Advancements in technology aren’t always about doing something new. Sometimes it’s about doing something old, but better, faster, and easier. From instant, reversible nose jobs to virtual dermatology, the science of skin care is bringing new innovations to skin treatments and technology.
When it comes to the new discoveries from scientific studies, often performed in lab conditions with mice, invertebrates, or petri dishes full of cells, it’s not always clear what will apply to humans.
We reached out to dermatology, cosmetic, and plastic surgery experts to give us the scoop on the latest in skin tech: what’s new, what’s effective, and what’s promising for the future.
Cosmetic procedures for the commitment-shy are here
If you’re interested in giving your “selfie nose” a try but are leery of going under the knife for a permanent change, don’t despair. One of the most exciting plastic surgery developments in recent years has been the “nonsurgical rhinoplasty.” It uses temporary fillers to reshape the nose with transformative results.
While it’s not without its risks (if done inexpertly, it can result in blindness or damage) and not all people are ideal candidates, this minimally invasive method in the hands of qualified professionals provides instant results, almost no downtime, and is temporary.
With those benefits behind it, the “liquid nose job” continues to gain popularity.
Nonsurgical rhinoplasty isn’t the only low-commitment innovation gaining traction.
If you’ve avoided Botox for fear of a “frozen face,” there’s a new option with a shorter life span and faster results.
“The new form of Botox from Bonti is a different serotype of botulinum but still functions similarly to traditional Botox,” explains double board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer of Shafer Plastic Surgery & Laser Center in New York City. “[It has an] onset of action within 24 hours, but with a shorter duration of action of two to four weeks.”
Shafer sees the benefits for first-time Botox users to try it. Those who don’t want to commit to three months or want a last-minute treatment before a big event could also look into this temporary treatment. Traditional Botox, according to Shafer, normally takes three to five days to start working, giving this fast-acting version all of the benefits without the long commitment.
Virtual is the new reality
Are you eyeing a procedure overseas, lacking time for a traditional in-office visit, or facing flying halfway across the country for a consultation?
Even with just one pre- and postoperative visit, those costs can add up fast (think airline tickets and hotel stays). Especially for permanent surgery, you’re going to want the best doctor for your look and beauty philosophy.
The trend toward telemedicine isn’t slowing down, says Shafer, who does pre- and postoperative visits virtually.
“I can consult with them over Skype prior to their visit at my office,” he says. This allows him to evaluate whether a potential patient is a good candidate for the procedure and even follow-up over Skype to monitor their recovery.
With this shift, you can prioritize the perfect fit over proximity, even if your preferred physician is halfway across the country. Think virtual before restricting your search to local providers.
“Personalized and telemedicine will continue to gain popularity as the standards and norms of medical care evolve,” predicts Shafer, whose global patient base can sometimes face international travel costs.
Virtual visits have their limits, of course.
While telemedicine can offer accessibility and convenience for screenings and consultations, a diagnosis and prescriptions for treatment or procedures need to be done in-person.
While you could be getting a skin cancer screening from AI in the near future, ultimately these advances in virtual medicine are a tool to augment the services offered by a skilled professional.
Real-life filter results
Seeing your doctor from the comfort of your couch isn’t the only way virtual imaging is making waves in skin technology. Manipulation of digital imagery has become more powerful and accessible at all levels, from hi-tech medical 3-D modeling to photo-editing apps. With the tap of the finger on your smartphone, you can shrink your nose just to see what it’d like.
These advances in digital imaging are making waves at all levels, from patient goals to high-level surgical reconstruction advancements. Modern imaging software, such as Virtual Surgical Planning, not only gives surgeons more sophisticated tools during the planning stage, but it can even assist with 3-D printing of custom implants for facial reconstructive surgery.
It’s also changing what people want done. Love it or hate it, we live in the age of the selfie, where candid photos are layered with filters and social media images are heavily edited with powerful apps like Facetune.
Rather than bringing in a photo of Scarlett Johansson’s lips as their goal, patients are increasingly using their own tweakedphotos.
