Science Meets Beauty: Using Medicine to Improve Appearances
By Carol Rados
A smaller nose. Bigger breasts. Slimmer thighs. Plumper lips. Less hair on the body. More hair on the head. Whether we're looking to tighten our tummies or lighten our laugh lines, America's fascination with youth and beauty has long fueled the development of medical products for cosmetic purposes. And if such "vanity drugs" can be shown to be safe and effective, the Food and Drug Administration just may approve.
The ongoing fight to delay or reverse the aging process has dermatologists and cosmetic plastic surgeons responding with products like Restylane (hyaluronic acid), one of a handful of soft tissue fillers recently approved by the FDA to treat facial wrinkles. Restylane is an injectable gel that acts as a filler to remove the wrinkle, producing instantaneous results. Such products are not as invasive as facelifts, eyelid surgery, and other reconstructive procedures. And they are more effective and last longer than creams, lotions and other topical products, whether over-the-counter or prescription. In addition, the fact that the treatments result in little or no downtime makes them more attractive to those seeking a quick fix. Without making a single incision, doctors can erase wrinkles, acne scars and sun damage in a matter of minutes.
"This is a huge industry," says Jonathan K. Wilkin, M.D., a medical officer in the FDA's Division of Dermatologic and Dental Drug Products. "The way people try to move the clock back is through the skin." Basically, he says, through various products and procedures, "they are addressing the effects of gravity on the skin over time."
Aging Skin 101
An increased understanding of the structure and function of the skin is helping to drive the development of products that reduce the visible signs of facial aging, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).