While the face and eye lifts of yesterday often left patients with an overly pulled, hollow and permanent someone-surprised-me look on their faces, today's techniques have come a long way with softer, more natural and flattering results that may even fly under the radar of most people.
One such technique is the lower eye lid sling lift, also known as the "o-sling" because it focuses on the circular orbicularis muscle, which is located under and to the side of the eye.
New York plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Schwarcz is spearheading the approach, and his background as an oculofacial specialist -- a fancy name for surgeons who have earned specialization in working around the eyes -- has helped guide him through the complexities of this very tender and sensitive area of the face.
Dr. Schwarcz has been performing the lift for four years, and recently flew to Tel Aviv and San Francisco to teach other plastic surgeons the science behind the youth treatment.
"It's a great technique for people with lower eyelid crepiness and loose skin. I would hesitate to give you an age group because I've done it on people ranging from 30 to 55 to 70, but my average patient is typically about 50. When I'm in California, I see a lot more sun-damaged faces who go in for work at younger ages. Genetics could play a role for people who age prematurely too," says Dr. Schwarcz.
In the old lower lid lift -- or blepharoplasty, as it's referred to by surgeons -- the doctor would cut the lower lid straight across, take excess fat and skin out, and then close up the incision. This led to a hollow look and even a change in the eye shape of the patient. There was also the unflattering risk of the lower lid looking overly pulled down.
Later versions of the lift improved the final look of the patient, but still didn't address the underlying muscles that were causing the drooping in the first place.
In the lower eyelid sling, an incision is made just under the lower eyelash, and the sagging obicularis muscle is pulled outward and over and then sutured down so as to lift and tighten the entire lower lid from a foundational point of view instead of just pulling the superficial layers of skin taut.
Because the muscle supports the eye lid, the eye's shape is youthfully restored or maintained, without the risk of a changed or 'pulled' look like in the lifts of yesterday.
"The lift addresses all three components of lower lid aging: too much or too little contour, skin crepiness and muscle looseness. You will also see an improvement in dark circles if loose muscle has been casting shadows into your eye groove. If you have cultural darkening or lots of blood vessels close to the surface of the undereye, this won't help with that," says Dr. Schwarcz.
The lift will cost you about $3200, and has a week's worth of downtime. According to Dr. Schwarcz, patients are black and blue and lightly swollen for about five days -- after which point the sutures come out, and the patient can gently return to a regular schedule.
As with any cosmetic surgery procedure, potential risks include hemorrhaging and scarring.
The best way to protect yourself? Hire a skilled, experienced surgeon who can show you plenty of patient before and afters with work that looks good to you. Also refrain from smoking, taking any kind of blood-thinning medication like aspirin, and direct sun exposure leading up to and after the surgery.
And if your eye area is in a more advanced stage of aging, the lower eye lid sling may not be enough on its own, though it can be coupled with other eye lift techniques for a full rejuvenation.
As they say -- 'The eyes have it.' And boy, do we want to keep it.
In the meantime, try these makeup tips for younger-looking eyes.
Grace Gold is a beauty writer and the author of the eBook, The Boob Job Bible: 10 Steps To A Sexy, Safe Breast Augmentation.