Spanx for Sagging Skin?

Tired of looking at skin that was rapidly heading south, writer Emily Listfield decides to undergo Ulthera, a new skin-lifting treatment. Here, a candid report on how it went:

Emily Listfield
Photograph: ISTOCK

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman with a sagging jawline  and upper eyelids heading south will try pretty much anything to fight the effects of gravity.  And if that woman (okay, me) meets a very smart, very talented man (Robert Anolik, MD, a board-certified dermatologist)  who says he can help, it is hard not to consider it a date with destiny – or at least an appointment with the latest high-tech beauty procedure.

So…on a rainy Tuesday morning, I show up at The Laser and Skin Center of New York to get Ulthera, the only ultrasound treatment currently approved for aesthetic purposes.   “It’s a breakthrough because it uses sound waves to reach past the outer layer of skin to the layers beneath to stimulate collagen and produce tightening,” Dr. Anolik explains.  (Thermage, which promises similar results, used radio-frequency waves.)   The results take two to four months to become apparent.  On the plus side: Ulthera is non-invasive, there’s no downtime, and the results last from one to two years.  The downside? I wouldn’t exactly call Ulthera pain-free.

After changing into a robe, a nurse gives me a painkiller and paints a super-numbing cream on my face. (And I mean super: my face was still numb ten hours later). After waiting an hour for it to take effect, Dr. Anolik came in and sat down beside me, the ultrasound wand in his hand.  As he ran it over my face, he studied the images of the my skin on the screen beside him so that he could  accurately direct the heat waves.  And then he got to work.  It felt like a multitude of sharp pricks pressing into my skin as he did the first pass on my jaw line. (Is it bearable? Totally.  Is it pleasant? Not particularly. But I’m a big believer in closing your eyes, clicking your heels and repeating: I will look better, I will look better.)  Luckily, the second pass was gentler. Through it all, Dr. Anolik kept up a soothing banter, constantly asking how I was doing, explaining what was happening, and making me laugh.  When he was ready to move up to my brow, he explained that he would only do one pass as that less fleshy area tended to be more painful.  I would have kissed his feet if it wouldn’t have disrupted the treatment.

The whole procedure took an hour, and unlike some other life experiences, there was no residual pain, though my face remained bright red for hours. (A friend I ran into asked if I’d snuck off on vacation and gotten a sunburn.)  By the next day, it was as if the whole thing never happened.

Flash forward two months.  I stumbled in the bathroom this morning,  glanced in the mirror and had the somewhat unusual (for me) thought: I looked pretty good.  Not Julia Roberts good, but me-after-a-good night’s sleep-good.  Which, for the record, I hadn’t had.  I was stumped, until it hit me: The Ulthera was kicking in. Somehow, I’d forgotten all about it, but now I was faced with the evidence. My eyes were far less hooded (I had lids again, seriously!) and  my drooping jaw was back where it should be. Do I look twenty? No, but that wasn’t my goal.  I looked, well, better, in that ‘can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on it’ way that I was aiming for. I’ll take Dr. Anolik over gravity any day. 

(Ulthera is best for those with mild to moderate skin laxity.  Prices range from $3000 to $5000 depending on the areas done.)


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First Published Wed, 2012-04-04 14:10

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