To Dr. Lara Devgan, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In an episode of Broadly’s“Plastic Planet” titled “I Got Surgery to Look Like My Snapchat and Facetune Selfies,” she explains why she prefers patients with filter goals over famous features.
Edited images, she describes, are a “micro-optimized version of their own face, [and] that’s a healthier body image place to start from than bringing in the image of a celebrity.”
And the tech has caught up with these micro efforts.
For example, lip augmentation has gone beyond plumping your pout. “Patients and doctors are gaining sophistication and refining the procedure to gain more natural enhancements and not just plumping,” Shafer says.
He also points to the new “lip lift,” which shortens the distance between the nose and upper lip. “[A lip lift is] a minor surgical procedure with a small incision under the nose to lift the lip and shape the cupid’s bow,” Shafer explains. And since this area actually lengthens as we age, this procedure may not involve a drastic change.
Safer, faster, and more effective treatments
While it might not be new, microneedling is rapidly becoming mainstream, with expanded at-home options available and better hi-tech options for dermatologists looking for more effective results with fewer downsides.
Several new RF-microneedling devices — a treatment combining radiofrequency with microneedling — have been released this year, according to Dr. Estee Williams, a board-certified dermatologist in practice in New York City’s Upper East Side.
Williams uses the EndyMed Intensif device as her go-to for facial tightening. “I find that this technology works better than the other tightening treatments, such as Thermage and Ulthera, and is less painful,” she says.
Shafer agrees that microneedling has been a popular trend in the last few years, but he warns that more aggressive treatments (like any infamous facial on Instagram, especially the vampire facial that our experts caution against) should only be performed at a doctor’s office.
Still, he contends there are “home microneedling rollers which can be very effective for patients to address skin texture, pigmentation, and even reduce scarring.”
However, Williams advises against at-home treatments, explaining that “anything that punctures the skin should be done by a professional in an office, under sterile conditions.”
Keep safety first if you’re considering at-home microneedling, or go with a more moderate, controlled option. Shafer recommends Aquagold.
“[This] gentle but effective microchanneling device helps improve penetration of the products to the deeper layers of the skin,” he explains. Originally a $500 to $1,500 office-based treatment, the company released an at-home version for $120 to $250.
There are plenty of new at-home options that don’t run the risk of sepsis.
If you’re confident that your bathroom isn’t going to make a clean and sterile operating table jealous, Williams points to the at-home LED products for acne and redness, which are often available at drugstores.
“We are [also] seeing chemical acid peels available in higher, more potent formulations over the counter,” Williams says.
The future is portable
New skin technology takes time to develop from initial studies and concepts to effective end products we can safely use. But there’s always something exciting on the horizon.
In the meantime, here are two ways to go hi-tech with your sun safety.
L’Oréal recently released a tiny UV-tracking device from La Roche-Posay that’s small and light enough to be attached to your sunglasses, watch, hat, or even your workout ponytail.
While Williams isn’t a fan of wearing technology for extended periods of time due to possible radiation exposure, she sees the benefits of this device: If it actually changes people’s sun habits, it’s worth it.
“I wonder whether wearing a device that tells you that your UV exposure is very high will cause you to seek shade or apply sunscreen,” she says. “I think that if it does, that would be huge.”
If you aren’t keen on wearable electronics, LogicInk UV has released a UV-tracking temporary tattoo that changes color when you’ve hit the limit for safe UV exposure. It tracks both real-time and cumulative UV exposure, with a simple visual change — no smartphone app required.
From the convenience of virtually visiting your physician in fuzzy slippers to subtly tweaking your appearance for more confidence, even if temporarily, the future of skin tech is all your beauty standards.
Of course, plastic surgeons and derms are going to be able to help you achieve the look you want. But the future also looks like it’s moving toward giving you, the everyday person, more control, less effort, and better results that are more you.
Kate M. Watts is a science enthusiast and beauty writer who dreams of finishing her coffee before it cools. Her home is overrun with old books and demanding houseplants, and she’s accepted her best life comes with a fine patina of dog hair. You can find her onTwitter.