So let’s talk about skin tightening! As we age, our collagen kind of loses its ‘snap’. Much like an old swimming costume with elastic fibres that are now worn out or completely eroded, your face just isn’t able to sit nice and ‘toit’ in the position it once did due to collagen and elastin that’s lost it’s stretch or completely disappeared. The scary thing is that this is something that starts to happen in your late 20s when your body’s collagen production slows down dramatically before stopping altogether.
Because of all the above, it’s important to look after the collagen you have as well as encourage your skin to make as much as you can (think of it as being a desperate quest to make as much hay as you can while the sun still shines) so you can ‘bank’ for the leaner years to come. Also, know that any collagen production-stimulating practices you undertake in your youth will always produce more if it than what you could expect as an older person. So now is the time to take a hard guns approach to anti-ageing. It’s also why I often feel saddened by piss willy drug store anti-ageing creams that contain very little of the collagen-boosters you need advise that they’re targeting women in their 40s when, honestly, you should’ve been slapping that cream on your face, and then some, in your 20s.
But ja, all that aside, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of what collagen-encourages actually are. Topically, you’re looking at things like vitamins like A (retinol) and C as well as AHAs and peptides. You can also opt for a procedure like Dermapen that uses a needle to make like ‘wounds’ in your skin. This encourages your body to ‘heal’ and by product of that is new collagen formation. Then there’s a big daddy machine like Exilis Elite.
Now first things, first, Exilis Elite is not a laser. It’s a machine that uses a radio-frequency and ultra sound technology to deliver a high form of energy deep into your skin that encourages it to tighten up while stimulating new collagen. There’s a whole hunk of ways you can use it – to tighten up jowls, improve a sagging neck… It has a body attachment too that can do all the things the facial head can but has the added bonus of being able to destroy fat cells too and I’m told this is super popular for post-pregnancy tummies.
So, now that you have an idea of what we’re talking about let me fill you in on my very own Exilis Elite experience. I was very kindly offered a course of four treatments (which is the recommended amount if you’re to see a visible difference) by Skin & Body Renewal. They’re one of the only salons in the country to own a machine which is so fancy pants and expensive that it travels between their salons in Cape Town, including Cape Quarter, Constantia, Claremont.
My first treatment was at Cape Quarter where I first saw their friendly doc who asked me a few questions, took a look at my face and gave me the ‘all clear’ to get the lower half of my face done, essentially from my lower cheek area down. As I’ve gotten older, I can see my skin is losing it’s elasticity and I’m losing the definition of my jaw. This is something I feel is a lot more obvious on my very ‘square’ face type.
My first treatment was with Cape Quarter’s lovely Dourina who’s sadly no longer with the franchise. Dourina’s seen me through i-Lipo and laser vein removal and I love that she’s not shy to crank the machines up high and indulge my special brand of ‘give my money’s worth’ sadism. While the girls at the front desk assured me an Exilis treatment wouldn’t hurt, Dourina laughed that off, flashed a wicked grin and said ‘pick a safe word’. Ah, Dourina. Still, to be clear, an Exilis facial treatment really isn’t a painful experience and I’ll get to that in a bit.
To start, my make-up was removed from the lower half of my face and a large sticky electrode pad was placed on my back. It was pretty much the large version of those little electrode things they stick on you before going under anaesthetic and it’s supposed to ‘ground’ you so you don’t get a shock during treatment.
Next, a little conductive gel was applied to my face and the machine’s head would be run across my skin using a constant circular motion. (If you were to hold it in one place it would burn you.) This was actually fabulously relaxing. Like a hot stone massage for your face! However, in order to get up to a certain high temperature that is ‘treatment phase’ you need to slowly crank up the heat, much in the way you’d slowly boil a frog. This temperature increase would happen in an arc in that it would gradually get hotter and hotter and hotter and then I’d go ‘stop!’ when I felt like it might burn and Dourina would immediately turn down the heat and we’d start again. It was important that I told her to stop just before it got to an unbearable point as she’d need a split second to turn it off and pull it away from my skin. If I’d winced and yanked my face away before she turned it off, it could either shock or burn me. For the record, this did happen once but it merely felt like being micro-zapped by a laser hair removal device and afterwards I couldn’t see any red mark. Sjoe!
