Why the Beverly Hills Face-Lift Is on the Decline (Hint: Blame the "Cocktail")

Beverly Hills Facelift Is on the Decline - Illo -H 2016
Illustration By Kirsten Ulve

The world's capital for going under the knife is forgoing the unkindest cuts for new alternatives. Says one cosmetic surgeon, "I don't ever want a face-lift. I'd rather have wrinkles than look pulled and artificial."

Contradicting the town's reputation for going further than anywhere else in its blind pursuit of a youthful appearance, Los Angeles is experiencing a decrease in under-the-knife procedures like never before. And anecdotal evidence indicates that L.A., usually on the cutting edge of cosmetic trends, might even lag behind the 31 percent drop in face-lift procedures in the western U.S., according to a study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons published in 2015. Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer says that his surgical "colleagues have shared that traditional face-lifts are down 10 to 15 percent." Explains anti-aging researcher and physician Barbara Sturm, whose clients include A-list actors and producers: "Nobody wants a face-lift anymore; all of my patients are scared." To pointedly avoid stretched or frozen faces, says Glynis Ablon, UCLA associate clinical professor and owner of Ablon Skin Institute on the Manhattan Beach Studios lot (where the Avatar sequels are to be filmed): "Most of our patients don't come in here asking to look 25 years younger. They're more realistic. They want to look like themselves, not pulled and weird."

With new technologies — from three-pronged procedural "cocktails" and thread-lifts that melt away to modalities that work well with a diverse array of skin tones — many people are choosing to avoid general anesthesia, discomfort and the two- to three-week recovery time that comes with surgery. Confirms New York plastic surgeon Z. Paul Lorenc: "Whether we like it or not, we're moving away from traditional face-lifts because of new technology."


Plastic surgeons who used to spend entire days in the operating room now are using non- and/or less-invasive combo, or "cocktail," treatments during 30- to 45-minute office visits. "Twenty years ago I was doing face-lifts; now it's only noses, injectables and lasers," says Beverly Hills surgeon Raj Kanodia. "I'm vain, but I personally don't ever want a face-lift. I'd rather have wrinkles than look pulled and artificial." Kanodia is known for his artistic, three-pronged approach that positions Botox and fillers to lift tissue (not just still and fill), followed by lasers to tighten muscles (about $6,000 to $8,000 per treatment, up to four times a year). He conducts live demos of his techniques for hundreds of doctors all over the world. "I'm very aggressive with restoring volume, lost fat and augmenting tissue to take skin to the contours of someone in their 30s," he says.

Lancer also has developed his own cocktail: two to three sessions of ultrasound treatment Ultherapy to lift and tighten, alternating with EndyMed, a radio-frequency procedure, over three months. Following that, he administers low volumes of Botox and fillers, then injects NovaThreads — new, absorbable microthreads made from sugar. "They support the tissue and help make the fillers and Botox more effective," he explains ($12,000 to $15,000 per treatment, twice for the first year).

Dermatologist Tess Mauricio, who has offices in Beverly Hills, Glendale and San Diego, says that since many of her patients "don't want surgery at all," she combines a radio frequency device to resurface the skin and microneedling with platelet-rich plasma to build collagen (the 45- to 60-minute Time Machine Procedure, or TMP, is $4,000 for the full face). "One of the amazing things about TMP is how little downtime there was for the amazing results I see," says Marla Maples. "Just a few days after the treatment, I was ready for an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show."


A Stanford Medical School graduate who is multiracial, Mauricio has a client base of 50 percent "non-Caucasian skin," she says, adding: "I've educated physicians worldwide and pioneered radio-frequency technologies that are now safe for all skin types." Older lasers are not as controlled as newer lasers, such as PicoWay, used to reverse sun damage and remove spots, says Lancer. Less-advanced lasers "fire at too high of an energy but at too slow of a rate, so there is risk for burning, especially in darker skin," he says, "whereas the PicoWay fires in a trillionth of a second and the energy quickly dissipates" ($250 to $550 per treatment depending on area for four to six visits).

With her patient Angela Bassett, Sturm developed a series of luxury products for skin of color, the Dr. Barbara Sturm for Darker Skin Tones range, available on Shen-Beauty.com. (Her main line with customers that include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Jada Pinkett Smith, launched in August on Violet Grey, a beauty website founded by Cassandra Huysentruyt Grey, wife of Paramount chief Brad Grey.) Says Sturm: "I tailored this high-performance range to address specific needs that darker skin is more prone to: inflammation, hyperpigmentation, acne and scarring."



Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon Ben Talei asserts there are only three or four doctors who can perform his AuraLyft, "the Ferrari of face-lifts" ($25,000). During the three-hour surgery using local anesthesia, Talei goes deep under the muscles to pull up the face, neck and upper chest. "Some people even go back to work a week later wearing glasses," says Talei, adding that full healing takes place over three to four months. Talei affirms his technique is completely "reproducible," meaning he can achieve the same result 10 out of 10 times. "This cannot be said about traditional face-lifts," he notes, "hence the number of strange-looking, altered faces you see" — which may number fewer every day in L.A. as technologies continue to advance.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.