(NEW YORK) — According to a recent study cited by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 50 percent of Americans would like to have their appearance enhanced through cosmetic medicine. It is a $10 billion a year business.
In record numbers — 14 million cosmetic procedures were done in 2011 alone — Americans are being cut, stretched, tucked, smoothed, tapered, injected and filled. But how these changes are made is changing, thanks to new techniques and tools that are making plastic surgery involve less, well, surgery.
“The catchphrase in the old days was, ‘Heal of steel’ — the knife can do everything,” said New York plastic surgeon Dr. Doug Steinbrech, in an interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters. “What we are trying to do with facelifts now is to limit the amount of surgery we are actually doing. The cutting and the incisions, the length of the incisions.”
Less cutting means shorter recoveries and fewer scars. To complete a face lift, for example, Steinbrech uses a new skin-tightening device, not a scalpel. The face lift takes a little less than three hours under anesthesia. A patient’s stitches can be removed after five days. The overall cost? Up to $35,000.
Some doctors go even further than Steinbrech, getting many of the same results without going under the knife at all. How?
“We have different tools and we also have different approaches,” said dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, who has explained these tools and approaches in a book called Forget the Facelift.
“I don’t believe in aging gracefully,” Day said in an interview with Walters. “I think you have to fight it every step of the way.”
Day said the new tools she champions, such as fillers and lasers, offer patients an option that can replace or be combined with more traditional surgery.
“I don’t think one excludes the other,” Day said. “However, my experience has been that you can get rid of lines and wrinkles, but that doesn’t always make someone look younger; they just look smoother. What we lose over time is volume. And what we do is we — very carefully, naturally and discreetly — add back volume.”
And less invasive cosmetic surgery isn’t limited to the face. As Day explains, there’s also Liposonics, a powerful ultrasound tool used to melt fat without surgery.
“Liposonics is the newest kid on the block for helping to re-sculpt and melt fat,” Day said. “It’s like liposuction, but it’s a non-surgical approach. … It uses that high-density focus ultrasound to actually heat up and melt fat.”
So have Day and Steinbrech found the fountain of youth in these new cosmetic techniques?
“Well, it may not be that you never look old, but you can put it a long way off,” said Day. “We can slow that process down in a very natural way, with these procedures.”
Copyright 2012 ABC news Radio