While there are number of studies suggesting that lasers and RF do not affect fillers, a recent article by Dr. Weiss opened up the debate again. In his paper he stated that biopsies showed evidence of heating around the filler. It did not evaluated the changes in the filler volume over time. He concluded that the filler was at risk to be affected by the heat. Dr. Davin Lim’s recently published study contradicts Dr. Weiss, and showed with RFM, there was no affect on fillers (biopsy proved) at multiple different energy levels.
The heat from RF Microneedling reaches approximately 65-75 C for 100 msec to up to 3-4 seconds depending on the device and parameters used. This is the “hottest” version of RF delivery used in aesthetics. This compares to the sterilization process of the fillers at the (Galderma) manufacturing plant of 110-120 C for 15-20 minutes.
Lasers can heat the tissue to a higher level, up to 100 C, but again, it is for milliseconds at best.
Conclusion: There should be no concern regarding placement of HA fillers with RF Microneedling or lasers, at any level of the dermis or subcutanous planes on the same day. Furthermore, there will be no effect on previously placed HA filler. As a side note, PMMA has to be heated to 160 C to cause changes to it’s structure. While the exact temperature is unknown for calcium hydroxyapatite, it is significantly higher than HA, so it too is safe from RF and lasers.
There is an ongoing debate among injectors as to what method of injecting fillers is more accurate. The needle pundits state that the needle can inject in any tissue, at any depths. While this is true, is the filler actually placed where they think it is? Cannulas aficionados argument is that cannulas will stay in the plane which they are placed, and are therefore more accurate.
In a paper titled “Precision in Dermal Filling: A Comparison Between Needle and Cannula when Using Soft Tissue Fillers.” by Pavicic, Frank, Cotofan, et all, the debate was studied. There were 10 cadavers studied for supraperiosteal injections. The filler injected was radiopaque. Needles were placed in position using a perpendicular transcutaneous approach. The cannulas were placed in a similar position in the supraperiosteal plane. Using fluoroscopy, the injected material was analyzed in the horizontal and vertical planes.
The results show that in over 60% of the needle injections, the material changed planes (became more superficial) and this was not found in the cannulas group.
The conclusion was that cannula filler placement is more precise because the filler remains in the plane of the intended implantation much more so than needle placement.
Acne scars are routinely treated with laser and RF or RF microneedling. However, the optimal benefits are probably not achieved unless subcision is performed. Here’s why –
Acne scars frequently will have collagen scar fibers extending to the subcutaneous fat, fat pads, or fascial layers. These fibers cause tethering of the dermis, leading to the appearance of an atrophic scar.
FACT: RF and laser energy has a propensity to travel through collagen.
FACT: As energy/heat travels through collagen, it heats the collagen and leads to collagen contraction
Theory: When treating tethered scars, there is a possibility that the collagen contracts and actually makes the atrophic scars appear deeper
Theory: When energy/heat travels down the collagen fibers, some of it might be transferred to the surrounding fat and lead to fat atrophy.
Subcision is a process where the tethered collagen fibers are transected. By cutting these fibers, the energy can’t progress to the deeper layers of tissue and thus not cause possible fat atrophy or further deepening of the scars. I perform this on most patients undergoing laser or RF for acne scarring if I feel there is any degree of deeper scarring or tethering. There is also the benefit of subcision even without using energy based devices in improving acne scars.
Cannulas, specifically, blunt microcannulas, can be used to administer fillers by advanced injectors. They a favorable over needles because they have a blunt round tip and are flexible, leading to the following advantages:
- Less discomfort – one entry point can serve a large area, thus avoiding multiple dermal penetrations which is more uncomfortable.
- Less bruising – the rounded/blunt tip tends to bend around blood vessels rather than nick or penetrate them.
- More accurate – a recent study shows that the filler is most likely to be deposited in the area of the exit port vs a needle which has been shown to have filler travel up the shaft (back flow)
- Safer – cannulas are less likely to give intraluminal vessel injections because of the blunt tip and therefor less possibilities of vascular compromise and blindness.
However, a recent publication by Drs Pavicic, Cotofana et al. has shown that #4 comes into question with certain cannulas. There study consisted of a total of 294 penetrations of the superficial temporal artery in cadavers using 22, 25, and 27 gauge cannulas and needles. The force applied to enter the vessel was measured for each. The cannulas had statistically higher forces needed to enter the vessel for the 22 and 25 gauge cannulas.
