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Study Reveals 5 Safest Cosmetic Procedures: Liposuction, Lasers and More

Tim Boyer's picture
Cosmetic Surgery

Freezing fat cells rather than using liposuction and zapping facial skin with lasers for smoothing out wrinkles, are just two of the more recent cosmetic procedures used today. However, are they safe? A recent study reveals the 5 safest cosmetic procedures that includes liposuction, lasers and other cosmetic techniques that most people have not heard of as explained by the Chief of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Murad Alam, Chief of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital believes that one of the problems with current and new cosmetic procedures is that there is not enough data and evidence toward understanding the long-term effects of some cosmetic procedures performed on patients.

“Many treatments gaining popularity are novel techniques that use complex devices, such as lasers and ultrasound, but there is sparse research evaluating their long-term effects," says Dr. Alam. "We need more prospective studies comparing different treatments for the same problem head-to-head, so doctors and consumers know what’s best and safest.”

As a result, Dr. Alam has recently published a study in the journal Dermatologic Clinics that reviews what is known thus far and which cosmetic procedures have proven to be safe and effective after analyzing 98 studies on cosmetic dermatology procedures.

The following is a list of the procedures and opinions by Dr. Alam from a news release published by Northwestern University where Dr. Alam practices medicine:

Cosmetic procedure #1: Injectable botulinum toxins type A or neurotoxins
“These have been around for 20 years and during that entire period, when an approved pharmaceutical product in approved doses is used for cosmetic purposes, there have not been any instances of serious reactions,” says Dr. Alam.

Cosmetic procedure #2: Liposuction
“Tumescent liposuction, the kind when you inject fluid into the area where you are removing fat, has been shown to be exceedingly safe,” says Dr. Alam. “The main potential complication, excessive bleeding, simply doesn’t occur with that form of liposuction when appropriate rules are followed because the anesthetic used in the procedure prevents bleeding.”

Cosmetic procedure #3: Low-level laser light for fat removal
“Some companies sell products they claim can cause changes in skin and subcutaneous tissue,” says Dr. Alam. “One of these devices has been approved for reducing fat. It’s safe, but we have very limited information about its degree of effectiveness or how long the result lasts.”

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Cosmetic procedure #4: Fat freezing
A non-invasive fat freezing device sandwiches the fat on the abdomen or thighs between two cooling plates, which results in the fat cells dying and then being absorbed by the body. “It’s FDA approved and does work,” says Dr. Alam, “but we don’t know how long it lasts or how many cubic centimeters of fat will go away in different patients. While it appears to be safe and is a promising treatment, we won’t know for several more years if there is a downside or if fat removal is truly permanent.”

Cosmetic procedure #5: Non-invasive skin tightening
Skin tightening devices use radio-frequency energy or infrared light or ultrasound to heat and shrink the skin. “Some tightening definitely occurs,” says Dr. Alam. “What we don’t know is exactly how much tightening goes on, who it will work on or how long it will last.”

Dr. Alam stresses that there are two very important considerations a person needs to take into account before having a cosmetic procedure done: (1) The exact type of procedure and (2) the practitioner who performs the procedure.

He states that patients need to know that there are a variety of different cosmetic treatments for the same dermatological condition. In other words, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And, that some treatments are more appropriate than others depending on the patient’s needs.

“Patients need to be smart consumers and ask their doctors better questions such as, ‘How does procedure A compare to procedure B?’” says Dr. Alam. "Is there research comparing treatments, such as a facelift versus non-invasive skin tightening? Is there evidence regarding the degree of improvement and how long the results will last? How long has a particular procedure or device been approved, and would the doctor be comfortable recommending it to a friend or family member?’”

However, more important than choosing the right procedure is choosing who you allow to perform the cosmetic procedure.

“Patients should get treatments from experienced practitioners with access to the data and an ability to evaluate it, rather than someone at a nearby spa who just has one laser, is minimally trained and is not able to evaluate the scientific evidence, but eager to use this device for every patient complaint,” advises Dr. Alam.

Image source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Northwestern University News Release
Dermatologic Clinics “Needs Assessment for Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery” Alam, M. MD, Olson, J.A. MD, Asgari, M.M. MD, Vol. 30, Issue 1, pp. 177-187 January 2012

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