Make the Most of Your Looks: Nonsurgical Cosmetic Procedures

Never before have there been so many nonsurgical solutions for your aging face. Our 40+ beauty guide tells all.

By Gale Ritterhoff
Photograph: Photo by: Plamen Petkov

Nonsurgical Beauty Treatments

‘It’s a good time to be over 40," says New York City cosmetic dermatologist Deborah Sarnoff , MD. "I’ll be the judge of that," you might say. But Sarnoff has a point. Thanks to a boom in noninvasive, anti-aging procedures, you can choose from an extensive menu of smoothing, tightening, and firming treatments that don’t involve a scalpel, extensive downtime, or a $20,000 medical bill. Sound appealing? According to figures from the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons, millions of U.S. women think so: Between 2000 and 2007, the number of nonsurgical beauty procedures performed in this country jumped 81 percent. But is an injectable filler or laser treatment the right next step for you? It depends on how much "aging" (for example, fine lines, dark spots, and slack skin) you can you live with — and what you’re willing to endure (nonsurgical procedures are pricey and not entirely pain-free). To help you figure it all out, we’ve compiled a primer of the latest knife-free treatments. The info here covers everything out there, from the least invasive treatments to the most aggressive (short of surgery). So sit back and survey the latest ways to make the most of what you’ve got.

Starting Small: Lasers and Light Treatments

Reducing redness, uneven tone, dark spots, and spider veins

The earliest lasers were ablative, meaning they literally vaporized the top layer of your skin, causing your body to make fresh, new cells, while also triggering a healing process that boosts the production of skin-plumping collagen. The procedure was intense but very effective at evening out mottled skin and minimizing deep wrinkles, says New York aesthetic plastic surgeon Lawrence Reed, MD. However, the prolonged healing time (often six to eight weeks) and lasting redness are "not what modern women want," he says. So today, when it comes to reducing redness and fading dark spots, patients rarely subject themselves to the ablative lasers, opting instead for newer, less aggressive technologies that take longer (for some, a series of up to eight treatments done every four to six weeks is required) but offer comparable results. Important to note: The following lasers and light treatments may not be effective on very dark skin because the devices have difficulty deciphering between normal skin and hyper-pigmented cells. Check with your doctor to find what’s right for you.

To Calm Inflamed Skin

For reducing redness and inflammation (from rosacea, acne, or the aftereffects of a chemical peel), Mary Lupo, MD, director of the Lupo Center for Aesthetic and Cosmetic Dermatology, in New Orleans, says a good entry-level procedure is the light-emitting diode, referred to as LED. This treatment uses several wavelengths of light (a laser generally uses just one wavelength) to activate the cells that produce collagen and elastin, accelerating repair and evening out uneven tone without the weeks of healing required by the lasers of old. The LED works best in a series of six to eight treatments spaced every four to six weeks. Happily, you should experience no pain or downtime; and the cost per session ranges from $100 to $200 (or $600 and up for a series).

To Fade Sun Damage

If you suffer from age spots or discoloration, you may want to try intense pulsed light therapy, commonly referred to as IPL. Similar to LED, IPL relies on strong, broad-spectrum light (the damaging UV rays are filtered out) that destroys dark pigment. (Tissue is left unharmed so the skin suffers minimal irritation and there is virtually no downtime.) In addition, the process boosts collagen production and smoothes skin. Sarnoff notes that this is an excellent way to erase age spots on the hands and chest as well. Cost per treatment is $350 to $900, and you will need about three to six sessions performed every four to six weeks to get the best results.

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