Interestingly, there was no difference in the forces when comparing 27g cannulas and needles.
The conclusion was that a 27g cannula was not safer than a 27g needle when used for filler injections. While 27g cannulas can be used, it is up to the injector to realize these are not safer than needles and to take the appropriate safety measures during treatments.
(Article: Plast Reconstr Surg. 2019 Mar;143(3):504e-512e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000005321)
There is renewed interest in neuromodulator/neurotoxins because of 2 newcomers to the US aesthetic market. Jeuveau is FDA approved and Revance will be approved early 2020. To differentiate themselves, these 2 have focused on duration of action of their products. Here’s the lowdown on what patients need to know about these wrinkle eradication injections.
There is a well-recognized scale that grades the glabellar lines at full contraction. Grade zero being no lines and 4 being the most severe dynamic lines. Keep in mind that this scale references only lines which appear during motion, not the static lines found at rest. In order for the FDA to approve injectable neuromodulators for the glabellar lines, there must be a demonstrable 2 point improve in this scale after 30 days. The take home messages of these FDA studies are:
- The FDA considers a one-point improvement a failure, but the companies do not. There is literature and marketing by several companies stating their 4 or even 5 month duration for one-point improvements.
- At FDA approved dosing, most grade 4 glabellar lines will not relax to the grade-zero score. In fact, with any dosing, grade 4 patients will most likely still have movement and wrinkles after treatment.
- Not all patients had a 2 grade improvement in the FDA trials of any of the neuromodulators. Approximately 88-92% of patients responded to the FDA approved dosing.
- The effect of muscle relaxation peaks at about 2-4 weeks, and then gradually tapers off. Muscle strength eventually returns to baseline at 3-6 months, depending on the dosing and the product used.
- At 3-4 months, the FDA approved duration of the current modulators, a minority of patients still have 2 grade improvements in their glabella grade.
A well-established phenomenon with all the neuromodulators is the dose-response curve. The higher the dosing, the more effective the relaxation of the muscle injected. Additionally, the higher the dosing, the longer duration of the relaxation. Dr. John Josephs has performed studies on Dysport using dosing of 120 units (FDA approval is 50u) and has shown up to 6 months of 2 grade improvements in a significant proportion of patients. One “trick” he used when using these higher doses was to minimize the reconstitution volume to only 1cc. (Most practitioners use 1.5-3cc). Dr. Joseph refers to this technique as “A big dog on a short leash”. In other words, high dosing with limited spread in order to limit adverse events.
An as yet to be approved neuromodulator from Revance will be after a 6 month approval of their product. While at first glance, their 40 unit dosing will appear to be using the phenomenon of higher dosing – longer duration, this is not the case. Neuromodulators units, unfortunately, are not uniform between companies. A study Revance performed on the actually molecular weight of the active neurotoxin in their dosing showed that it was equal to that of the 20 unit dosing of Botox. They also evaluated Dysport’s weight, which was shown to be 50% higher than Botox and Revance, while Xeomin was actually 50% less than Botox/Revance.
What makes Revance’s neuromodulator last longer? It’s an associated proprietary protein that does not dissociate upon reconstitution. It is hypothesized that this protein’s ionic charge leads to better attraction to the receptor at the neuromuscular endplate. Revance’s product is essentially “more efficient” at binding, and therefore blocks more of the muscle movement than the other neuromodulators on the market at FDA approved dosing. Normally, there is some “wasted” neuromodulator which doesn’t bind and is swept away by the lymphatics and blood stream. The proprietary protein mimics what higher dosing would accomplish.
Neuromodulators work by blocking the release of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular endplate of the nerves. Return of function of the muscle is established when new nerve fibers are grown and re-establish contact with the muscle. If more nerves are blocked, it will take longer for the return of muscle function. If all the endplates were blocked to a muscle, studies have shown it takes 9 months for return of function.
