The new route to a line-free face doesn't involve needles or scalpels. Goodbye Botox, hello ultrasound

The new way to roll back the years involves no needles: just painless ultrasound waves.

Growing numbers of Britons are shunning conventional treatments such as Botox injections and facelifts for a new facial technique known as Environ. The treatment involves having super-high concentrates of vitamins forced deep into the skin by a combination of ultrasound and electronic pulses, resulting in 40 times the penetration of conventional facials.

Fans of the procedure have likened the improvements to a mini-facelift. Sales of the equipment used, costing £5,000, have risen by more than 90 per cent in the UK over the past 12 months, and it is now to be found in hundreds of clinics.

The television presenter Mariella Frostrup is a convert, describing Environ as the best facial she has come across and "a quick fix for glowing skin".

"Its positive effects last for days," she says. "The process includes a wax mask and electric currents being sent across your face, but don't be put off. It's highly relaxing."

In 2005, more than 22,000 cosmetic surgical procedures were carried out in the UK, an increase of over a third on the previous year. However, non-surgical procedures are also on the rise, according to Rajiv Grover, of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons: "The boom in the cosmetic surgery industry is most definitely driving the trend and demand for non-surgical procedures."

Increasingly, people who have used or considered Botox are worried about possible side-effects, including developing fresh wrinkles as they change expressions to compensate for the paralysis in parts of their faces.

Increasing awareness of plastic surgery disasters is also prompting more people to seek cosmetic treatments not involving scalpels or needles.


WHAT IT DOES: Helps to stimulate thickening and improve skin quality, through control of pigment production, restoration of normal blood flow and proper oxygenation of the skin.

HOW IT WORKS: A highly concentrated vitamin cream is spread on the face and an ultrasound probe then moved over the skin surface, so soundwaves help transport the molecules through the skin. A seaweed-based alginate mask is then applied.

WHAT THE DOCTORS SAY: Dr Patrick Bowler, chairman of the British Association of Cosmetic Doctors, said: "The demand for non-surgical cosmetic treatments has dramatically increased over the past five to six years."

COSTS COMPARED TO BOTOX: A course of Botox can set you back by around £300, but the effects last for six to nine months. With ultrasound facials, people go for an initial batch of 10, then regular top-ups at £75 a visit.