They say that age brings wisdom, and nobody's arguing with that. But when it comes to the less attractive signs of growing older, most of us would like the chance to negotiate. Happily, science is making this possible. Skin-care companies have lined up an assortment of age-assaulting ingredients that can restore skin's youthful texture, reduce existing lines and even help prevent the onslaught of new ones. Likewise, dermatologists offer an array of in-office procedures that give even more dramatic results— and often can be combined with one or two other treatments in a single appointment. "These treatments are gentle, but they're more effective than ever before," says Arielle Kauvar, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. Here, the top ways to counteract the signs of aging...
YOU'VE GOT Fine lines and/or uneven pigmentation
- Peptides These amino-acid compounds seem to help promote the growth of collagen- and elastin-stimulating fibroblasts — the skin's support structures that keep it smooth and youthful-looking. "Peptides are known for their role in wound healing, but they're being recognized for their ability to improve the appearance of photodamaged skin," explains Alexa Kimball, M.D., assistant professor and director of clinical dermatology trials at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. Most of these peptide products are also rich in antioxidants and topical nutrients like vitamins C and E, green tea and pomegranate.
At-home best bets Olay Regenerist serum and lotions ($19 each; at drugstores), Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Plump Perfect Moisture Cream SPF 30 ($55; at department stores), Chanel Precision Age Delay Rejuvenation Serum ($60; gloss.com), Juva Peptide Eye Lift Cream ($65; juvaskin.com) and Secrets de Sothys Intense Lip Care ($56; sothys-usa.com)
- Wrinkle-relaxing lotions With all the excitement surrounding injectables as wrinkle smoothers, there was bound to be the creation of topical creams— for the needlephobes among us— claiming to achieve similar results.
At-home best bets Enter ingredients like manganese gluconate, a mineral that helps relax fibroblasts at the cellular level and a component of Lancôme's newest skin cream, Resolution D-Contraxol ($68; lancome.com). Extensive manufacturer-sponsored testing shows that D-Contraxol helps smooth out fine lines caused by smiling, frowning and other facial movements. Another product that works in a similar way: DDF Wrinkle Relax ($75; ddfskincare.com).
- Retinol and retinoids Retinoid or vitamin-A-based creams remain top smoothers in the anti-aging arsenal— and now advanced formulations help prevent the red, flaky face that was the most common side effect. The newest name: Tazarotene (Avage), which also helps reduce mottled pigmentation.
The downside These products can increase sun sensitivity, so make sure to wear a sunscreen daily when using them.
At-home best bets Try diluted over-the-counter retinol and retinoids, which are more gentle, although they do take longer to produce results. Find them in Peter Thomas Roth Max Retinol Wrinkle Repair ($85; peterthomasroth.com), L'Oreal Plentitude Line Eraser SPF 15 ($15.79; at drugstores), Roc Retinol Actif Pur ($17; at drugstores) and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cream, which also contains pore-clearing salicylic acid ($13; at drugstores).
- Microdermabrasion You used to have to go into a doctor's office to get the full effects of this treatment, where dead skin cells are removed with tiny silicon or aluminum-oxide crystals blown against the skin using a hand-held device and then sucked up with a small vacuum. But there's a new generation of at-home alternatives that allows you to get similar results (smoother, more even-toned skin) within about four weeks.
At-home best bets Prescriptives three-part Dermapolish System (prescriptives.com) helps improve skin's clarity (the system costs $125 and contains eight uses, as compared to the $1,200 price tag of six in-office treatments).
- Lasers and nonlaser lights New lasers with brand names like Smoothbeam and CoolGlide Vantage stimulate collagen production, explains Kauvar, who has studied the benefits of lasers for years. Toning with intense pulsed visible light (IPL or photorejuvenation) and radio-frequency waves (ThermaCool) also can eradicate irregular pigmentation and broken capillaries as well as help tighten the skin.
The cost $500Â–$600 each for laser/nonlaser-light treatments; you'll need about five treatments, administered once a month. Radio-frequency waves cost up to $3,000; typically just one 25-minute treatment is required.
YOU'VE GOT Deeper wrinkles
- For furrowed brows and crow's-feet: Botox/Myobloc/Dysport Last spring's approval of Botox for cosmetic use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pushed demands for this muscle-paralyzing substance (purified botulinum toxin) to the top of doctors' request lists around the country. Two new versions, Myobloc and Dysport, are currently under review by the FDA. All work by temporarily paralyzing the muscles that create certain expression lines, thus smoothing wrinkles.
The downsides If injected improperly, botulinum can cause paralysis of the wrong muscles, leading to drooping eyelids or other problems— why it's important to seek out a qualified doctor to have it done (consult www.aad.org or surgery.org for board-certified doctors in your area).
The cost Treatments typically cost $400 per facial region treated.
- For filling in deep lines: Collagen, fat and hyaluronic acid. Bovine collagen (Zyderm and Zyplast) has been around for years and is still an effective filler, but typically requires two allergy tests, two weeks apart, before injection. Now there's the FDA-approved CosmoDerm and CosmoPlast— which contain human collagen so they can be injected immediately, without an allergy test. All forms of collagen last only up to six months since they are eventually absorbed by the body. Artecoll (Artefill) is also up and coming; it's a permanent soft-tissue filler that is composed of part bovine collagen and part polymer beads, which help stimulate the body to produce its own collagen. It's expected to get FDA approval by summer's end.
The downside Artecoll is not easily reversible— and there is the possibility of lumps forming underneath the skin after injection.
The cost $500—$600 per session
Your own fat "Fat is effective for filling in lines and making the skin look smoother," Kauvar explains. Using your body's own fat as a filler avoids allergy concerns, but you have to have the fat withdrawn from your abdominal area, thighs or butt through a mini-liposuction procedure. It's then injected into the skin, a procedure that takes about an hour. Self-donated fat can be stored for up to a year, so you can go back for refills sans the full procedure.
You may look a little puffy afterward and may experience bruising near the injection site. A new fat-transfer method, called FAMI (Fat Autograft Muscle Injection), involves injecting fat deeper into the skin— below the fat layer and into muscle. The benefits include longer-lasting results (several years as compared to the six to 24 months that your own fat lasts).
The cost $1,000Â–$2,500 for fat transfer; FAMI treatments can cost about $2,500 each.
Hyaluronic acid This component of connective tissue has been found to be an effective filler for deeper lines (like ones that can form around the mouth) not suitable for botulinum toxin; it also works well to plump up the lips. It goes by the names Restylane or Perlane (synthetic versions that require no allergy test before being administered) and Hylaform (hyaluronic acid extracted from rooster combs). Restylane and Perlane have been used successfully in Europe for years and have been shown to produce longer-lasting results (up to a year, as compared with the six months that collagen lasts).
The downside Unfortunately, FDA approval on the first hyaluronic-acid fillers isn't expected until the end of the year.
The cost $500Â–$1,200 per visit (includes as many injections as you need)