After my first treatment, three more would come at various salons, spaced two weeks apart. All the therapists I encountered where divine but I did notice that some treatments varied in comfort. For example, Dourina’s was a tad ouchy (which I loved) but the two in between seldom got me to a point where I had to say ‘stop’. In all fairness though, I was tripping on flu meds for one of them so I could easily have been deep-fried and not noticed. My final treatment, however, was action packed with wincing and I adored and encouraged that. I wanted to spend as many minutes of each 20 minutes session (yep, it’s that quick!) in the ‘treatment zone’. I also noticed that certain parts of my face are much more sensitive than others – like the very outer corner of my jaw that I suspect might have something to do with the energy being closer to the bone, but this is just a suspicion.
After each treatment my skin felt the teensiest bit tender and had a nice, healthy-looking glow but both the sensation and flush would fade within the hour and I could happily skip on through my day with zero tell-tale sign I’d ‘had something done’. A real ‘lunch time treatment’ if there ever was one.
Still, I didn’t really see a difference in my skin’s ‘tightness’ and after treatment two I began to get a little nervy. This was expensive shizzle, yo! Imagine if I had to revert back to the PR and go ‘ja, I’m not too sure what to write…’ Major awkies, right?
Thankfully, by treatment three I felt like the skin on my lower face was starting to look ‘more refined’. That’s the best way I could put it. Like it’s actually texture was smoother-looking, almost the way your skin looks more polished after using a micro-exfoliant. Then, some time after treatment four I started to notice that the marionette lines on either side of my mouth had visibly reduced in a major way. I’m not sure if it’ll show up in pictures, but these lines used to be something I’d look at and go ‘I may have to fill you guys soon’ but now they don’t ‘catch my eye’ or bother me in the least.
I’m now excited to take some ‘after’ pictures soon. It’s now been one month since my final treatment but I’m supposed to wait for another two as they say it takes three months for that newly stimulated collagen to reach full bloom, if that makes sense.
As far as pictures go, the Cape Quarter branch took some very nice before ‘pictures’ of me but these were wiped out when their PC got hit by a virus. Ag nee! Luckily I’d taken my own – the ‘before’ shot the day before my first treatment and my ‘after’ shot two months after my fourth (and final) treatment. I’ve been told, however, that I should actually wait three months to see the full result of the new collagen that’s springing up in my face.
Before on the left and after on the right.
To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to see the difference judging from these pics as my results weren’t super dramatic and didn’t really change the shape of my face. But I can definitely see a difference in regards to texture (my skin really does look smoother) and the depth of my nasolabial lines has decreased. You’ll definitely get a clearer idea if you watch my video diary below. It’ll automatically play back at a low quality so click on the cog (settings) on the bottom right hand side of the video and change the quality to 720 to see exactly what’s going on.
Keen to try Exilis for yourself? The treatment is currently offered by the Skin & Body Renewal clinics in Jozi at Fourways, Parkhurst, Morningside, Illovo and Bedfordview; in Pretoria at Brooklyn and in Cape Town at Cape Quarter, Claremont and Constantia. .
To make an appointment, visit Skin & Body Renewal online, find your nearest clinic’s number and give them a ring. You’ll also find they have a great Q&A section listed under ‘Exilis Elite‘ that might be able to answer any questions I haven’t answered. Cost-wise, you’re looking at R1 850 to R3 500 per session depending on the area treated. My lower face, for example, was R1 850 and I had the recommended four treatments so my total cost was R7 400.
A big thank you to Skin & Body Renewal for offering me a test monkey experience once more. I’m always thrilled to do anything that can help me pop a little more collagen in my bank and stave off Father Time and you guys have always been at the forefront of all the cutting edge treatments that promise to do just that.
P.S. Feel free to ask my any questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them. One that I’m anticipating is how Exilis is different to another skin tightening treatment I’ve tried in the past which is a Near-Infrared skin tightening facial using an Alma laser at Pulse Dermatology and Laser in Tygervalley. Thing is, while Exilis uses radio-frequency, the Alma machine uses near-infrared light. From my research, many docs seem to be saying that these are two different techniques to do the same thing – tighten and encourage collagen. However, I can’t compare results are I was only offered a single Alma treatment but received a course of four (the recommended minimum amount) from Exilis so I couldn’t really see any visible results regarding the former. I kind of just left safe in the knowledge that I’d at least got some new collagen going, if not enough to make a difference. For what it’s worth, the Alma treatment didn’t hurt in the least and there was never a point where I wanted to say ‘stop’. I have no clue if this relates to ‘strength’ or ‘efficacy’, but felt it was important to mention.