Parametric active contour models are one of the preferred approaches for image segmentation because of their computational efficiency and simplicity. However, they have a few drawbacks which limit their performance. In this paper, we identify some of these problems and propose efficient solutions to get around them. The widely-used gradient magnitude-based energy is parameter dependent; its use will negatively affect the parametrization of the curve and, consequently, its stiffness. Hence, we introduce a new edge-based energy that is independent of the parameterization. It is also more robust since it takes into account the gradient direction as well. We express this energy term as a surface integral, thus unifying it naturally with the region-based schemes. The unified framework enables the user to tune the image energy to the application at hand. We show that parametric snakes can guarantee low curvature curves, but only if they are described in the curvilinear abscissa. Since normal curve evolution do not ensure constant arc-length, we propose a new internal energy term that will force this configuration. The curve evolution can sometimes give rise to closed loops in the contour, which will adversely interfere with the optimization algorithm. We propose a curve evolution scheme that prevents this condition.