Face value

14 min read



It’s the hottest topic in aesthetics right now: have needles been cancelled? If the whispers are true, a fresher face can now be yours with the zap of an EBD (energy-based device, such as Sofwave, Ultherapy or NeoGen Plasma) rather than a syringe full of toxins or hyaluronic acid. Whether you dabble in injectables or you don’t – and we’re a broad church at Red – that’s an intriguing prospect for anyone who might wish to wake up looking a bit less tired and cross each morning, and has lately found that topical skincare – lovely as it is – just isn’t touching the sides.

‘There’s a huge buzz about the future of anti-ageing being needle-free, which makes it sound as if the aesthetics industry is turning its back on toxin and fillers,’ agrees Alice Hart-Davis, beauty journalist and founder of thetweakmentsguide.com. ‘It’s a nice idea, but what people don’t always understand is that energy-based treatments aren’t a direct alternative to injectables.’ EBDs, she explains, use thermal energy to ‘wound’ the dermis in a controlled way that triggers a self-healing response, resulting in the formation of fresh collagen, elastin and sometimes hyaluronic acid, for a tighter, firmer and more robust look and feel. What EBDs can’t do, she continues, is ‘create volume in the way that fillers do, and they don’t soften the muscles that pull our faces into frowns and squints’.

Neither, she adds, are EBDs a ‘lite’ option for anyone wary of discomfort.

‘If you’re going to whack enough energy into the skin to trigger a wound-healing process and prompt new collagen growth, that may well be uncomfortable, particularly if you have the treatment done at a higher intensity. And in terms of cost, they’re a pretty big hit to anyone’s budget.’

In truth, aesthetics is a pick-and-mix to choose from, and needles aren’t going anywhere. ‘I always recommend a multimodal approach,’ says Dr Shawana Vali of Selfridges’ By Dr Vali 360 Experiential Centre in London. Setting aside her bio-hacking protocols (which tackle the outer aspect by improving sleep, gut and even libido – now there’s a story for another time), she talks of aesthetics as a numbers game. ‘If you want 80% improvement in tightness, then you’re looking at contouring [Dr Vali’s term for dermal filler, which she injects on the bone to lift from beneath rather than volumising just under the skin]. If you want 50% improvement, then you can use radiofrequency, ultrasound, all those fun things. Good skincare can give you 20-30% improvement, and if you add all of those together, you can really take on skin laxity.’

But while experts such as Dr Vali recomm

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