New hope for sufferers of smiling

Photo of a girl smiling broadly.

Smiling can damage youthful skin

Life is full of reasons to smile, but expressing joy can cause lines to form around your eyes and mouth.

Now, thanks to advances in medical technology, you may be able stop smiling altogether and prevent the unsightly damage it causes to your skin.

“Dynamic movements that repeatedly crease skin in the same place, such as smiling, will wear down the underlying tissue in that specific spot, creating a line that remains after muscles relax,” explains Dr Augustus Grimm, a cosmetic neurosurgeon from California’s CosMed Hospital.

In the medical community, the ravages caused by smiling are known as Smile Induced Dermatological Conditions – or SMIDCons.

SMIDCons are a very real problem for millions of people worldwide, and until recently, sufferers have received very little support or recognition.

“The medical profession, and the community at large, have tended to write wrinkles off as an unavoidable part of the ageing process,” says Dr Grimm. “For a long time, the only available treatment was rhytidectomy – or, in layman’s terms, a facelift – which is of course quite invasive and costly.”

As a result, he says, many sufferers of SMIDCons simply put up with the symptoms.

In the last two decades, however, the outlook for SMIDCons sufferers has improved with the proliferation of non-surgical treatments such as injectable fillers and muscle-paralysing agents, as well as topical chemical and laser procedures. Nonetheless, says Dr Grimm, the future lies not with treatment, but with finding a cure.

To this end, he has developed a radical new approach – with promising results. The procedure involves inserting a tiny electrical probe into the patient’s brain and cauterising the areas responsible for their sense of humour.

Photo of a woman looking blank-faced and unimpressed.

A happy patient following localised brain cauterisation

“Typically, patients are in and out of surgery within 20 minutes. They stay in hospital overnight and are discharged the next morning, extremely happy with the results, but with no external symptoms to indicate this,” he says.

Dr Grimm says that while the procedure itself is not groundbreaking, his application of it is.

“This is not new technology. We’ve used it for years to treat people with specific neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s,” he says. “What is new is the growing recognition among medical experts that this treatment could – and should – be made available to a much wider segment of the community who suffer from unwanted smile lines.”

Much as Botox was originally used in the treatment of muscular conditions and went on to have widespread benefits in the cosmetic industry, Dr Grimm sees the potential for neurosurgical cauterisation to become a preventative cosmetic technique that could alleviate the suffering of millions of patients prone to smiling.

As with any surgical procedure, cosmetic neurological cauterisation does carry some risks.

“In a handful of our trial patients we’ve seen incidental effects such as an induced vegetative state, but in the long-term follow up, we’ve found that patients who are rendered catatonic by the surgery display outstanding results in terms of ongoing skin smoothness and elasticity.

“So I chalk that up as a win for them.”

The brain scarification technique is currently only accessible for cosmetic purposes in California. But Dr Grimm predicts it will be available worldwide within 12 to 18 months.

So SMIDCons sufferers across the globe can look forward to sizzling their smiles away in the very near future.

Images from (top) and (bottom).

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