After explaining all the numbers, it must be remembered that each patient reacts differently to the neuromodulators. As previously explained in another blog, once water/saline is added to the vials of Botox/Dysport/Xeomin/Jeuveau, there is only active protein in the vial within about a minute. The differences between the products are related to dosing, spread, and experience of the injector. As previously mentioned, Dysport has the highest weight of active neurotoxin in its FDA approved dosing and is the author’s choice amongst the current FDA approved neuromodulators.
The aging phenomenon affects all the areas of the face and body. Sun exposed areas will be most affected due to the collagen destroying effects of UVA and UVB light. Dr. Weiner has developed a technique which addresses many different aspects of the aging neck, and, better yet, it’s all minimally invasive.
Hyperpigmentation is a sign of UV damage and aging. It can be addressed with nonablative lasers, such as the Thullium 1927nm laser (Fraxel Dual/LaseMD). In some patients, there is also an associated redness, such as in poikiloderma. Redness needs a vascular laser such as the Excel V + laser. Skincare products are essential in maintaining results and must include a retinol, growth factor, and SPF.
Much has been written about fat loss in the face, but this process will also affect the neck. Recent articles have validated safety with collagen stimulating fillers in the neck if done with careful technique. Deeper lines and wrinkles might also require a hyaluronic acid filler (HA) for improvement
Loss of collagen, elastin, and gravity contribute to skin laxity in the neck. Radiofrequency seems to be the leader of the pack for tightening skin and building collagen and elastin. There are a couple different methods to use RF in the neck such as The Genius, FaceTite/NeckTite/AccuTite.
There is more literature supporting the platysma muscle becomes stronger as one ages. This leads to neck bands, jawline sagging, and corners of the mouth drooping. Strategic placement of a neuromodulator in the platysma can improve the appearance of the jawline and neck.
Fat can accumulate in the chin area (double chin) and along the jawline. Methods used to improve the appearance of the fat in these areas includes: Kybella, Genius, FaceTite/NeckTite/AccuTite. If these procedures are done, the other procedures listed above will have to done on a different treatment day. Jowling can also be improved with these methods.
By combining these treatments, usually done in a series, multiple areas of the aging process can be addressed. Upkeep with future treatments and skincare is essential to maintain long-term results. To see if Dr. Weiner’s “TriNECKta” treatment is right for you, please call the office: 850-622-1214.
The aging process leads to hyperactivity of the muscles of the face. This movement leads to increased wrinkles and loss of the smooth, youthful appearance of the skin. In the upper face, neuromodulators such as Dysport and Botox, do a great job at relaxing this hyperactivity. What’s trending with aesthetic providers is dampening the muscle movement but not complete relaxation, leading to a more natural expression without “freezing” the patient.
Unfortunately, the neuromodulators can’t be administered throughout the entire face. In the lower face, low doses of neuromodulators are safe for the lips, chin, gummy smile, and DAO (AKA RBF) muscles for the most part. Inhibiting the lower face too much leads to changes with expression and smiling. What can be done to control the muscles in this area? Filler!
(Side note: Hyperactivity of the lower face has been described by Dr. Weiner in gum chewers in a previous blog. It leads to accelerated aging in the lower face and should be discouraged by aesthetic providers.)
An interesting study by Dr. Nowell Solish supports this concept. Using a rather large and sophisticated machine, Dr. Solish was able to determine muscle strain in the lower face during facial expressions. He compared patients in their 50’s to ones in their 30’s. As expected, the older patients had more muscle strain than the younger patients. He then injected the older population with Restylane Refyne and Defyne, 3-4cc in the perioral area. These fillers have XPresHAn technology and have flexibility – stretch capabilities. After the injections, the older patients were restudied for muscle strain. The findings: The muscle strain of the 2 groups (older vs younger) were basically the same. The filler was able to reduce the muscle strain about 15 – 20 years!
What’s the explanation? Dr. de Maio has coined the term myomodulation. His theory is that filler placed around hyperactive muscle leads to stretching and relaxation of the muscle. While this is plausible, there is probably a better way to describe this phenomenon.
Dr. Weiner’s theory: Think of an Aston Martin that has a top speed of 230 mph or more. However, in the US, to conform to the laws and regulations, governors are placed on the car to keep its top speed at 180 (This is purely hypothetical and used for illustrative purposes only). Dr. Weiner feels the fillers Refyne/Defyne limit the full range of movement of the hyperactive muscle, akin to a governor on the muscle. Why these fillers work so well at doing this is because they can stretch and recoil (akin to a tether), leading to some, but not excessive muscle movement. Other fillers would work but with a different and less natural mechanism. Think of the non-flexible fillers as acting as a wall, and not as a governor or tether.
