Nonsurgical Alternatives to Face Lifts

Los Angeles Times – September 12, 1989

Cheek implants, offered by a growing number of physicians, are quicker and cheaper than traditional face lifts. The small, teardrop-shaped silastic implants are inserted through the mouth during a simple 45-minute office procedure, and the bandages are removed within three days.

The implants work by restoring the facial fullness that wanes with age as underlying fat in the cheekbone area shrinks, says Dr. William J. Binder, a Los Angeles facial, plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Fat loss usually becomes evident after age 35. “That’s the time,” says the plastic surgeon, “when patients begin complaining, ‘I look old, depressed and sad.'” Binder sees the implant procedure as an alternative to face lifts for younger patients between the ages of 35 and 50, and as an adjunct for older patients.

Some of Binder’s colleagues strongly disagree that the implants can ever take the place of traditional face lifts, but can be a valuable adjunct to a face lift. Whether implants are adjuncts or an alternative, there can be problems. In Binder’s study, five of his 78 patients ended up with asymmetrical implants that required adjustment; two got abscesses that were resolved by drainage and antibiotics; three had reduced lip movement that returned to normal within a month; and some had numbness of the upper lip, but sensation returned within three months. Even when the implants are inserted without a hitch, they can’t always solve the “great expectations” problem, explains Binder. “Everyone wants to look like Kim Basinger.”