Thermage Eyes Review
Looking worn-down in my 30s was never a part of my plan to age gracefully. The realization that I did not look as good as I thought I did hit me, hard, two years ago (in high resolution no less).
“Why do you look so tired?” Said my older brother as he was scrolling through the photos he had just taken of me on his fancy camera. I needed a professional headshot for work and since he was a professional photog/filmmaker I asked him for a family favour. He slipped me in at the end of an editorial shoot when all the models left. This was going to be ten minute job, I thought. I’m still a hot young thang. After all, back then I was living the healthy lifestyle to the max: I was eating clean and hitting the gym regularly. And getting carded at the liquor store was still happening. I assumed the photos would turn out fine, spectacular even.
Was I in for a reality check that day. When he showed me the untouched shots, I gasped in horror and said “I’m not that tired!” Despite being well-rested and perked up on coffee, the photos betrayed the way I felt. I looked exhausted when I wasn’t. One of the pics…
Check out my asymmetric eye situation. For all of my life, though most prominently when I was younger, my right eye droops and ends up looking smaller than the left eye. As a kid, I hated picture day. Here’s a horrific snapshot from my eighth birthday that really shows it off…
For the rest of the shoot, my brother kept telling me to “open my eyes.” I closed them and opened them quickly before each shot, as he patiently directed me to do. After the trying session I, like any self-respecting woman would, requested to be Photoshopped to the nines! My ever so patient but pragmatic brother said he would try his best to un-haggard me with lighting, however he added “I’m not a magician, you know.” Unfortunately my wonky eye remained in all of the shots. Le sigh.
They say the eyes are the windows to your soul. One look at mine in photos could lead you to believe that I am an old soul who has lived a rough life. Truth is, I always had it relatively easy (no kids, no illness, no soul-crushing debt). So what is to become of my wonky eye when I do have those inevitable things?! If I don’t get professional help now, I may end up looking like the sea captain from The Simpsons.
My Wonky Eye History
It did start to even out in my mid teenage years, most likely due to my facial features naturally evolving with age plus the introduction of kohl black/brown eyeliner to my beauty routine. I never left home without it! However sometime around age 26 I began to notice that no matter how much eye makeup I wore, my eyes always looked small and heavy in photos. And the worst part is, it gets worse when I drink. In party photos after having just one glass of wine, not only is my face a ruddy mess (the classic “Asian glow” effect), it also looks like I’ve got a tic going on.
Can makeup fix it? If only! I’ve tried every trick in the book to make my eyes “pop” and look more even. I’m talking all of them: I’ve worn eye lash extensions, I’ve dabbed white shimmery shadow only in the inner corners, I’ve used bottom-lash mascaras, and I have even used double-eyelid tape, straight from Japan. Try explaining that to your man at the end of the night!
When I talked to my industry insider friend Fofo about this, she told me that having uneven eyelids is not just an Asian problem – it crosses all racial and ethnic boundaries. Take, for example, Shannon Doherty. Her ancestry is Scots-Irish. During her early 90201 years, you can see that despite wearing eyeliner she also has a wonky eye…
Here she is at age 27…
Upper and lower eyelid blepharoplasty, also known as double eyelid surgery, is one way to correct the problem. And it is wildly popular in the Asian community. Being of Chinese and Vietnamese decent, I know all too well of the “double eyelid” obsession that many Korean and Chinese girls have. No offence to Julie Chen and other women who have chosen the plastic surgery route, but I would never do it. The idea of someone slicing skin away near my eye – no matter if I were under anaesthetic – was, and still is, a rather draconian pursuit of vanity to me. Plastic surgery is just not my thing; I prefer the non-invasive route. And while my brother says he’s no magician, I do know someone who kind of is, in my books…
“Unless you’re a supermodel everyone has asymmetry in the eyes if you look closely,” says Diana Phillips, the nurse injector at DLK on Avenue, as she assessed my situation last Spring. Diana explained that there are many factors that can cause one eye to droop. These include habits such as sleeping on one side of the face; or driving a lot which can expose the left side of the face to more sun exposure; or quirky characteristics like raising one eyebrow more frequently than the other (guilty!). Thanks to modern advances in cosmetic dermatology, just as there are lots of unique causes to the problem, there are lots ways to minimize and even correct uneven eyes.