With the new XPresHAn fillers, Refyne and Defyne, we now have a new treatment modality for the lower face which is highly effective. Myomodulation is real, exactly what is the underlying mechanism is still debatable.
Dermal fillers are becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Contouring of the face, restoring volume loss, enhancing features such as lip plumping can all be obtained with very little downtime. Just 15 years ago, surgery was the only way these enhancements could be performed. There are some minor complications associated with fillers such as pain, bruising, swelling which are fairly common (>70%) and some major risks such as vascular occlusion, blindness, and stroke which are much less common.
The most common method to administer fillers is using the needle which is packaged with the product. While needles are very easy to use, in the author’s opinion, they are more risky and lead to more downtime versus the blunt microcannula technique. Microcannulas were introduced to the United States about 8 years ago from Europe. These were a smaller version of the already widely cannulas which were used for fat transfer. When compared with a needle, cannulas are more flexible, longer, and their tip is more rounded. The following advantages are found with cannulas:
- Fewer dermal penetrations – cannulas are introduced through only a small number of pilot holes.
- Less discomfort – the dermis contains more pain fibers than the deeper tissues. The injections with cannulas are below the dermis, so discomfort is less.
- Less trauma to tissues/less bruising – because of the rounded tip, the cannula is less likely to nick blood vessels leading to less bruising and swelling.
- Faster procedure times – With an experienced cannula user, placement of filler is done very quickly and efficiently. (Cheek/tear troughs <5 minutes per side, lips <5 minutes)
- Less vascular occlusion risks – While cannulas aren’t 100% safe, the risks of injecting into a blood vessel are less because entering a vessel is more difficult with the rounded tip and flexible shaft. This is true for the larger gauge cannulas such as 22, 23, and 25. Recent studies by Dr. Pavicic and Cotofana have shown the 27g cannulas have the same force needed to enter a vessel as a 27g needle and therefore should not be used.
Galderma recognized the advantages of microcannulas and became the first company to get FDA approval for their use with Restylane Silk in lips in 2017, and for Restylane Lyft for the cheeks in 2018. While less than 10% of providers use cannulas in the US, there is a push by the top injectors to encourage their widespread use.
Dr. Weiner has been using microcannulas since 2012 and is one of the most experienced cannulas injectors in the US. He is one of the leading trainers for Galderma, particularly for their cannula trainings. He is available for private trainings in off label use of fillers – face/body. There are shadowing opportunities as well as week long internships opportunties. For inquires, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The most popular cosmetic procedure in the world is wrinkle reducing injections with neurotoxins or the friendlier term, neuromodulators. The injections work by reducing the activity of the muscles they are injected to, there by resulting in less movement and less dynamic wrinkles. Static wrinkles, ones that appear at rest, are less affected by these injections, but over serial treatments, improve as well.
The history of neuromodulators dates to the isolation of the botulinum toxin, the cause of botulism, in the 1928. It was later refined and made commercially available for injections in the 1989 and initially FDA approved for strabismus, lazy eye. Soon thereafter, blepharospasm, spasm of the muscles around the eye, treatments were approved. The team of Carruthers and Carruthers observed that during blepharospasm treatments, the wrinkles around the eye, crows feet, were also improved. Studies were later performed on the frown lines, and FDA approval for cosmetic use was achieved in 2002.
There are currently 3 FDA approved neuromodulators of botulinum toxin A for cosmetic use: Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin. They all work similarly by blocking the acetylcholine release at the neuromuscular junction. Each brand has their own definition of what a unit dose is, so this can be confusing to both the practitioner and the patients. The differences between the 3 is the associated inactive protein, or absence of this protein in the case of Xeomin. Studies have shown that once the drug powder is mixed with water or saline in the provider’s office, the inactive protein disassociates almost immediately. Why then, are there differences in clinical outcomes between the 3 neuromodulators?
