Minimally Invasive Beauty Treatments

Face odyssey.

Face Odyssey, Nature of Beauty, Spring 2018

Some might say that technology has taken over our lives. You’ll hear few complaints about this when it comes to beauty, and more specifically the latest advances in the realm of skin care. As the next generation of minimally invasive cosmetic treatments fills out the ranks at dermatologists’ offices and spas, it’s now possible to significantly reduce everything from the etchings of fine lines to the stubborn stains of sun damage with a concentrated zap or two (and with less downtime than patients of the past had to endure). This is the kind of smart technology you can really get behind. Here, a look at three groundbreaking fixes that will revitalize your complexion, no filter required.


Since the mid-’90s, dermatologists have been methodically pricking skin with slim, sterile needles to intentionally wound it. Sound odd? The technique, called micro-needling, stimulates the body’s healing process of producing collagen—a key protein that keeps skin taut, but naturally diminishes with age. Hence the poking, which under controlled conditions can reduce lines, wrinkles, and scars. This revelation has led to all sorts of at-home spinoffs in the last decade, including handheld rollers studded with needles that you can zip around your face (neat but time consuming).

That was the low-tech past. Hybrid treatments are the high-tech future. The latest is Vivace, a new microneedling device that combines three technologies in one sleek tool. The handpiece is outfitted with 36 insulated, gold-tipped needles and a robotic motor that delivers fast and ultraprecise insertions. These range in depth from half a millimetre to 3.5 millimetres (the farther below the surface you go, the better you can stimulate the production of collagen) and can be adjusted in 10th of a millimetre increments to treat different parts of the face. But here’s where it gets really interesting: the needles also emit radiofrequency energy—i.e., heat, which encourages collagen and elastin to firm and contour facial features. Until recently, getting a dose of radiofrequency energy required a completely separate treatment and office visit, making a tool like Vivace a nifty multitasking solution. To top it off, it also emits LED light—red to stimulate circulation and blue to calm redness—for further rejuvenation.

Vivace is already being used in dermatologists’ offices in the United States and is slated to arrive in Canada this year. The experience is “unparalleled”, says New York dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah, who started offering Vivace this past winter. The beauty of perforating your skin in this way, she continues, is that it forms the perfect pathway to deliver potent active ingredients deep below the surface—boosting their effectiveness. Post-treatment, while the “channels” created by the needles remain open, Dr. Shah administers everything from strengthening peptides to plumping hyaluronic acid to a diluted neurotoxin that “can help pores appear smaller and smoother.” Those who are scared of needles needn’t worry: dermatologists can apply a numbing cream ahead of time. Prices at Dr. Shah’s SmarterSkin Dermatology office begin at $850 (U.S.) per session and she recommends a total of three to six treatments, although changes start to kick in after the first visit. “Most people have noticed immediately that their skin appears more radiant and even tighter,” says Dr. Shah. “Over time, it should appear smoother, with improved texture and more even pigmentation.”

Broadband Light Therapy

Many facets of aging come down to your genetic destiny, and that’s something you can’t change. Or can you? A pilot study out of Stanford University found that broadband light therapy (BBL) may influence the expression of genes associated with skin aging, making them behave decades younger. Forever Young BBL is one device that harnesses this technology and doesn’t require a trip to the dermatologist. Instead, it can be administered by a licensed pro at a medical spa. Tara Skinner is a registered nurse with Ideal Image, the Vancouver medical spa that has been offering the treatment for less than a year. And so far, she says, “It is quickly becoming one of our most popular services.”

The 30-minute session involves delivering short blasts of high-intensity light to heat the skin, which in turn helps “reduce the appearance of sun damage, freckles, and redness while improving fine lines, wrinkles and skin laxity,” says Skinner. Numbing creams aren’t needed, she explains, adding that the experience “just feels like a bright light flashing on the skin.” Beyond the face, BBL can revitalize other areas of the body, including the neck, chest, shoulders, and back of the hands. Afterward, freckles and pigmented spots may turn slightly darker and then flake off “to reveal younger, clearer skin underneath,” says Skinner. This process can take seven to 21 days (and since your skin will be sun sensitive during this time, it’s crucial to apply SPF 30 to prevent future spots). While every client is different, Skinner recommends a series of three to five treatments at monthly intervals or with the change of the seasons (each session costs about $400) to maintain the youthful effects. She notes, “The skin continues to improve—the results keep getting better with each subsequent treatment.”


It’s not just search engines and fitness trackers that are getting smarter. Skin lasers are also becoming more intelligent. Case in point: Halo, a fractional laser that performs the work of two lasers simultaneously, beaming out both non-ablative wavelengths (which heat the skin) and ablative wavelengths (which remove the outer layers of damaged skin) to target dark spots, tighten pores, and repair fine lines and wrinkles—all in one pass. Toronto-based dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll at Compass Dermatology was so impressed with the results that when Halo hit the market in 2015, she immediately added it to her treatment roster. Now it’s her go-to laser. It’s a “true breakthrough”, she says. “It provides less downtime overall [and], interestingly, the combination of the two technologies provides better results than the two applied separately.”

This synergistic effect also produces more radiant skin on a faster schedule. Dr. Carroll notes, “For most patients under 40, one Halo treatment per year is sufficient.” For those who are a bit older or have significant sun damage, “We recommend starting with two treatments in the first year” (that’s far less than the typical four to six treatments needed with older laser models, she notes). Each treatment lasts about 60 to 90 minutes, with prices starting at $1,400 for a full face treatment (which includes a set of at-home skin-care products). During the procedure, the sensation “feels like electricity or intense tingling,” she says, and patients can opt to apply a topical numbing cream. Afterward, your face feels “hot; it’s the equivalent of a bad sunburn.” To improve upon the initial head sensation, Dr. Carroll applies a bio-cellulose mask and has her patients sit in front of a cool air machine. Most patients experience skin flaking, but return to their normal routines in two to five days.

Lalique Vase provided by Atkinson’s of Vancouver.


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