Drooping brows. Sagging jowls. Jiggling upper arms. These are the things we tend to fixate on.
If only my skin was a little tighter, I’d look five or 10 years younger.
Plastic surgery can yield dramatic results, but it’s far from the only option for tightening skin. In fact, there’s a range of treatments that come with significantly less downtime and at a fraction of the cost. As we continue our series, exploring how a board-certified dermatologist can realistically and safely diminish many of the signs of aging, let’s take a closer look at how a dermatologist can help with sagging skin.
Skin-firming creams and lotions
You’ve probably already tried lots of them. But, are they effective? In most cases, no. For one, the claim that a lotion or cream can lift sagging skin—well, that’s just not possible. Nor are the facelift-like results that the celebrity-studded ad campaigns promise.
If you’ve used such a product and you’ve noticed a positive change, it’s most likely because the lotion or cream was an effective moisturizer. A good moisturizer is capable of plumping the skin, which can make fine lines and wrinkles less noticeable. But, they’ll return if you don’t use the product every day.
There may also be some benefit if the product contains a retinoid, such as retinol, which can help the body produce more collagen. Even then, however, expect fairly subtle results, at best.
Non-invasive skin-tightening procedures—meaning those where no incision is made and your skin isn’t left feeling raw afterward—include ultrasound, radiofrequency, and laser treatments. There may be some redness or swelling following the procedure, but that should be the extent of the side effects. Very often, there’s little to no downtime.
With non-invasive skin-tightening treatments, the results usually appear gradually, so they seem natural. The procedures generally:
- Take less than an hour
- Are safe for all skin colors
- Tighten skin anywhere on the body
Ultrasound sends heat deep into the skin, causing the body to produce more collagen. Most people see modest lifting and tightening within two to six months. Those results may improve with additional treatments.
Radiofrequency also uses heat to induce the production of collagen. You may feel some tightening right away, but the full effect of the treatment will take about six months to develop. However, the results will last two to three years with a good skin-care regimen.
Lasers can be especially helpful for tightening loose skin on the belly and upper arms. A little patience is necessary, though. It typically takes three to five treatments to see a change.
With this type of radiofrequency, a thin tube (or needles) is inserted into the skin to heat up the tissue beneath, allowing the dermatologist a greater degree of precision than the non-invasive kind of radiofrequency offers.
It also means you’ll see the results that much faster; about a month, in most cases. The skin in the treated area—it’s a popular treatment for the neck and upper arms—will continue to gradually tighten and lift for close to a year.
Laser resurfacing is considered to be the most effective procedure for skin-tightening. It can also diminish fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. And you should begin to notice all of those benefits within a couple of weeks. The procedure will, however, require a few days to recover. That’s still relatively minimal in comparison to a facelift, which entails a two- to four-week recovery period.