Millions turn to nonsurgical treatments like Botox, peels, laser treatment and more

10:27 AM, Aug. 7, 2011  |  

Dr. Charles M. Boyd, of the Boyd Cosmetic Surgical Institute in Birmingham, shows Sonia Carrero of Bloomfield Hills the results of a filler injection.

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Dr. Charles M. Boyd, of the Boyd Cosmetic Surgical Institute in Birmingham, shows Sonia Carrero of Bloomfield Hills the results of a filler injection. / Photos by REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press



 Desiree Abney, 50, of Plymouth gets a shot of Botox from Dr. Michael Gray of the Michigan Cosmetic Surgery Center in West Bloomfield. Abney says her friends tell her she looks good for her age.


Desiree Abney, 50, of Plymouth gets a shot of Botox from Dr. Michael Gray of the Michigan Cosmetic Surgery Center in West Bloomfield. Abney says her friends tell her she looks good for her age.


Before and after: A 41-year-old metro Detroiter's age spots were lightened with laser treatment.     


Before and after: A 41-year-old metro Detroiter’s age spots were lightened with laser treatment.



Before and after: Laser treatment removed wrinkles around the eyes of a 60-year-old metro Detroiter.


Tired of looking angry, Desiree Abney turned to Botox.

The 50-year-old Plymouth mother of two did her research before allowing a West Bloomfield plastic surgeon to inject botulinum toxin into her forehead to flatten the v-shaped wrinkle between her brows that made her look like she was scowling.

Now, she says, she spends about $500 twice a year for the procedure, which includes injections in her cheeks, with an $80 microdermabrasion treatment once in a while to help smooth her skin. And she hears friends and acquaintances tell her she looks good for her age.

“I work out and take care of myself health-wise,” she said. “I just feel that the other things help me look younger in line with the other things I’m doing with my body.”

She’s one of millions each year who are turning to nonsurgical antiaging procedures to stay looking young, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The number of nonsurgical cosmetic procedures — injectables, peels, laser treatment and microdermabrasion — has jumped 228% since 1997, according to a 2010 survey by the society. The survey of American Board of Plastic Surgery-certified dermatologists, otolaryngologists and plastic surgeons showed that that’s triple the 71% increase in surgical procedures like face-lifts, nose jobs and breast augmentation.

Last year, nonsurgical procedures made up 83% of the total number of cosmetic procedures for the year. Of the 5.75 million nonsurgical procedures performed, the most popular procedure by far was Botox; nearly 2.5 million people had the muscle-numbing facial treatment. That’s followed in popularity by 1.3 million injectable dermal filler treatments, 936,270 laser hair removals, 562,706 laser skin resurfacings and 493,896 chemical peels, according to the society.

“The antiaging market is just exploding right now,” said Rena Gardner, co-owner of Michigan Cosmetic Surgery Center and Skin Deep Spa in West Bloomfield with Dr. Michael Gray, Abney’s doctor. “And if you think back, we barely had Botox 10 years ago.”

The popularityof nonsurgical procedures is at least partly due to affordability, experts say. Altogether, Americans spent nearly $10.7 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2010. But while cosmetic surgery makes up only 17% of procedures, it accounts for 60% of the money spent to keep looking young, according to the society.

Rosemary Davis, 60, of Ortonville, a registered nurse at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, said the $5,000 she spent on having her eyelids and brows raised was money well spent in anticipation of her daughter’s wedding a few months ago. But she said chemical peels at three for $500 and microdermabrasion for $100 are what she can afford now.

“My lids, I … borrowed from my retirement fund because it was that important to me,” she said, adding that she doesn’t plan to have any more surgical procedures. “I’m not able to do that, and that’s not where I want to spend my money.”

Another reason for growth in nonsurgical antiaging procedures is the payoff for doctors, says plastic surgeon Shan Baker, medical director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Facial Cosmetic Surgery in Livonia. Doctors delve into antiaging treatments or open medical spas because the nonsurgical treatments are becoming more lucrative than insurance reimbursements for traditional medical procedures, he said.

“A lot of the medi-spas are opened by physicians because it makes money,” Baker said. “There seems to be one on every corner.”

And any licensed doctor can do the procedures, which is why signs for Botox or laser treatment can be found hanging in the office windows of everyone from dentists to pediatricians.

In Michigan — and many other states — regulations allow doctors to train and then designate just about anyone to perform the treatments.

Ray Garza, director for health investigations for the state of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, said state law doesn’t articulate exactly what that training should be. And the only medical oversight required is that a doctor is reachable by phone in case of an emergency.

One recent complaint involved a doctor overseeing a Sterling Heights clinic — from the Upper Peninsula, he said.

“Certainly sometimes it’s really borderline,” Garza said. “It’s a really broad definition of supervision.”

Regardless, he said, the state has received few complaints about those who provide nonsurgical antiaging treatments, despite huge industry growth.

“We do receive them, but fortunately it’s not a major concern,” he said.

Baker said he’s seen only a handful of patients reporting problems with nonsurgical, antiaging treatment over the years, but nothing extreme given the increased numbers of people turning to the procedures. “I would be seeing complications come into my office, and I’m not seeing that,” he said.

Providers’ backgrounds can vary widely, so questioning a provider is key, said Rebecca Kazin, a dermatologist with Johns Hopkins Dermatology and Cosmetic Center in Maryland. Kazin, who does outreach for the American Academy of Dermatology, said people seeking treatment should ask specific questions about the provider’s training and the number of times he or she has done the procedure. Patients can also ask for names and contact information for others who have undergone a procedure with that provider.

“That’s what I try to tell patients: Just because you can buy Botox and Allergan doesn’t mean you know how to inject it,” she said. “Patients need to understand who is injecting them (and) what kind of training they’ve had.”

Determining qualifications is especially important for those buying services from someone they don’t know, through online coupons or discounted deals, she said.

“People are more selective about who does their hair,” Kazin said. “I’m not saying that the person doing the Groupon isn’t excellent. I’m just saying you need to delve further than who’s giving you the best deal.”

Contact Tammy Stables Battaglia: 313-223-4759

ON THE COVER: Dr. Michael W.Gray gives Desiree Abney, 50, a shot of Botox.

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