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VOL. 126 | NO. 72 | Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Memphians Undergoing Cosmetic Procedures More Often

By Aisling Maki

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Cosmetic procedures such as filling wrinkles with injectables, airbrush facelifts and laser skin rejuvenation aren’t just for Hollywood starlets and Park Avenue socialites anymore.

Mid-Southerners, too, are making substantial long-term cosmetic investments in their appearance, thanks to the latest technologies, which can offer minimal downtime and little to no bruising.

Dr. Gregory Laurence, medical director of Germantown Aesthetics, 7475 Poplar Pike, said he’s seeing increasing numbers of local men and women from all walks of life interested in cosmetic “lunchtime procedures” that typically allow patients to return to work within a day or two.

“We’re seeing them as early as 25 for facial volume issues,” said Laurence, who is board-certified in laser surgery and has fellowship and residency training in women’s health and family medicine. “Some people we’re actually seeing even younger, but those are generally people who make a living off their looks.”

Laurence said that in terms of facial cosmetic procedures, volume is “the holy grail.”

“It’s no longer pulling and stretching, it’s refilling the balloon that has lost its air, and people look much more natural when you do that,” he said.

Newer solutions for correcting facial lines, sagging and dark circles are less aggressive, causing far less bruising and swelling than previous techniques, allowing doctors who focus on cosmetic procedures to increase their base of potential patients.

“I didn’t necessarily want to look younger – but with having bags, in certain light, I was very happy with the way I looked, but in the wrong light, it looked dark,” a 37-year-old female patient, who asked to remain anonymous, said Monday during a procedure using injectable fillers. “There have been a few times when someone asked me if I was tired when I wasn’t tired. Everybody sees your face; there’s no hiding it. And it just took me a while to find somebody I felt confident with in treating this area.”

The patient also said she admires the fact that Laurence prefers to perform procedures involving injectables himself; many doctors have trained nurses to handle such procedures.

Laurence’s filler of choice is ArteFill, distributed by San Diego-based Suneva Medical. According to company literature, the product is the first and only FDA-approved non-resorbable, injectable wrinkle-filler.

The product differs from competing products in that it’s long-lasting, requiring fewer injections and less maintenance.

“The majority of what we place under the skin is collagen that dissolves pretty quickly,” Laurence said. “The other component is something called PMMA, which is a very common material that implantable medical devices are made of. Some genius figured out that you could make PMMA into small beads about the size of a white blood cell. They’re very smooth but stimulatory to the tissue, so your body ends up making its own tissue around each of these little beads, and you end up having a result that lasts for at least five or 10 years, maybe 15 years.”

Because of its long-lasting effects, ArteFill runs about twice the price of other fillers, roughly $1,200 per facial area.

“For the patient who wants value, if you really fully inform them, some will say they want to at least use some ArteFill because they want something predictable, smooth, proven and safe, and ArteFill meets all those criteria,” said Laurence, who claims he’s the only Memphis-area doctor currently using the filler.

While he prefers ArteFill, he tends to use it conjunction with other fillers, customizing the procedure to suit the needs of his patients.

“You’re always going to get the more natural result if you layer several modalities, so you might relax the muscles with Botox, resurface and rebuild with a laser, and then volumize with something else,” he said. “That’s really the key to natural facial aesthetics.”

His philosophy towards anesthesia is what he calls “the Goldilocks approach”: “Not to little, not too much; just right,” meaning he prefers patients to be comfortable, but conscious of the work that’s being done.

Laurence said Germantown Aesthetics, whose services include everything from breast augmentation to treatment for varicose veins, is one of only a handful of training centers for the use of ArteFill, and Laurence said his practice has “pioneered some different techniques, some different ways to do things.”

“Some of my training is what I learned in residency and fellowship training,” he said. “On top of that, the manufacturers oftentimes have workshops where they connect us with thought leaders, and I have sought out those I feel are the leading people in the industry. Doctors abide pretty firmly to the Hippocratic tradition, which is that if there’s something we know that benefits patients, we’re obligated to teach others.”

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