Plastic Surgery: Going Green
I have patients every day asking me about “natural” remedies to the aging problem. Even though I quote them statistics on the incredible safety record of some of the more common treatments like Botox® and fillers, they still look at me with skeptical glances and ask “what else” do I have to offer them to melt away their wrinkles. Good news for patients that enjoy going green is that they have several excellent options in which their plastic surgeon can harness their own body’s resources to help them turn back the clock.
Facial fillers are some of the most popular treatments for filling in lines and grooves etched into the face after years of smiles, frowns, squints, and scowls. The most common ingredient in many of these non-surgical fillers is one of the main structural components found in human skin: hyaluronic acid. Adding this sugary protein into wrinkles can be thought of simply as replacement therapy. But, if patients aren’t interested in this off-the-shelf option since it is synthesized in a lab, a holistic alternative is actually to borrow fat from another part of their body where there is excess and use it to fill in areas where volume is needed on the face. Autologous structural fat grafting offers a very natural look for patients who want to only use their own tissue for rejuvenation.
Although the compounds used in chemical peel treatments are often found naturally occurring in the environment, the thought of applying caustic substances to the skin scares away many potential patients who would benefit from this form of therapy. Patients looking for “green” treatments are often not interested in these strategic injuries to the skin even though they represent one of the oldest known aging face procedures. Chemical peels can be performed very safely by plastic surgeons who understand the appropriate candidates and medication concentrations. Laser treatments are considered by many to be a sexy alternative to peels, having only been developed in the last half century. Still many patients are frightened by lasers too, due to the energy emitted by these devices. Perhaps the “greenest” alternative of the skin treatments is the newest form of therapy called microneedling. This treatment involves creating many small microchannels in the skin with extremely tiny needles. This triggers the body to repair these strategically damaged areas of skin by laying down new collagen and elastin, thereby generating increased health and thickness to the dermis and epidermis.
The use of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is another common “green” form of facial rejuvenation. It essentially utilizes the body’s own growth factors and serum cytokines to accelerate the healing process. PRP is a treatment that is begun by drawing a small volume of the patient’s own blood. The PRP portion of the blood is then isolated by using a sophisticated machine to separate the components safely based on density. This important fraction of the blood can then be applied topically during a skin treatment, or injected separately to artificially initiate the body’s natural healing cascade. PRP has been used for many years in orthopedics and only recently have plastic surgeons begun using the technology to trick the body into channeling resources to areas on the face where the PRP is concentrated.
For patients looking for completely natural remedies for aging, treatments like autologous fat transfer, microneedling, and PRP allow the patients’ own bodies to create the favorable changes in appearance. It is important for patients who wish to avoid synthetic anti-aging treatments and traditional incisions/surgery to have perspective on their options and understand that these alternatives exist.