Liz West was ready to fix the double chin that had always bothered her, but she wasn't interested in surgery.
"The idea of a face lift scared me, and also I watch the show "Botched,"" West says with a laugh. "I just wanted a little extra help with tightening up that loose skin."
West, 45, ultimately opted for a radio frequency procedure called Face Tite, paired with a microneedling process called Morpheus 8, at the Plastic Surgery Group in Chattanooga. An English teacher at Sequatchie County High School, West had the procedures over the 2019 winter break and was ready to return to school in the new year.
"I am thrilled with the results," she said. "The change is unreal. I was told it can take three months to a year to see full results, but at two months I was blown away."
West documented her entire experience on YouTube, including the swelling and pain she experienced as she recovered from the procedures. The process is a lot simpler and faster than a face lift, she says, but she still had to endure some discomfort. Face Tite requires some small incisions to insert radio frequency tubes, and the microneedling process left her face temporarily red and sensitive.
"I am a chicken, so if I can take it, anybody can take it," she says. "It was uncomfortable. There was pain and swelling, but I would do it again."
As cosmetic and plastic surgery technology evolves, so do the options for patients like West, who want to see a change but don't want to have surgery, said Dr. Jason Rehm, a surgeon with the Plastic Surgery Group.
"From a practical standpoint, there's this middle ground of patients," he says. "There's a segment of people that want to do things before they're a candidate for surgery, or they can't take the recovery time.
"In our practice we've seen over the last decade that segment grow. These technologies have really exploded."
Amanda Johnson, 39, spends a lot less time in the gym than she used to and a lot more time at her desk, she says. And she has a 5-year-old who keeps her busy — all of which adds up to less time to focus on fitness.
When she heard about a new technology at Shire Plastic Surgery that targets and tightens loose skin without any invasive procedures and no downtime, she decided to give it a try. She has had four of six treatments on her thighs and her sides, and expects the results to emerge over the next few months.
"It's really hard to tell in these areas, but I'm very optimistic," Johnson says. "I think it will show great results, but it takes about three months. I could tell the difference from people I've seen who have done it."
The Evolve technology, which uses bipolar radio frequency pods to target specific areas, tighten loose skin and tone muscle, isn't right for everyone, Dr. James Shire says. Realistic expectations and understanding what these technologies can really do is the key to using them properly, he says.
"None of this is a free pass to eat cheeseburgers," he says. "It makes things easier for patients, it gives them options. It's not as good as a tummy tuck, but some people don't want a tummy tuck."
The boom in options beyond cosmetic surgery has shifted the shape of many practices, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In February, the group reported that 85 percent of the total number of procedures performed by members are now minimally invasive non-surgical procedures.
But it's important not to fall into the trap of thinking these technologies are cure-alls, the physicians said.
"Technology can only go so far, and technology doesn't have brains," Dr. Shire says. "You can't substitute technology for ability."
The major benefit of these technologies is that they expand the scope of what's possible for patients seeking options, said Dr. Jimmy Waldrop with Plastic Surgery Group.
"We're working with more people who would never have come in who can get an outstanding result with a weekend of downtime at two-thirds the cost," he says. "Some people just don't want a surgical procedure."
Liz West documented her Face Tite and Morpheus 8 experience here:
Use this link, or search ‘Liz West’ and ‘Face Tite’ on YouTube