Modern technology makes old skin young by relying on the body’s processes to restore its youthful nature. Science has long studied what happens when we injure ourselves. Since antiquity, it has been known that after a burn people may develop tighter, smoother skin. Skin tightening treatments use this as a foundation for their treatment.
Collagen, the major structural protein in the body, constantly renews itself. Old collagen structures are absorbed, and new collagen is laid down. When we’re young, new collagen is accumulating much faster than reabsorption of old. As we reach adulthood this natural turnover of collagen reverses, and the absorption outpaces the accumulation. Weakening and loss of the collagen cause thinning and laxity of skin. Thus, the skin sags; other body parts may deteriorate as the collagen decreases. Laser and other heat treatments such as ThermiTight are efforts to reverse this process of collagen deterioration and restore youth to the skin.
Collagen is a helical molecule (like a bed spring) which can shorten when heated. In experimental models up to 70% shortening has occurred; however, in real life, the shortening is considerably less. Any adequate source of heat can cause shortening of collagen. Excess heat can denature (change the chemical structure) collagen. An example is boiling an egg–the white of the egg becomes opaque and solid when heated. The way bacon curls when it is fried is largely due to shortening of the collagen structure. Also, heat can stimulate special cells in the body to produce new collagen.
“ To restore youth to the skin, treatment generally must heat tissue deeply enough to shrink the underlying dermal collagen structures and stimulate the formation of new collagen.”
Many of these heat treatments including most laser skin treatments impact the skin directly. It can treat superficially or deep, and cause cellular changes in the surface of the skin (epidermis) and stimulate remodeling in the dermal collagen (the foundation of skin) and other structures. To tighten the skin, treatment generally must heat tissue deeply enough to stimulate the underlying dermal collagen structures. Some heat treatments must pass through the shallow skin to reach the dermal collagen and supporting collagen filaments of the skin. Many laser skin treatments occur too shallow to affect the deeper collagen but are extremely useful in changing the superficial cells and pigment. Conversely, many therapies targeting the deeper collagen can be absorbed superficially causing pain and damage to unintended structures.
To more completely treat aging skin we utilize lasers to treat the shallower elements of the skin and radiofrequency (ThermiTight) to treat the deeper elements that support and thicken the skin. While there is considerable overlap between the two technologies the experienced physician can use the two modalities synergistically. Fractional CO2 lasers are useful in treating the shallow layers of the skin plus some collagen whereas ThermiTight radiofrequency applied by a probe under the skin is excellent in targeting the deeper support structures. In addition, the radiofrequency ThermiTight can destroy fat cells which is desirable in many neck treatments.
Since these treatments involve a stimulation of the body’s own processes, we must wait for the body’s response to see the final result.
The results of these treatments depend on many factors. Certainly the technology, the experience of the provider, and, of course, the patient will all affect the results. Under-treatment results in lack of improvement and over-treatment results in unwanted results and complications. Since these treatments involve a stimulation of the body’s own processes, it may take months see the final result; and certainly requires the patience and cooperation of the patient. With time and experience, we are able to better apply the science to the patient. Technology improves as we learn which factors are most important, the experience of the provider improves, and our ability to predict success for patients will improve. The combined experience of the practitioners at the Institute of Aesthetic Surgery far exceeds that of any other group. Come in for a free consultation, or contact us today.