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Giving face and body a lift, without a scalpel

Techniques for non-invasive aesthetic procedures that provide lifting and tightening have improved

The global aesthetic market is slated to reach more than $26 billion by 2029(iStockphoto)

By Vasudha Rai

LAST PUBLISHED 29.05.2023  |  09:30 AM IST

A few years ago, a friend got a neck lift. She had just turned 50 and felt she needed the bit of skin tightening to feel better about growing older. For many, sagging of the skin is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to ageing. And in today’s beauty landscape, plumping and lifting are the biggest drivers of the aesthetic market.

As knowledge of skincare and actives becomes commonplace, the focus on aesthetic procedures has shifted from texture and clarity to non-invasive lifting and tightening. This could be because while cosmetics address every other problem, they still cannot work on the last frontier of skincare—elasticity (this is what helps the skin stay smooth, firm and youthful).


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“The evolution of beauty aesthetics is influenced by several factors... in the last few years, we are more focused on tone than ever before, not just on the face but also the body," says Uma Ghosh, Dubai-based co-founder of Uma Ghosh Beauty Tools and co-founder of the beauty and wellness school Pro Age Aesthetics Academy (Tatiana Vorontsova is the other founder). “Social media and the rise of selfie culture," she says, have fuelled the trend.

Adhishwar Sharma, consultant (reconstructive and plastic surgery) at Gurugram’s Fortis Memorial Research Institute, gives another reason for the shift: “Earlier, only the elderly used to come to remove signs of ageing, but as the industry progressed and people got more disposable income, more young people also came into the fray, driving the trend of non-invasive lifting techniques, like energy machines of botox in the masseter, fillers, which work best on younger skin (30s, 40s, 50s)."

A 2022 study by the Data Bridge Market Research firm indicates that the global aesthetic market is slated to reach more than $26 billion (around 2.1 trillion) by 2029, growing at a rate of 9.34% every year. One of the drivers of the growth is the search not just for better skin but also a sharper jawline, higher cheeks, sculpted face, all of which can be achieved with non-invasive procedures. Within this market, facial aesthetics should grow at a rate of 15.5% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2022-30, according to Allied Market Research. Dermal fillers dominated this market in 2021 and continue to do so, followed by botox and micro-needling. In India, the aesthetic market is expected to grow at 6.95% CAGR over the next five years, according to a 2022 report by Research and Markets.

Besides fillers that add plumpness, lift cheeks, augment the jawline, and botox that lifts the brow, the market is also seeing the entry of injectable moisturisers, along with platelet-rich plasma and stem cells that claim to thicken and clarify the skin.

For Apul Parikh, a well-known London-based aesthetic surgeon, filler is the gold standard. “Firstly, because filler technology has changed dramatically over the last few years. They are thicker and denser, because of which we can use them to lift the skin, but they don’t have the old problems like big lumps, so they integrate into the soft tissue of the skin," he says. “Additionally, injection techniques have transformed a lot. There’s more understanding about how the soft tissue can be lifted," he says. In his clinic, he uses the Harmonica filler made with hyaluronic acid (HA) and calciumhy-droxyapetite. “This is a hybrid with the HA, for the lifting power, but with calcium, which helps in collagen stimulation of the skin, so the filler gets better over time and lasts for a year to 15 months."

Dr Parikh isn’t a huge fan of thread lifts, a procedure that uses a dissolvable suture to tighten and lift the skin. “The anatomy of the face is complex; you cannot see where the end of your thread is at and at what depth. I have seen threads that are too superficial, wherein you can see the outline on the skin, or too deep and caused trauma or infection," he says.


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According to Bharat Sachdev, director of Leader Medical Systems, which deals in aesthetic devices and injectables: “The Indian market is still trying to understand the correct technology. For instance, many are offering HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound, a relatively new non-invasive treatment for skin tightening), saying that it is Ulthera (an ultrasound therapy), which are two different technologies.

“Earlier, skincare, injectables and devices were being done in isolation but now they are all being combined to achieve the current aesthetic of lifted skin." The newest device his company will launch soon is Joveena, which works with muscle contractions to lift the skin.

This comes soon after the launch of Emface, which claims to lift and tone the skin. “Emface is an advanced technology that works on two muscle groups—zygomaticus and frontalis muscles—that are the most important in terms of the droop," says Geetika Mittal, founder, Isaac Luxe, which launched it earlier this year with the cast of the reality show Fabulous Lives Of Bollywood Wives. “This is advanced because it combines radio frequency to work on the skin and... muscles to give you a lift," she says. Over the past five years, she has seen a 70% jump in requests for lifting and plumping procedures.

Do they actually work? Though the price of tightening and lifting devices is steep, the results are subtle. And that’s the reason some people prefer such procedures. But there are others—like Shripriya Anilkumar, 46, who works with a London-based security company—who haven’t had a good experience. She spent 5-6 lakh within a year on procedures such as Hifu, Ulthera, skin tightening laser, PRP, mesotherapy injections to reduce double chin, and thread lifts. When the procedures didn’t work, she says, “the doctors said I wasn’t the right candidate".

“I got threads done twice," she adds. “Once, it bruised my face and pulled my smile downwards, causing throbbing pain while smiling or yawning." The second time, it worked when she got them done from a reputed dermatologist. As for Ulthera and Hifu, she found the effects so subtle that she felt it wasn’t worth the money. The results of the procedures can last for six months to a year, depending on the sittings and skin type. Some people report a loss of fatty tissue on the face, which I personally faced with Ulthera. When I got it after I turned 40, it made my face more gaunt than lifted and plumped.

A friend who’s a banking and private equity consultant recently tried PRP. “It has been just two days but I can immediately see that my tear troughs have filled up a little and pigmentation has reduced on my lips and cheeks," she says.

Ultimately, it’s important to question what is driving our quest for beauty. “The definition of beauty was always given to us—lifted cheeks, toned face, big lips," says Ghosh. “It’s almost like a medicine— take it and it will heal you, and we have taken it without questioning it."

Vasudha Rai is a beauty journalist and the author of Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes And Rituals For Beauty, Inside & Out and Ritual: Daily Practices for Wellness, Beauty & Bliss.

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