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Medical Skin Aesthetics
Meeting All Your Clinical and Facial-Sculpting Needs
by Nirmala Nataraj on Jun 19, 2009
The medical spa seems to be the new preferred method of beautification and pampering among some circles. A hybrid between a clinic and a day spa, at its very best it’s the kind of place that takes its relaxation seriously, but never at the expense of its service. All the same, spa establishments that often dress themselves up as serious clinics seldom sport both medical know-how and aesthetic panache in equal measure. That’s where Medical Skin Aesthetics, the brainchild of San Francisco clinical aesthetician Alisha Valverde, comes in.
Opened in 2007, Medical Skin Aesthetics is the kind of corrective medical skincare outpost where you can get an assortment of beauty needs taken care of -- this includes brown spots, rosacea, or skin in need of “plumping” through the use of dermal fillers and, if desired, facial plastic surgery. A place that’s diminutive yet sunny and welcoming, Medical Skin Aesthetics also prides itself on discretion. You walk into a light-spattered waiting room filled with chocolates, water and an assortment of magazines -- but you walk out through a side door, which minimizes the possibility of running into a colleague or friend (or God forbid, your significant other) if you’d prefer to keep your beauty secrets hush-hush.
Valverde, one of the city’s most sought-after aestheticians for the last 10 years, prides her Union Square clinic on its professional, empathetic approach to improving both skin texture and color. All medical skin treatments are administered under the supervision of medical director Bradley Greene, M.D., a board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. A bevy of treatment programs (from medical-grade chemical peels to clinical permanent cosmetics to nurse-administered dermal fillers) is available for everyone from 30-year-olds suffering from adult acne to mature clients in need of a not-too-obvious pick-me-up.
While both Valverde and Olivia Nava, the establishment’s aesthetic nurse specialist and nursing director (who offers non-invasive anti-aging treatments and cosmetic injectables), tend to be booked several months in advance, a visit to either is never hastily administered. In fact, you can expect a thorough sit-down that includes information on your needs and priorities, as well as your lifestyle and current beauty regimen.
According to Valverde, “Our services are down to a science and are reevaluated with each [subsequent] treatment.” Clients who pay Medical Skin Aesthetics a visit get their skin and lifestyle histories reviewed in a comprehensive consultation, which “determines what kind of treatment program we’re going to provide…We take photographs to provide a benchmark, which is crucial.” Don’t let the mug shots intimidate you too much, though -- they’re actually one of the many benefits offered to clients of Medical Skin Aesthetics. If you’re one of the lucky people who visits Valverde or Nava regularly, you’ll get to see exactly how dramatic your results are when they dig the photos up from your file.
One of the treatments that draws gaggles of clients looking to slough dead skin cells and emerge with a radiant complexion is Valverde’s proprietary skincare treatment, which customizes itself to an individual’s goals (e.g., getting rid of hyperpigmentation, acne, melasma, etc.) while correcting and repairing the skin from conditions like sun damage or anything else you may not be conscious of. That means she’s a perfectionist whose techniques include dermaplaning (manual exfoliation with a sterile surgical blade), which provides a non-traumatic way of removing the outermost dead mantle of skin cells while offering perks like getting rid of unwanted hair. Enzyme therapy with deep pore cleansing, meticulous extractions, medical-grade chemical peels and prescription skin serums, and added bonuses like eyelash tinting and eyebrow shaping are all part of the package. While it’s pretty unlikely you’ll walk away from Valverde’s facial with bumps and red spots (there is generally little down time, though treatments are aggressive), she makes sure each of her clients is taken care of with her special finishing touch: subtle yet flattering micronized mineral makeup application.
While Valverde’s famous facials make both locals and out-of-towners swoon by dint of her precision and attention to all the details (like that blackhead in your ear, or unsightly hair poking out of your nostrils, for instance), the treatment is just one aspect of an ongoing process. “After clients’ initial goals are achieved, we reevaluate their treatment program and start a maintenance program and treatment protocol for them,” she explains. “We recommend vitamins A and C, peptides, kojic acid, hydroquinone, EGCG polyphenols, AHAs, and human growth factors that you can only find at a physician’s office, not at a department store.” Equally important are the guidance and experience that Valverde and Nava provide to their clients, as the ability to maximize results is increased through continuous client education.
For clients who’d prefer to complement their regular facials with Botox or dermal fillers, a visit to Nava will up the ante on looking younger. Nava’s knowledge of non-invasive facial rejuvenation technology (lasers) and facial sculpting through Botox and dermal fillers was developed over seven years of working with leading cosmetic dermatologists and facial plastic surgeons.
Nava preps clients with a comprehensive consultation first, followed by establishing the client’s priorities and needs. In evaluating areas for dermal filler, Nava considers not only the problem or priority zone of the patient's face, but also the source of the problem. According to Nava, “By understanding facial anatomy and how different parts of the face support or define other parts of the face, it’s possible to correct an area while also bringing about fullness and definition to the face as a whole. This approach can take years off your face to achieve the best result.”
Medical Skin Aesthetics’ dermal fillers and wrinkle correction therapy are all about helping clients maintain natural beauty and restore volume in slackened areas. A variety of lighting is used to ensure the filler is accurately injected for the most optimal outcome. Dermal fillers such as Juvederm and Restylane help return the dermis to a more youthful state by injecting naturally occurring constituents like collagen (the major support protein for the skin), and/or hyaluronic acid (which helps trap water and hydrate/add volume to the skin) -- which our body gradually loses as our skin ages. Clients can get dermal fillers for anything from eliminating stress furrows to enhancing the shape of their lips. Medical Skin Aesthetics also offers Botox, a protein medication that diminishes the appearance of wrinkles by resting the skin’s underlying muscle that causes wrinkles by contracting. Contrary to popular misconceptions, Botox is both safe and gentle.
In helping her clients decide which treatment would be the best for them, Nava examines their facial anatomy. “In general, the superficial muscles of expression in the upper one-third of the face (from the eyes up) are excellent sites for Botox,” she says. “On the other hand, the lower two-thirds of the face from the cheeks down are best treated with dermal fillers and/or lasers.” Deciding which dermal filler to use depends on a variety of factors that Nava evaluates on a case-by-case basis. The most widely used dermal fillers are hyaluronic acids, Restylane, or Juvederm.
Nava ensures that clients’ lifestyles and budgets are kept in mind when considering how best to meet their beauty needs (costs vary depending on what they wish to have done, and correction fees range from $375 to $1150 a session, with results lasting as long as 12 to 18 months depending on products used, including one maintenance visit six months after the first session). The down time for each session also varies, depending on what you’d like to have done; although bruising can sometimes occur, Nava’s decisive hand usually makes for no more than tiny marks at the injection site. And of course, the before-and-after photographs that are part and parcel of Medical Skin Aesthetics’ métier definitely come in handy when it comes to admiring your “work.”
Although Medical Skin Aesthetics offers some of the most exclusive and innovative treatments in the city -- ones that skin-conscious beauties set appointments for far in advance -- clients will never feel like they’re low priority or merely being whisked down the conveyor belt to make room for others. In fact, most of the treatments at Medical Skin Aesthetics are much longer and more leisurely than those you’ll find at other medical spas.
“We are so grateful that people of all ages choose us to help them preserve and maintain a more youthful appearance,” says Valverde. “We never want to become a factory. Our goal is to provide an unrushed treatment so we can safely provide the best care.”
by Nirmala Nataraj on Jun 19, 2009