There is a recent comparison of the active protein molecule in the 3 products dosing in the glabella. The study looked at the FDA approved doses for frown lines – glabella. A very interesting finding was that there was 0.27ng in Dysport using the 50u dose vs 0.18ng in Botox’s. Xeomin was a distant 3rd coming in at 0.08ng with their 20u dose. In essence, patients are receiving a stronger dose when using Dysport when compared to Botox or Xeomin.
It’s long been established that Dysport seems to be effective (in 1-2 days) sooner than Botox (3-4 days) but the reason was never clearly elucidated. It’s also well known that higher dosing of any of the neuromodulators will lead to longer durations of action. This higher level of active protein with Dysport can explain the clinical phenomenon of quicker onset and longer duration.
One other topic needing addressing is the myth of higher diffusion with Dysport vs Botox. Diffusion or spread, is a result of dosing, volume, speed of injection and not a function of the neuromodulator. As stated before, when reconstituted, all the products are free of their associated proteins and only consist of free, active protein. We now know that Dysport has more active protein in their approved dosing, so to compensate, lower volumes must be used for reconstitution. The author’s recommended reconstitution for Botox is 2cc and for Dysport is 1.5cc for the glabellar injections. When diffusion or spread is desired, larger volumes can be used.
With the recent comparison study of active protein in the dosing schemes of the 3 commercially available neuromodulators, it is easy to see why Dysport should be the standout choice. Dysport gives more effective treatments because of the higher active protein, leading to quicker onset and longer duration (up to 5 months) than Botox and Xeomin. Pricing is usually less with Dysport, so it becomes a “no brainer” 1st choice for Dr. Weiner’s practice.
Acne scarring has significant debilitating effects on one’s overall self-worth and confidence. Millions in the US are affected. There have been improvements in techniques and energy devices in past few years which have led to better outcomes for acne scar treatments.
Subcision – This is process of breaking up deeply tethered scar bands associated mainly with atrophic/rolling scars. Subcision has be performed for acne scars for decades and just using this procedure alone has proven to lead to significant acne scar improvements. Recently there have been a couple publications suggesting that cannula subcision had better outcomes, less downtime, and less discomfort than the traditional method of using a Nokor needle. A cannula has a blunt tip so it is also safer – less chance for cutting a nerve or blood vessel than the knife-like edge of the Nokor needle. In the study, both patients and the performing doctor rated the results better when using the cannula. Subcision is particularly important, in Dr. Weiner’s opinion, to be performed prior to any energy device for tethered scars. This is based on the fact that RF and laser will preferentially travel through collagen – which is high is water content – than fat or most other tissue. Scars are predominantly collagen, so it makes sense to cut the connection of the scar to the deeper tissue. Through personal communication with Dr. Davin Lim, biopsies he performed have shown scar band that reach the deeper fat pads from tethered acne scars. Transmission of the energy through the scar can theoretical lead to collagen contraction and deepening of the tethered scar. Sometimes fillers are placed at the time of the subcision to improve the volume loss associated with the scarring. Some hypothesize that putting a “spacer of filler” might improve results as well. Dilute lidocaine during the initial passes allows for this procedure to be well tolerated.
TCA CROSS – TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) is a chemical peel used to improved acne scarring by placing minute quantities in the scar using a toothpick. CROSS stands for Chemical Reconstruction of Skin Scars. The most common use of this procedure is for ice pick and small boxcar scars. The process of causing a controlled chemical burn, allows for the body to heal from the deepest part of the scar towards the skin surface. This makes the scar smaller in diameter and shallower. Usually a series of 3-6 treatments are needed, with 3-4 weeks between treatments. There will be some mild scabbing for a few days which needs to be kept moistened for best results. Risk include widening of the scar or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Radiofrequency Microneedling – This technology (RFM) has been available in the US for about 6 years and has revolutionized acne scar treatment. Using needles which are insulated, energy is delivered into the scar tissue directly and bypassing the epidermis, for the most part. The insulation protects the skin surface from heating so darker skin type individuals are at much less risk of PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) vs a laser treatment. The needles allow for deeper penetration than lasers as well. Overall, downtime is less than ablative lasers in most individuals (when insulated needles, proper technique, and appropriate settings are used). With acne scarring affecting darker skin types disproportionately, this is an excellent alternative to lasers. The Genius has recently been FDA approved and is now the “best of bread” RF microneedling device. There is now impedance feedback from the needles which allows for improved and exact energy delivery. The resistance in the tissues being treated is measured and this is important because throughout one’s face, there are differences, as well as between different individuals. Also, as tissue are heated or subcised, the resistance changes. Prior to Genius, there was no idea of how much energy was being delivered. There is now an accurate total energy for each pulse and a cumulative total. Other improvements include needle design-sharper, stronger motor, and feedback regarding quality of each pulse fired.
