling, redness, modest bleeding, and bruising. I filled a prescription for a mild painkiller, but never used a single pill. I took Tylenol for minor discomfort. It was a bigger pain in the neck – figuratively speaking – to wear the stylish garment on my head that’s designed to help tighten the skin after liposuction, but it came off after a few days.
Like a dutiful student, I faithfully did my homework assignments, which included gently washing my face with a mild cleanser and applying a thick clear ointment to protect my healing skin. Going outside without a hat to shield my face was a no-no. When it comes to the signs of aging, sun is one of the biggest offenders, even if you haven’t been a sun worshipper for decades. Believe it or not, harmful rays can penetrate the windshield of your car. “A patient in her late 40s did well for the first two weeks, but then she went to the beach and now we’re battling hyperpigmentation, where patches of skin become darker than the surrounding skin,” Dr. Gilly related.
I had the treatments on September 19, 2019, and started to look noticeably better by the sixth day. Despite my black and blue neck, lumps and bumps under my chin, peeling skin on my cheeks, and overall splotchiness, I could see the effects of Dr. Gilly’s artistry. My eyes opened wider and looked brighter. My neck was tighter and firmer. A healthy glow had returned to my complexion. My face continued to improve every single day for the next few weeks. “The initial Inflammatory stage lasts about four weeks, but that all goes away,” Dr. Gilly explained.
It’s been four months since my aesthetic adventure began, and I’m pleased with the results. I think I now look considerably better without makeup than I used to look with makeup. “It can take up to six months to see the full effects of the treatments, because new collagen forms more slowly in the deeper tissue.” Dr. Gilly explained. “You’ll see the surface results first, but your skin will contract even more when when collagen is created in the tissue below.”
AESTHETICS BEFORE AGING
I’m 72, but if you have aesthetic treatments when signs of aging start accelerating – say in your fifties – the long-term benefits will be greater. That’s because your skin won’t have lost as much of the elasticity, moisture and radiance that make younger faces look, well, younger! While I wouldn’t mind looking like I did when I was in my fifties, that ship has sailed, so I’m delighted to look like a more refreshed 72 year old.
The advantages will be greater yet for women in their twenties and thirties who opt for aesthetic procedures. And every year more and more are doing just that. We look younger than our mothers did at our age, and when our daughters become FabOverFifty, they’ll look younger than we did. Many women emphatically say they want to “age gracefully,” but I’m not sure what that means. I see nothing graceful about wrinkles, jowls, crows feet and turkey necks, not to mention gray hair that resembles straw, underarms that jiggle like Jell-O, and breasts that look downhearted.
I’m certainly not a fan of faces and bodies that have been excessively pulled, snipped, lifted, tucked, and injected, a la Joan Rivers. But I’m all for looking refreshed. If we reupholster sofas that look dingy, discolored, and worn, and repaint walls that have cracked and peeled, why not laser and microneedle our faces if they have the same issues? I’m delighted when friends compliment my home. When they think I look great, I’m over the moon.
MEET DR. GILLY MUNAVALLI
Dr. Gilly Munavalli, medical director and founder of Dermatology, Laser & Vein Specialists of the Carolinas in Charlotte, NC, brings to his practice an impressive academic background and breadth and depth of clinical experience. He earned a Master of Health Science from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health followed by a Doctorate of Medicine from Morehouse Medical School. After an internship and residency at the Mayo Clinic and Emory University, he received dermatologic surgery fellowships in Mohs Micrographic Surgery, cutaneous oncology, facial reconstruction, cosmetic and laser surgery at UC San Francisco.
Board Certified since 2002 from the American Board of Dermatology, Dr. Munavall currently serves as an Assistant Professor at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine – Department of Dermatology, and as a Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery Fellowship Director for the ASDS. His diverse expertise includes tumescent liposuction, blepharoplasty, laser skin resurfacing, facial volume enhancement, fat transfer, as well as laser removal of small blood vessels, birthmarks, acne, tattoos, fine lines and wrinkles.
Dr. Munavalli enjoys reading, keeping tropical fish, international travel, exercising and sports. He and his wife have a son.