Thursday, September 20, 2012
Thailand - Glowing with youth and carats
The gold-thread skin lift is growing in popularity, but just how safe is it?
Women have been jazzing up their looks with gold accessories such as necklaces and earrings since time immemorial so perhaps it should come as little surprise that today some are opting to wear the gold under the skin.
With an ever-increasing concern about appearance in this day and age, the gold thread lift is becoming a popular if controversial option among beauty seekers, young and old, even though it costs a small fortune.
The buzz surrounding the gold thread lift is that it can smoothen, tighten, and clarify the skin without using any invasive procedures. It also gives almost immediate results that can last up to 10 years. And with the use of pure gold, the treatment causes no side effects and is suitable for everyone at every age.
"It's a great solution to cure signs of ageing," says Dr Maciej Lichaj, gold thread treatment expert and aesthetician from Poland during an interview at his DNA Clinic on Ekamai, the sole local distributor of Gold Thread LLC.
"You can treat your face - topical or the whole face - as well as the neck, breast, upper arms, hips, buttocks and even the hands. It makes you look younger naturally without painful procedures and long recovery period."
There's nothing new about gold being used for aesthetic purposes. More than 5,000 years ago, the Egyptians ingested gold for mental, bodily and spiritual purification. They believed that gold was a mystical metal that represented the perfection of matter, and that its presence in the body would enliven, rejuvenate, and cure a multitude of diseases as well as restore youth and perfect health. Today, medical uses of gold have expanded greatly. It is used in surgery to patch damaged blood vessels, nerves, bones, and membranes.
In the lift, 99.99-per-cent gold thread is inserted into the subdermal skin with a tiny, long needle. A second is then inserted, if needed, to form a web under the skin until the area is covered. The body naturally tries to fight the invading foreign substance , stimulating collagen and fibroblasts to form around the implanted threads, and increasing metabolism and blood flow in the treated areas, which results in skin rejuvenation. Results are noticeable shortly after the treatment. The technique is very only marginally invasive and only a local anaesthetic is needed.
"We use pure gold, which has an antiseptic effect and does not cause inflammation or irritation. The gold is administered only at the subdermal level so the gold will not be absorbed into the bloodstream," Lichaj explains. "You can see the results very quickly. Small lines and shallow wrinkles fill within a few weeks and sagging muscle becomes tighter in a few months. If you take good care of your health and skin, the result could last up to 10 years. If not, the ageing signs will reappear after about five years."
And where does the gold go after that?
"Well, gold is metal so it can't dissolve in the body. It will remain but not as threads anymore. Several autopsies on subjects who had been treated with gold thread found gold dust. But pure gold is completely harmless to the body, so there is no need to worry."
Gold thread treatment for aesthetic purposes was commercialised in Europe in the late 1970s, but was not well received as the invasive, painful procedures left the patients visibly punctured, sore and swollen for weeks. Thanks to the technique perfected by Dr Pawel W Koziczynski and named after him, the gold thread treatment is much less painful and has become a prime choice for those wanting a quick tuck without going the knife.
Although the technique has been perfected on Caucasian patients, Lichaj claims that the gold thread lift works on patients of all skin types.
"The oldest patient I have treated with gold thread was in her 80s, and it worked beautifully. I am seeing a huge trend in preventive treatments with vitamins, fillers, botox and other methods in young people who don't even have wrinkles. The gold thread lift is a treatment not prevention, so it does not benefit young people much, unless they have other skin problems."
And of course, if they have the money. One gold thread costs 150,000 baht (US$4,800), and it takes two to three threads to tuck both eyelids. A total facial makeover costs around 500,000 baht ($16,000).
"Our treatment is much more expensive than other similar treatments with less pure gold," says Ivan Bakhurin, president of Gold Thread LLC. "We insist on using 99.99 per cent gold because it ensures the safest results. Also, we have done everything required to meet regulatory procedures and evaluations for our products and treatments to be marketed. It takes a lot of money to make those authorities happy, I can tell you!"
Gold Thread LLC normally has one distributor in one country, for better quality control and evaluation. The doctors performing gold thread lift have to be trained and certified, too. In addition to treatment patients, Lichaj travels around the world training new practitioners and evaluating the standards of the facilities.
"Beware of fakes," Bakhurin says firmly. "Fake gold, fake threads, fake doctors - they are all very dangerous and not worth risking. Once the substance is introduced into the skin, it is almost impossible to recover and the side effects could be fatal. Take your time to study and consult the doctor before getting a treatment."
Pulling the strings on gold
Although the procedure is allowed in Thailand, the clinic has to ask for permission to acquire the gold threads on a case-by-case basis, according to Chapol Rattanapan, director of the Medical Equipment Control Division at the Thai Food and Drug Administration.
"Gold threads are considered controlled medical equipment that cannot be distributed freely without permission. The clinic has to get permission from the Food and Drug Administration for each specific case. For every single treatment, a clinic must submit the patient's and the doctor's names. There is no question of keeping an inventory of gold threads.
Despite the popularity of gold-thread treatment, Dr Jirot Sindhvananda, director of the Institute of Dermatology at the Public Health Ministry's Medical Service Department, is cautious about the procedure. He says that there is no scientific evidence as yet to proves that threads under the skin can stimulate the body to build collagen.
"The procedure of inserting any kinds of thread, such as surgical sutures, gold or threads made of any other materials into the skin to make it firmer has given debatable, inconclusive results," Dr Jirot says.
"Normally, the skin will react to whatever foreign substance is introduced by releasing antibodies that protect the body. This causes the area to swell up and that may be perceived as the skin becoming plumper and tighter."
The effect, in most cases, lasts about three months before the skin slowly goes back to its normal stage where patients will need to repeat the treatment to maintain the condition, the doctor says.
Some patients may suffer severe allergies and an unpleasant reaction to the materials, Dr Jirot warns.
"When that occurs, it is very difficult to retrieve from the body once injected. Gold is no exception, regardless how pure, because it is still a foreign substance," Dr Jirot says. "If the doctor is cautious and employs good technique, you might not get infection, much inflammation or bleeding from the procedure.
"But gold, especially pure gold, is a very soft substance, and once it enters the skin it could break into little particles and spread all over the treated area. Our white blood cells will try to expel these particles and this could result in discoloured, blotted skin tone, small bumps under the skin or even allergic reaction."