There is a myth that needs to be busted. Deeper does not mean better for acne scars.
The needles must stay within the scar for best results. If the needles go beneath the dermis, there is a risk for heating the fat and fat loss. Let it be known that the actual depth of the needles in most RFM devices is less than the settings, and becomes less accurate, the deeper the settings are. There is inherent resistance of the skin to penetration and many needles aren’t sharp enough or motors aren’t strong enough to get to the desired levels in the time required. This has also been addressed with the Genius and it’s depths are very accurate after extensive testing.
In addition, higher energy levels on any device which doesn’t monitor impedance, can actually result in very little energy delivered. Once the tissue is heating beyond a critical level, the resistance becomes so high that energy output cuts off. However, when higher energy levels are desired when using the Genius, the energy is adjusted to the increasing impedance and it is successfully delivered.
Fillers – Fillers are a very integral part of improving acne scars. They are extremely useful for the atrophic scars and the lipoatrophy associated with these scars. The aging process leads to dermal thinning and fat atrophy, which makes the acne scars appear worse, even if active acne has long been controlled. Fillers need to be injected deeply for correcting large areas of volume loss and superficially in minute quantities for focal defects. A hyaluronic acid filler will give about 12 months of improvement vs Bellafill which can give near permanent improvements. Bellafill does require a skin test to see if one has a allergy to the bovine collagen (0.5% chance) which needs 3-4 weeks to determine. There is some who feel fillers in areas of subcision will prevent re-adhesion of the scars. Most failures from other treatments are related to not recognizing the need to fillers to improve the acne scars.
Lasers – Erbium/CO2 ablative lasers still are beneficial for acne scars but have more downtime and risks vs RFM. Deeper skin imperfections are not improved with lasers and require fillers. These devices are best reserved for more superficial scars, mainly boxcar scars. Non ablative lasers are less affective but safer and in the author’s opinion give very minor results.
Microneedling – Also know as “Collagen Induction Therapy” CIT, has become popular in recent years. There are rollers available for home use and then there are medical grade devices which go to depths of 2mm or deeper and create thousands of penetrations per second. Rollers should be not be used at home for 2 reasons – questionable sterility at home and they tear tissue more than the in-office devices. Often these treatments are combined with topicals and PRP. It is highly recommended to not use any products on the skin which would normal not be injected. There have been many cases of infection and granulomas from these practices. Even when done in the office with PRP or amniotic membrane products, the efficacy of this procedure is minimal, and should be reserved for only mild acne scarring.
PRP/Amniotic membrane products – There is some date to support that better results and faster recovery with less side effects if PRP or amniotic membrane products are used during acne scar treatments. There is a movement more towards amniotic/placental products and away from PRP because there are more growth factors/healing properties in these vs PRP.
LLLT – There is a plethora of studies to suggest that using low level laser light (LLLT) is beneficial to results and healing times. The most researched device is Healite, and this should be performed immediately following all acne scar procedures which use energy devices. It calms the skin and improves circulation.
Acne scarring procedures are continuing to improve as technology and techniques evolve. One must understand that results require months to fully appreciate and multiple treatments (3-5 or more) are often needed to optimize results. Expectations need to discussed with providers/patients so that all are on the same page as to what one can achieve with treatments.
Dr. Weiner is an Acne Scar Center of Excellence designated by Bellafill and is a specialist on acne scars. He is a lecturer and trainer for Bellafill. He has become one of the leading authorities on Radiofrequency Microneedling and travels the globe lecturing on this technology. He performed the FDA trails for the Genius. He recently authored a chapter on RF Microneedling which soon will be published in the Facial Plastic Clinics of North America. He also wrote a recent chapter on Radiofrequency Safety and Complications which will be part of a book titled “Complications in Minimally Invasive Facial Rejuvenation: Avoidance and Management” by Paul Carniol, MD