Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
When it comes to looking younger, some people don't want the latest medical treatment. They want to take an alternative or holistic approach.
Now one local women says a new form of facial massage is working for her.
Mary Tobin, 51, wants to erase the skin damage from years of smoking and the pigment spots caused by the sun. But she wants to stay away from needles and lasers at the dermatologist's office and scalpels in the O.R. So she's turned to something that feels like a facial.
General pediatrician and medical acupuncturist Dr. Carl Robinson, has been trying out a machine called the Acutron Mentor. What makes it different from similar ones in the past, is that it's a combination of micro currents and color light therapy called energy light rejuvenation.
"It seems to be working very well. Most of the acupuncturists are using it in parts of the country mostly on the west coast of course, and then on the east coast," said Dr. Robinson.
For anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, patients get a massage with probes delivering gentle electrical currents that are supposed to be harmonious with your body's innate bioelectric activity.
He says studies show this stimulates an increase in collagen, elastin (a protein in connective tissue that allows it to keep its shape after stretching) and circulation and chemicals involved in cellular metabolism. Chromo-therapy, with several shades of light, is also used to heal, delivered through fiber optic cables. Special creams are also used on the face as the doctor uses special sliding, pinching and holding techniques on the skin. There is even one part of the treatment where, with the aid of patches, the current comes through the hands of the doctor. He says he does this for toning facial muscles, pulling back on the areas that Tobin wants changed. Patients at times fall asleep as the doctor puts pressure on the acupuncture meridians that are supposed to provide balance and energy.
"We are also using this micro current and color light over the acupuncture points which makes a big, big difference. The acupuncture points, which have been used for the last 3,000 years, actually give people that sense of well being," Dr. Robinson added.
Since Tobin had previous smoking damage, Dr. Robinson says she'll need double the treatments, as many as 20. Most people need only 10. But after only five treatments, Tobin says there is a noticeable difference.
"People that I work with, you know on a daily basis, they would say, 'You know, what did you do different? Is your hair different? Is your face, are you using new makeup?' You know, just little things like that," said Tobin who lives in Metairie.
Dr. Robinson says he knows the effects are not permanent, but he says neither are the fillers and Botox that doctors inject to fill in lines and wrinkles or to reduce the muscle pull on creases.
"We've seen those effects about six to eight weeks and then they come in and get a tune up and then that lasts another six to eight weeks and they get another tune up. So about, they'll come back in and see me about four times a year, over the years period of time," explained Dr. Robinson.
Independent doctors say there is some science on both the theory of healing through electrical current and LED lights, but they are not yet sold and would like to see stronger proof.
"We now know that cells talk to each other via electrical currents. And there are now creams that simulate electrical currents, such as the ionic creams that are available through Nutrogena and Aveeno. So we know that cells talk to each other electrically to stimulate repair and collagen production. So it is theoretically conceivable that there could be neocollagenesis (new collagen) from electrical current applied a certain way to the skin," said New Orleans Dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo.
"There's no doubt that people who use these (LED) lights on a regular basis seem to have a better rejuvenation of their skin and their skin looks fresher and younger," said Slidell dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth McBurney, of LSU Health Sciences Center and Tulane.
But Dr. McBurney says the studies on LED lights show that only the red light penetrates the skin, not the blue and green, and the red light rejuvenation is minimal.
And doctors would like to see science on how this energy light rejuvenation compares to the gold stand of skin anti-aging.
"I think that you need a lot of these treatments to stimulate meaningful biological changes and they will require maintenance and so my argument is how much better is this than prescription retinoids in producing new collagen," asks Dr. Lupo.
"So for my colleagues, what I will say is that, okay, the science may not be 100 percent there, but it works and the patients love it. It gets them better. They don't have to, it's the holistic, it's the using your own body to do the work," explains Dr. Robinson.
And ultimately that will be the test.
"At the end of the road, it's going to be the proof's in the pudding. If the patients are happy with the results, then they'll keep coming back and if they're not then the technology will fall flat," explained Dr. Patricia Farris, a dermatologist in practice in Metairie and the spokesperson for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
For Tobin, it's what she wanted.
"I've noticed that, I was a smoker and I had smoke lines and lines here (top of mouth) and big lines here (in-between the eye brows) and a huge line across my forehead and I've noticed that they've reduced," said Tobin.
The cost is $1,200 for 10 treatments. Tune-ups are $120. Dr. Robinson also does needle acupuncture for pain, injuries and weight and smoking management. For more click on www.theacudoctor.com or call 504-273-4826.
Dr. Patricia Farris is no relation to Medical Reporter Meg Farris.