For me, my journey was to begin with injectables. Diana said she wanted to take a conservative and gradual approach since it was my first time trying a neuromodulator (skin-speak for a class of medications which change the way that messaging is conducted between nerves and muscles). She started with a small dose of Xeomin above my dominant eyebrow, the one I’m always arching, to “relax the muscle and create some balance with the other eye.” Two weeks after, I did notice a subtle change in symmetry. I liked it. Six months later when the effect had worn off, I returned for another fix, this time Diana used Botox for a change. She also put a bit on my forehead to soften the horizontal lines. I recall the exact moment when I knew the Bo had kicked it: It was one week after and I was on the subway to work; I suddenly felt a foreign sensation going on underneath my forehead. Yes it did feel weird, but only because it was new. I didn’t get this sensation with Xeomin, by the way. When I got to the office, I dashed to the bathroom to check my reflection. My eyes were more even and my forehead was smoother and looked more luminous like a child’s! (Not shiny and waxy like some over-Bo’ed celebs.) The result was very subtle. I felt as if Diana had knocked off four years of staring-at-a-computer-screen off my upper face.
After my success with Botox I became intrigued with eyelid Thermage. Samantha Bloom, one of our contributing writers, wrote about her eyelid Thermage experience here. Her line about wishing she had done it in her thirties (she’s 44) really resonated with me, and when I took this article to Diana at my next visit, she told me two things: One, I’m not alone. And two, I’m wise to consider it now. I honestly thought she’d say that I was too young for Thermage, as Diana being a straight-shooter with over 25 years in the biz, she isn’t shy when it comes to telling people what they need and don’t need. Instead Diana told me that many of her younger asian patients get eyelid Thermage done as both a preventative and corrective measure.
It’s called pre-juvenation, said Diana, which is a term recently coined by cosmetic industry types that describes the rise in popularity of non-invasive anti-aging treatments among the 30-something demographic. (Like it or not, we live in a selfie-taking youth obsessed culture.) Diana explains, “We have a generation of both men and women who have disposable income and are actively looking at preserving the integrity of their skin and their own natural beauty. This group is very tech-savvy and know that certain things contribute to the aging process — the breaking down of collagen in the skin from sun exposure, for example – and they are seeking reputable high-tech solutions that can slow down the aging process.”
How can Thermage help? Diana laughs when she says “it will buy you time.” Technically speaking, “This wonderful technology [Thermage] allows us to deliver radio frequency energy into the skin. And when we heat the tissue [with it], we can really elicit an organic response from our skin tissue to remodel collagen in order to slow down that collagen deterioration and retain what we have. It’s always better to maintain what we have rather than to rejuvenate what has been lost. That’s where the pre-juvenation concept comes from. What’s unique about Thermage is that it is one of the few technologies that can be used safely on the upper and lower eyelids. And the results are immediate and progressive; right after the treatment you can expect the eye area to feel tighter and slightly more lifted; but full results are best seen after six months, and the results can last up to two years.” Buying more time from Father time sounds like what I need!
Here’s how my Thermage treatment went down:
Step 1: Diana places a grounding pad on my back. This is because Thermage is monopolar energy so it needs to be grounded to stay in the body. She then slips in a protective shield onto the eyeball to protect it. Since I don’t wear contacts, I wasn’t used to sticking something hard in my eye, so this part did make me squirm.
Step 2: Diana turns on the machine, which sounds a lot like a pipe organ you’d hear in a church. She begins on the right eye by applying a cooling gel, then she uses a hand piece that sends a few pulses onto the eyelids, working her way around the skin of the eyes. Each pulse feels like a shot of warm heat. Totally tolerable.
Step 3: After the right eye is complete, she removes the protective shield and preps the left eye with a new shield and gel. She repeats the pulsing process on the other eye. The whole process is over in about 20 minutes.
According to a 2005 study abstract in the journal Aesthetic Surgery, ”Monopolar radiofrequency treatment may be appropriate for patients who desire skin tightening but will not tolerate surgery and/or downtime. Patients generally can expect a 5% to 20% improvement, but results in any particular group are unpredictable.” For me, I noticed an immediate change the following day: The skin around my eyes felt tauter and look closely, I have double eyelids…
If you check out the Thermage website (thermage.com) and head to the before and after photos for eyes here, you can see that my results are similar to this guy’s, though not as dramatic (yet)…
As Diana said, the results are progressive so it will continue to improve over the next few months. I would probably notice optimal results on my wedding day, she said. Even after just one month though I’m ecstatic with my results: not-so wonky eye. At least now, I can take a decent photo in just one shot. No Photoshopping and kooky eyelid tape required.
To see if Thermage is right for you, visit the DLK on Avenue site here for more details and contact info. Tell Diana I sent you!