Skin care – the stuff that will cost you

The rapidity at which your skin will show signs of aging is dependent on two general categories – intrinsic and extrinsic.  Extrinsic is made up of everything we have covered thus far including sun exposure, tobacco use and skin care.  Intrinsic is your biochemistry – basically your DNA.  Look at the parent you most resemble.  This is likely how you will age.  Hopefully, this is good news.  If not, it is always somewhat liberating to be able to blame your parents for your misfortune.  Now, onto the latest advancements in skin care.  If you have the time, the inclination and the money, there is much you can do to try and reverse the signs of aging.  Scientists racing to find a cure for cancer can’t hold a candle to those who are funded by the dermatological organizations.  Before long, we will be able to walk into a Jetson-style time erasing capsule and come out on the other side in diapers.

1.  Microdermabrasion – True to its name, microdermabrasion is a mini-form of dermabrasion.  In dermabrasion, which is used less now that laser is available, the skin is frozen and the top layer sanded off.  It is a surgical procedure designed to reduce the appearance of pigmentations and scars.  Microdermabrasion uses a similar but more mild technique, removing the top layer of skin so that new skin can replace it.  Tiny crystals are used to abrade the skin and recovery takes about 24 hours.  Depending on your skin type, it can be done a few times a year up to every month.  It takes about 20-30 minutes and can cost anywhere from $75 – 200 or more.  Benefits include improved skin texture, even tone, reduce fine lines and decrease acne scarring and hyperpigmentation.  Chemical peels are similar in cost, benefit and risks but use a gentle chemical to remove the superficial layer of skin.

2.  Fraxel is a laser treatment that is performed by a doctor.  It uses very specific laser beams to make small wounds in the dermis, the middle skin layer.  Your body kicks in to heal and replace the damaged skin cells which creates a fresh layer of skin.  It is used to soften wrinkles and fine lines, treat scarring from acne, even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of dark spots and sun damage.  It costs about $750 – 1000 per treatment and most patients need about 4 – 6 treatments spaced 4 weeks apart to maximize results.

3.  Botox – Watch the actors on TV or in the movies.  Notice, they all look great.  Also, notice how their foreheads don’t move when their expression changes – that’s what botox looks like.  It is used in the treatment of several different problems, but for our purposes we will focus on smoothing out the wrinkles.  The FDA approved botulinim toxin A for this purpose in 2002.  It works by blocking the signal from the nerve to the muscle.  The muscle cannot contract which smooths lines and wrinkles.  It is mostly used on the forehead but can be used around the eyes and mouth as well.  It requires no anesthesia, is administered with a thin needle and takes several minutes.  Complete results are seen in several days.  It is advised to avoid alcohol and anti-inflammatories for a week or two before treatment.  It can last from 4-6 months.  Side effects are minimal and cost is about $500 per treatment.

4.  Dermal fillers – Essentially, these are used to plump up the skin resulting in a younger appearance and filling out wrinkles.  Cheesecake seems like a good way to plump up the skin too, the problem being that you can’t isolate the effects to your face.  There are many different types of fillers.  Liposuction can be used to remove the fat from one part of your body so that it can be injected into your face or lips.  (What a country.)  Some products used cadaveric skin cells (ewww) and others use lab-created fillers.  Cost varies from several hundred to a couple thousand – cheaper than surgery but more expensive than a great new bag.

5.  Going under the knife – After all that, the option to be put to sleep and wake up a younger you  is still viable.  Here, the choices are ultimately patient dependent.  If you want to to lift your brow, lids or face, if you want to redo your chin, nose or ears, it is best to speak with a reputable plastic surgeon and to start saving your pennies.  If you just want to lift your spirits, try a night out with friends.  Nothing like a few laughs, a few drinks and a dark bar to help you relive your youth.

Here is my disclaimer.  Be careful what you wish for.  Pursuing the above can start you on a slippery slope.  There is a line, and it is much finer than the one between my eyebrows, that you shouldn’t cross.  Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like the love child of Joan Rivers and Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

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