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Forget the Spa. These Non-Invasive ‘Tweakments’ Use Lasers and Injections to Keep You Looking Young

They're just like real-world Instagram filters.

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Somewhere between surgery and a day at the spa lies the “tweakment,” a new breed of non-invasive but effective aesthetic procedures for face and body. A precisely administered laser, needle or electromagnetic pulse can create small but significant changes, like the results of a long holiday or a good rest. (Imagine quarantine spent on a wellness sabbatical rather than staring at a Zoom grid in pajamas.) Best of all, the results, which can be nearly instant, will outlive the very best spa treatments and demand little or even no recuperation.

The remarkable efficacy of these quick fixes can be traced to certain medical technologies that migrated from the O.R. to the dermatologist’s office. Many facial tweakments rely on the idea of “controlled wounding,” which is far more benign than it sounds: By applying minor damage to the skin, the body’s repair mechanisms kick in to create new cells. One example, fractional laser skin resurfacing, promises to reduce wrinkles, iron out fine lines and eradicate hyperpigmentation, all from what’s usually less than an hour of zapping. Treatments start around $1,000, and depending on the strength of laser, the results can surface in as quickly as a week and will last anywhere from three to five years.

If skin at the jawline is starting to thin and fall prey to gravity—one of the trickiest signs of aging to treat—then Morpheus8, a new fractional radio-frequency device, could restore your edge. The device pierces the skin with micro-pins while driving radio-frequency energy deep into the dermis, stimulating collagen production and rebuilding cellular scaffolding that resists the pull of time. Following one session, at an average cost of $1,000, some men notice results within a couple of days, and like all good tweakments, the effects keep building (in this case for up to three months post-treatment).

Aesthetic Procedures

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A considerably less aggressive refresher is Profhilo, an injection of high- and low- molecular weight hyaluronic acid that hydrates the skin and jump-starts the body’s collagen and elastin production more effectively than any topical product. “It’s best to think of Profhilo as a skin booster or ‘bio-stimulation’ treatment, something that stimulates the body into renewal,” says David Jack, M.D., one of London’s foremost aesthetic doctors. Jack recommends two treatments, totaling around $1,150. “It’s extremely safe, and the results are generally impressive,” he says. In the experience of this writer, Profhilo’s subtle airbrushing effect is akin to a real-world Instagram filter.

If isolation has compromised your usual workout routine, then cryolipolysis, or “fat freezing,” can help kick small, stubborn pockets of excess padding. Cooling applicators are placed on the skin’s surface, where they selectively kill a proportion of fat cells, which are naturally flushed out of the body over the coming months. While the final results from machines like CoolSculpting (the only brand currently approved for use in the US) don’t become visible for an average of three months, fat freezing can be done in one hour and has no recovery time to speak of, unlike more invasive procedures such as liposuction. A single session starts around $800, and Jack notes that “one or two sessions can result in around a 30 percent reduction in the number of fat cells in a given area.”

With puppy fat gone, abdominal muscles should be more apparent. But if they need a little extra definition, EmSculpt, a non-invasive procedure employing high-intensity focused electromagnetic technology, can make up for time away from the gym. One or two defibrillator-like panels are placed on the stomach, thighs or rear end, where they activate motor neurons and trigger supramaximal contractions: In other words, the device stimulates the muscles used in crunches or squats at a rate that is impossible to achieve on your own. I’ve felt the induced burn and, yes, it’s intense, but nothing you can’t stand for 30 minutes. A pack of four sessions, averaging around $3,500 total and spaced several days apart, is recommended; results can be seen anywhere from two weeks after the last treatment. It won’t miraculously replace a washtub with a washboard, but it could push you over the line from lean to shredded.

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