Risk-Free Cosmetic Procedures? We’re Nearly There
A reality TV show about cosmetic enhancement gone good isn’t likely to show up anytime soon. But the vast majority of patients who undergo cosmetic procedures are satisfied with the results and don’t experience unsafe side effects. That is especially true, it appears, for minimally invasive treatments, such as injections of BOTOX® Cosmetic and dermal fillers.
In fact, a new study from Northwestern University that’s believed to be one of the largest of its kind concluded that minimally invasive cosmetic procedures are nearly risk-free. Researchers studied the results of more than 20,000 of these types of procedures — including fillers, neurotoxins (BOTOX), and the use of laser and other energy devices — performed by 23 board-certified dermatologists at multiple locations across the U.S.
The results showed that even minor complications were extremely rare. Bruising, swelling, redness, bumpiness, or skin darkening occurred in less than 1 percent of the patients. There were no major complications.
This is believed to be the first large, multi-center study that prospectively analyzed the rate of adverse events among tens of thousands of cosmetic procedures done at many centers around the United States by experienced dermatologists, according to a statement issued by Northwestern. These procedures are used to decrease the visible facial signs of aging.
It isn’t surprising that these types of procedures are safe, with doctors and medical spas touting their simple treatments for years. For instance, the website of a medical spa in Colorado says for most BOTOX patients “side effects are minimal or non-existent. You’ll probably be able to return to your day right after treatment.”
The perception that minimally invasive cosmetic procedures are safer than larger, more invasive cosmetic procedures has existed for many years. However, there was little evidence to back up this belief. The study’s results confirmed what most plastic surgeons and dermatologists knew anecdotally.
“The message for patients is that if you are thinking of getting one of these procedures, you are not indulging in something drastic or high risk,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Murad Alam, says in the university’s statement. “The take home is these procedures are very safe and can be mixed and matched to give the individual a significant cosmetic benefit, rather than getting one big cosmetic procedure that might be risky.”
Combining BOTOX or Dysport®, another neurotoxin used for cosmetic purposes, with other minimally invasive treatments is popular at many plastic surgery practices. Many combine them with another kind of injectable called fillers. Dermal fillers restore fullness to areas that are sunken or lined, while helping to reshape and redefine the overall facial structure. By combining fillers with BOTOX, the volume of both substances can be reduced to achieve a more natural, harmonious look.
The other message to take away from this study is that the safety of these procedures depends on the experience and training of the people performing them. Board-certified plastic surgeons and dermatologists familiar with facial anatomy and medical skin care use precision when performing injections or other minimally invasive treatments such as laser skin resurfacing. The risk of complications increases when patients go to day spas that aren’t supervised by a certified specialist, or even to a general medical practitioner for cosmetic procedures.
Dr. Allam told the AARP that all these procedures should be handled by board-certified specialists “who (have) done the procedure before and understand the risks and benefits.”