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Woman claims Skims bodysuit ‘saved’ her life after she was shot four times,” gasped a recent headline. I refused to click through. Skims, a company that makes (reputably) great shapewear, was founded and is owned by Kim Kardashian — she who, little over a decade ago, made social media believe we could all look like her… if we just bought her contouring palettes and followed her glam team’s tutorials.

I have come to accept Kardashian as a marketing genius. In no time, there were Kim K lookalikes everywhere you turned, in real life and online. They were all the same bronzy shade with high, pronounced cheekbones, hollowed-out cheeks, and pointed chins. It was all an illusion, of course. The joy and magic of makeup. You could go home and wash it all off to reveal your true features underneath and create a whole other look the next day. This makeup trend became known as contouring.

In 2023, contouring has turned it up a notch, taking things to the aesthetic doctor’s room. “Aesthetic contouring” refers to non-surgical reshaping solutions that are minimally invasive with visible results and a fast recovery time. Injectable fillers, Botox, thread lifts, and devices aimed at tightening the skin are all used in aesthetic contouring. We picked five such procedures we were curious about.

Buccal Fat Removal

What do Madonna, Lea Michele, and Chrissy Teigen have in common? They have had their cheeks sucked out. Arguably the best known of the lot, buccal (pronounced “buckle” and Latin for cheek) fat removal is a surgical procedure that removes the natural fat between the cheekbone and jawbone, aiming for a more pronounced cheekbone and well-defined facial structure. Naturally, as we get older fat production in this area is diminished, leaving us with hollower cheeks. Since the buccal fat pad is structural, removing it could lead to more sagging over time. The treatment is not reversable, so those who undergo the procedure should consider the possibility of looking older than they really are in the longer term.

Radiofrequency-Assisted Lipolysis

There comes an age when, no matter how much you exercise, pockets of fat stubbornly cling to little nooks in the body. For most women, this happens around the lower tummy area in our late forties, just before menopause. Thankfully, liposuction is not what it used to be. Radiofrequency-Assisted Lipolysis (RFAL) can be used on multiple areas of the body, including the chin, neck, arms, breasts, abdomen, hips, knees, buttocks, thighs, and even the back. This minimally invasive procedure uses thermal energy to melt fat and tighten skin in a single treatment.With RFAL, a local anaesthetic is applied before a small tube is inserted under the skin’s surface. Radiofrequency waves are directed to an external electrode, ensuring the area is not overheated. These waves melt the fat, which is then naturally absorbed and removed by your body.Results from the treatment can be seen immediately, with the best results visible after three months, lasting up to six months. The bonus is that the radiofrequency waves stimulate collagen production in the skin, making the treated area appear plumper and more toned at the same time.

Non-surgical Butt Lift 

The non-surgical butt lift (dermal fillers) is quite different from the more invasive and surgical Brazilian butt lift (fat transfer). It is a cosmetic procedure that involves fillers, usually hyaluronic acid, to add volume to, curve, and shape the buttocks. If you are contouring other, fattier parts of your body and want to have that fat grafted onto your butt, you have entered Brazilian butt-lift territory. Here, the results are a lot more dramatic, the procedure more invasive, and the possible side-effects more serious. For those with a lower body-fat percentage or looking for a more subtle effect, a dermal-filler butt lift is a more viable and safer option.

Sofwave for Cellulite

Sofwave is a skin-tightening treatment first launched in 2019 and used to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. In 2021, the same treatment was cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration for eyebrow-, chin- and neck-lifting procedures. It became popular as it involved no pain and zero downtime — and showed visible results after just one treatment.This in-office treatment is now being used to treat a famously difficult condition: cellulite. Sofcool technology is used to cool the skin while powerful ultrasound energy heats the deeper layers, triggering skin cells to produce collagen and so restore the skin’s structure and resilience over time.Depending on the size of the area being treated, the procedure can take 30 minutes to an hour. The best results are seen around three to six months after treatment. The cellulite removal lasts at least a year and can be maintained annually.

Jawline Contouring 

Whether it was Jennifer Aniston’s chin or Jada Pinkett Smith’s jawline you coveted in the late 1990s, it can still happen for you. A breakdown of collagen and elastin fibres can result in skin laxity or sagging, showing as a deep crease here or a double chin there as the fat pads in our cheeks slowly succumb to gravity. Eventually, our faces become heavier at the bottom, resulting in a saggy jawline. Excess skin can also occur when one has had extreme weight loss.Thread lifting promises a redefined face in 30 minutes with results lasting up to 18 months. It combines two effects: lifting and regenerating. The lifting effect is immediate and discreet. After having the suture (thread stitch) inserted, the face can be reshaped and the surface of the skin appears visibly smoother. The threads are bidirectional and completely absorbable.

Important: While every procedure has its pros and cons, the side effects and downsides of aesthetic contouring are minimal compared to traditional surgery. To treat swelling, you may be advised to take some anti-inflammatories and avoid strenuous exercise for 48 hours. Always consult your doctor for appropriate advice and recommendations.

• From the August edition of Wanted, 2023.

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