Afraid of the 'S' Word? The Top 5 Not-So-Scary Cosmetic Procedures

Samantha Johnson

by Samantha Johnson | August 31, 2012 @ 01:00PM

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Even though cosmetic surgeries have become safer, more efficient and relatively cheaper over the last few years, minimally invasive procedures like Botox and chemical peels seem to be replacing them.  

It its annual report on cosmetic procedures for 2011, the American Society for Plastic Surgeons indicates that 90% of the procedures performed were minimally invasive. Surgeries are on the decline, but minimally invasive procedures are up 120% since the year 2000.  But why?

The average surgical procedure costs $3,694, while the average minimally invasive procedure costs $376.  Not only do minimally invasive procedures cost less, they are frankly a lot less scary.  Who wouldn't want to avoid "surgery" for a procedure if it were possible? 

Here, we've made a list of the top five non-invasive alternatives to getting cut open.  They require no anesthesia or sedation, offer quick recovery with minimal pain, and all of them take under an hour to complete.                                                                               


This year, Botox celebrated 10 years of minimizing frown lines and wrinkles everywhere since it was FDA approved in 2002.  Starting off as treatment for crossed eyes and uncontrollable blinking, Botox has evolved to treat wrinkles, cervical dystonia, severe underarm sweating and muscle stiffness.  It now remains the top minimally invasive procedure with 5,670,788 procedures performed in 2011. 

In clinical trails, nearly 90% of men and women surveyed rated the improvement in the appearance of frown lines as moderate to better just one month after treatment. Results can last up to four months, so this wrinkle solution is just a temporary fix.  The whole process takes about ten minutes, and pain and side-effects are minimal. The average cost for Botox is $375.

Soft tissue fillers

A variety of facial fillers are now available including Juvederm, Restylane and Radiesse.  The fillers include different types of acid.  Fat can also be removed from one part of a pateint's body and administered as a facial filler.  The procedure is quick and relatively painless, and the cost averages from $460 to $1,700 depending on what type of filler you get.  It is the second most popular non-invasive procedure with 1,891,158 performed in 2011.

Chemical Peel   

Commonly referred to as a "lunchtime peel," the AHA (alpha hydroxyl acid) chemical peel is the least painful of the three types of chemical peels because it does not penetrate as deeply into the layers of skin as a medium or deep peel.  The "lunchtime" nickname comes from the idea that you can get this procedure on your lunch break at work, and can resume the rest of your day as usual.  After the peel, your face will look like it has a sunburn, and you will only feel some mild stinging or irritation.  You can get the peel on a certain area like the upper lip or neck, and that can result in a shorter procedure time.  Light chemical peels usually require multiple treatments, but sometimes the desired look is achieved after just one.  With 1,110,464 procedures performed last year, the chemical peel is the third most popular non-invasive cosmetic procedure. The national average cost for a chemical peel is $706.

Laser hair removal 

Patients and surgeons report that the pain level associated with laser hair removal is like a rubber band being snapped on the skin.  The procedure can take as little as a few minutes to an hour depending on the size of the area treated.  Results of this procedure can be permanent, but there is no guarantee.  Just over one million procedures were performed last year. The national average fee for a treatment is $383.  


Microdermabrasion takes just a half an hour to complete.  The surgeon uses an instrument that blasts tiny crystals onto the skin that slough away the first layer.  It is usually used for hyper-pigmentation, stretch marks, uneven skin tone or to reduce dullness of aging skin.  Anywhere from 6 to 16 treatments could be needed in order to achieve the desired results.  Most patients say microdermabrasion feels like an emery board or sandpaper rubbing on the skin. Each treatment costs around $150. 

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