Don’t want botox because of the toxins? Or liposuction because of the needles? Then cryo technology may be the procedure for you, Grace Timothy reports
Is cryotechnology the new beauty breakthrough that will finally banish Botox?
Kate Moss recently revealed she starts every day by sticking her face in a washbasin filled with iced water. And she may well be on to something, because everywhere from Hollywood to Harley Street is creating its own cold snap this year, using sub-zero temperatures to eliminate fat, wrinkles and, quite possibly, the need for needles. But can these new freezing technologies really stop time, as Botox claims to, or reshape your body, in the way that liposuction does?
For the face
Nicole Kidman says she has quit for good. Julia Roberts won’t touch the stuff. Cindy Crawford went cold turkey years ago. Whether it’s the Oscar-impeding lack of expression, the pain, or the influx of toxins, Botox has lost a few fans. Enter Iovera – or frotox, as it’s affectionately known – the non-invasive way to disable the wrinkle-forming muscles.
Developed by Myoscience, a California-based medical technology group, Iovera uses focused cold therapy to temporarily freeze the nerves in the forehead. A small, handheld device called a cryoprobe channels liquid nitrogen through a sealed needle to the facial nerves at the temples. At the tip, it changes into gas in up to eight 30-second bursts, temporarily stilling the nerve. In a clinical trial of 133 people, conducted by Myoscience, 96 per cent of subjects saw an improvement in the appearance of dynamic lines – those that appear as you make facial expressions.
In America, where frotox is more commonly used for pain management, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t as yet approved its use as a wrinkle treatment, and no Dubai-based clinics are advertising their use of Iovera either as a cosmetic substance or as a way to treat pain, but in Britain they have two Mr Freezes on hand. Dr VincentWong, a cosmetic doctor, launched the service in April at La Maison de l’Esthétique (there’s already a three-week waiting list), while Dr Yannis Alexandrides officially launched in June.
The appeal is clear: no toxins. And unlike Botox, which can take up to a week to take effect, the impact of frotox is instant. “It doesn’t give you that frozen look you often get with Botox, either,” saysWong. “And it can prevent deeper lines forming, so has a younger fan base – some as young as 25.”
Frotox isn’t without its limitations, though. “It only treats the forehead and between the brows right now,” the American plastic surgery adviserWendy Lewis cautions. “And it only usually lasts between 90 and 120 days, so not as long as Botox.”
The “no needles, no pain” clause is also up for debate, as local anaesthetic is first injected, and some experience the “brain freeze” that ice cream can trigger, as well as sensitive gums. Finally, there’s the cost – from £300 (Dh1,700) for the forehead alone, compared with £240 for Botox across two areas – and it is expected to rise later in the year as demand increases.
Some argue against a frotox future. “It has a place in contemporary age-maintenance treatment for patients who are resistant or hypersensitive to Botox,” says cosmetic doctor Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh. “But for the time being, it doesn’t offer the same degree of finesse.”
Wong, who also offers Botox at his clinic, concurs. “Only about 20 per cent of my Iovera patients are former Botox users – it’s a unique treatment with a very different mechanism of action. I don’t think it will replace Botox.”
Then there’s the 4 per cent of patients who have reported disappointing results. Wong is on the case, though, with a new technique. Rather than locating the nerve with a Tens machine (the success of which depends on the doctor’s
skill and curvature of the patient’s temples), he adds extra shots of cold along each temple, targeting every single branch of the nerve. He also uses a topical numbing cream; unlike anaesthetic, it won’t temporarily freeze the forehead or thicken the treatment area, which can hamper the effects of Iovera.
For the body
Meanwhile, another cold therapy that’s growing in popularity and is available in Dubai is fat-busting cryolipolysis, a system that freezes and kills fat cells. A gel membrane is applied to the area, and a device with a cup-shaped or oblong head sucks the roll of fat up into a vacuum, cooling it to low temperatures for an hour. Fat cells freeze at a higher temperature than the surrounding tissue, so it promises not to alter other cells. The dead fat cells are ingested by white blood cells and excreted naturally. Clinical trials have shown a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in fat after just one treatment, and the only known side effects – bruising, tingling, swelling and numbness – are rare. Most patients return to normal activities straight afterwards.
Not every fat fighter will be a candidate – known as “the fat treatment for thin people”, you have to be fairly slim to benefit, admits Jill Zander, an aesthetician who runs a skin rejuvenation clinic in the UK. “Ideally, you’ll have a BMI between 18 and 28, with localised fat deposits such as the muffin top, love handles or back.” It’s proving especially popular with women struggling to get rid of residual baby weight.
However, as with frotox, it’s not for everyone who might have previously signed up for more established procedures. As well as being the required shape, you have to have the bank balance to suit. Treatments cost from Dh3,000 for a single treatment on a small area. While there’s no downtime, it’s by no means instant, either – results become apparent between two and six months after treatment. Finally, you can’t expect to wave goodbye to the wobble altogether, as it won’t firm up skin.
For now, even Dr Alex Karidis, a cryolipolysis pro and a cosmetic doctor, admits surgical lipoplasty procedures – including liposuction – are still the gold standard for spot-fat reduction.
When you’re the one sitting in the waiting room, however, the painless, non-invasive option might win out.
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Nicole Kidman, Cindy Crawford and Julia Roberts all shun invasive Botox, while Kate Moss loves ice-water as a beauty treatment