Structure of skin
The skin is made up of three layers— the epidermis, dermis, and subcutis. The epidermis is the outermost layer and acts as a physical barrier between the external environment and the inner structures of the body. The epidermis is constantly replaced, every two weeks, as the top layer of dead cells is shed and new cells from the lower layer move up to replace the dead cells. Dermis lies below the epidermis and provides strength, elasticity, and toughness to the skin. It is primarily composed of collagen fibres, interspersed with elastin fibres, embedded in a gelatinous matrix made of proteoglycans that bind water molecules and keep the skin hydrated. All the three structural components of the dermis are formed by the fibroblast cells present in the dermis. The dermis also contains blood vessels, nerve cells and specialised cells such as hair follicles, sebaceous glands, sweat glands and apocrine glands (scent glands). Subcutis is a layer of fat and connective tissue present below the dermis. It contains blood vessels and nerves, larger than those present in the dermis, and serves as a storage of fat.
Changes with ageing
With ageing, major changes occur in the dermis. The ageing fibroblasts lose their normal structural and functional ability, producing less collagen. This slowly decreases the proportion of collagen fibres present in the dermis. Moreover, the production of collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down the collagen, is also increased, resulting in the fragmentation of the existing fibres. This collapse of the collagen structure, with age, slowly leads to the appearance of wrinkles.
What is Skin Tightening/Lift?
Non-surgical skin tightening procedures aim at restoring the lost firmness of the dermis by stimulating the production of the collagen fibres. The two most popular non-surgical skin tightening procedures are Thermage and Titan. These use radiofrequency waves or infrared light to generate heat in the deep dermis of the treated skin. They work similar to the microwaves and sun’s rays, to produce heat. The heating is adjusted, to generate a good healing response in the dermis, stimulating the fibroblast cells to produce more collagen fibres. It also results in the re-modelling of the existing collagen structure. This makes the dermis more firm and dense, resulting in a tighter and uplifted appearance of treated skin.
Non-surgical skin tightening can be used for the face as well as other parts of the body. Significant improvements have been particularly seen on the skin over the neck and jawline. These procedures are also used for tightening sagging skin over the abdomen, upper arms, butt, and thighs and also produce a reduction in the appearance of cellulite.
The improvements are not very evident immediately after the procedure. However, gradually with the healing process, the improvements in the skin become more prominent over a period of about six months. As compared to other non-invasive methods of skin tightening such as chemical peels and ablative laser, thermage and titan do not cause any damage to the epidermis during the procedure.
The benefits of non-surgical skin tightening include:
- Non-surgical procedure
- Can be used on all skin types
- It causes minimal discomfort. The skin is cooled intermittently during the procedure.
- It does not require any downtime. Thus, all activities can be resumed immediately after the procedure.
Risks of Skin tightening/ lift
Some people may develop temporary redness, swelling, skin whitening or numbness at the treated area, after the procedure. It is a safe procedure, though rarely, bumps, blistering, permanent pigment changes, skin depressions, scarring or infection may occur.
The ideal candidate for Skin tightening/ lift
An ideal candidate for the non-surgical skin tightening is a younger individual who wants to look younger just by a few years. It is not advised for people with too much loose skin and those who want to erase 15 to 20 years. They would need to undergo a surgical procedure for skin tightening. Moreover, the person should not have excessive fat on the face and should have realistic expectations about the procedure.
Skin tightening results vary from person to person and depend on the healing process which varies among different persons based on their lifestyle.