At age 65, Veronica Gondouin says she wants to tighten up some of the sagging she's noticed on her face.
"Yes, absolutely, the lines here. I have makeup on so you can't tell, but there's sagging here and particularly underneath my chin," she explains.
Instead of cosmetic surgery, Gondouin's opted for an external treatment called Pelleve that uses heat to stimulate collagen growth. At the Laser Light Center in Novato Arlene Padilla, NP, uses a wand-like device to deliver varying intensities of heat, calibrated to reach the layers of collagen underneath Gondouin's skin, without damaging the surface or producing pain. As the procedure begins she advises Gondouin not to be shy with her feedback.
"It's going to heat up," Padilla says. "I want to you to tell me if it's too much."
The heat is produced by radio frequency. The operator chooses between four different, coin-sized tips to control the way it's dispersed depending on the thickness of the skin and area being treated. A smaller tip is used around delicate areas like the eye. A sensor also stops the flow of energy if the device loses contact with the skin.
"We want to generate a certain amount of heat and just the right amount of heat, but not too much," says Dr. Joel Erickson who directs the center.
He says with the newer, more versatile applicators, the treatment can stimulate enough collagen growth to both smooth wrinkles and tighten sagging skin around the jaw and neckline. Still, he does not believe it's an effective treatment for other parts of the body.
"It's best for the face, including around the eyes," Erickson advises.
Pamela Deas had two treatments beginning last month for crow's feet around her eyes. She says the tightening was visible after a few days.
"Around here is where I really noticed a difference," she says, pointing to the eye area. The treatment also helped decrease the lines around her lips and nose. "I had some fairly deep creasing that I can't even see anymore."
The procedure usually takes less than an hour. The base price is typically around $900 and multiple treatments are often required. It's a price Gondouin is willing to pay.
"I'd like to look as good as I can for as long as I can," she says.
The main side effect is temporary redness while the skin is recovering. In most cases patients are able to return to work the same day.
Written and produced by Tim Didion