Years ago, people who wanted to kiss their facial wrinkles goodbye did so by spending thousands of dollars and several weeks recovering from a surgical facelift. Today, however, people who want to change the way they look have additional options. Procedures can be done in a doctor's office with little or no anesthesia rather than in an operating room. Here is a rundown of some of the nonsurgical cosmetic procedures. Cosmetic procedures that are not due to a medical condition are generally not covered by insurance.
Note: More than 1 treatment session may be needed to achieve the desired result. Side effects are generally temporary and the risks and recovery times vary. Talk to your doctor about how long it might take you to recover.
- Description —A chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the wrinkled top layer. This allows a healthier layer to take its place. You are awake during the procedure. It is used to treat skin that is damaged by the sun, uneven color, and fine wrinkles. Depending on the extent of the damage being treated, different chemical solutions may be used.
- Side effects—temporary tingling, burning, swelling, redness, flaking, minor pain, and increased sensitivity, especially to the sun
- Potential risks—infection, scarring, blisters, sores, changes in skin color
- Recovery time—immediate to up to 2 weeks, depending on the strength of the chemical solution used (You may require several treatments.)
Since having a chemical peel can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, always wear sunblock and avoid direct sunlight during the hottest times of the day.
- Description—Microdermabrasion is a form of gentle abrasion or scraping of the outer layer of the skin. An instrument is used to blast tiny particles against the skin to smooth out lines, wrinkles, and acne scars. You are awake during the procedure. The doctor may apply a local anesthetic to the area being treated. Treatments take between 30 minutes and an hour, and you may need 5-12 treatments.
- Side effects—redness, swelling, discomfort in the treated area, itchiness as new skin grows back
- Potential risks—temporary swelling, increased skin sensitivity, sun sensitivity
- Recovery time—immediate
- Description—Botulinum toxin is injected into facial muscles to temporarily paralyze them. This reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles. You are awake during the procedure, which is generally painless. Although, you may feel a slight burning sensation on injection. Effects are temporary and last 3-4 months.
- Side effects—redness
- Potential risks—allergic reaction, bruising, numbness, swelling, headache, temporary nerve damage, chance of infection
- Recovery time—immediate
Zapping Spider Veins
Spider Vein Removal (Sclerotherapy)
- Description—The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and then the spider veins are injected with a solution called a sclerosing agent. A cotton ball and compression tape are applied to each area of the leg as it is finished. You may be asked to wear compression stockings after the procedure. You are awake during the procedure and may feel a slight burning sensation. But, the needle used is so thin and the sclerosing solution is so mild that pain is usually minimal. Results are usually permanent after a few sessions. Sometimes, spider veins will not disappear, but their appearance will lessen.
- Side effects—temporary bruising and redness at injection site, stinging during the injection
- Potential risks—severe inflammation, scarring, allergic reaction, changes in skin color
- Recovery time—immediate, avoid vigorous activity for the first 24 hours
You should avoid direct sunlight or wear sunscreen when outdoors during the first few weeks after the treatment.
Removing Unwanted Hair
Laser Hair Removal
- Description—A laser beam is directed at the area of unwanted hair. Areas treated include the face, arms, legs, back, and bikini area. You are awake during the procedure and must wear special glasses to shield your eyes from the laser beam. The procedure is painless, although you may feel a slight stinging or tingling feeling in the area being treated. Hair generally grows back in a few months, but becomes finer with multiple treatments, eventually resulting in permanent hair removal. The treatment process can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours, depending on the area being treated.
- Side effects—temporary redness, blistering, mild swelling around hairs
- Potential risks—skin discoloration, scarring
- Recovery time—immediate
Use sunscreen on treated areas that will be exposed to the sun. Hair that is blond or gray may be less responsive to treatment. Patients with darker skin may also see less results.
American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery
American Academy of Dermatology
Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Chemical peel. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/skin/chemical-peel-light. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Injectables. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/skin/injectables. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Is a chemical peel right for you? American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a---d/chemical-peel/is-it-right-for-you. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Laser hair removal. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/skin/laser-hair-removal. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Microdermabrasion. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/skin/mircrodermabrasion. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Spider vein treatement. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/skin/spider-vein-treatment. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Last reviewed July 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 7/31/2014