9 Cosmetic Treatments for Aging Skin

1. Retinoid creams

A host of over-the-counter products claim to help fight wrinkles. One option: topical retinoid (derived from vitamin A) creams; look for retinol in the ingredient list. You can buy an OTC retinoid for under $20. Dermatologists can prescribe stronger retinoid creams—like Retin-A—than what you’ll find on store shelves.

2. Over-the-counter peptide creams

Creams containing peptides—short snippets of linked amino acids—can be useful for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, but they haven’t been shown to work as well as retinoids. As skin ages, it loses collagen and becomes wrinkled and thin; creams containing peptides are supposed to encourage the skin to make new collagen. Peptides are found in a variety of products, from the inexpensive to the very expensive. Oil of Olay Regenerist (which costs less than $20) is as good as the pricey stuff.

3. Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion uses tiny, fine particles or a very hard diamond-tipped wand to slough off cells from the top layer of the skin and encourage new skin growth. The procedure is usually not painful, though it can be uncomfortable, and it doesn’t require an anesthetic or recovery period; skin heals quickly. But you may require multiple procedures spaced a few weeks apart. The average cost of microdermabrasion was $164 in 2008, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. The effects can last between three and five days; then you’ll need another treatment. Because the benefits persist only briefly, some people may not find it worthwhile, she says.

4. Laser skin resurfacing

Laser resurfacing uses high-intensity light to zap and improve the look of wrinkles and scars by tightening loose skin. The effect of your treatment and recovery time vary. You may see redness from one day to two weeks, depending on how aggressive the treatment is, he says. The average cost of laser resurfacing was $2,669 in 2008, according to the AACS. The benefits of laser resurfacing usually last between two and five years.

5. Chemical peels

Used to address mild acne scars, age spots, dull skin texture, skin discoloration, or wrinkles around the eyes or mouth, chemical peels remove the outer layers of the skin and encourage the growth of new, smoother, more evenly colored skin. Depending on the peel’s intensity—which can range from superficial to medium to deep—it may cause reddening and peeling that can last up to several weeks. The average cost for chemical peels was $672 in 2008, according to the AACS. The benefits of superficial peels last about a month, while deep peels have results that can last several years.

6. Botox or Dysport

Injections of the now familiar Botox or of Dysport—which also contains botulism toxin and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April—can paralyze tiny facial muscles, smoothing out the appearance of lines or wrinkles. The cost of Botox will vary depending on location and doctor, but it averages about $400. The effects of injections may last three to six months, depending on whether you’re a repeat customer.

7. Filler injections

Injections of fillers containing hyaluronic acid can fill in lines and wrinkles and add volume to skin. Hyaluronic acid is a “naturally occurring sugar that gets lost when you age,” and injecting it into wrinkles effectively plumps them up. The average cost of hyaluronic acid treatment was $589 in 2008, according to the AACS, and the effects generally last between six months and a year.

8. Cosmetic surgery

Lifting the skin on the face, neck, eyelids, and forehead can give a tighter appearance. What were once traditionally open procedures—with larger incisions—can now often be done endoscopically, with smaller incisions strategically placed in difficult-to-detect areas, such as under the hairline. The procedures can run a few thousand dollars; face-lifts were the most expensive cosmetic procedure in 2008, with an average cost of $7,007, according to the AACS. The effects of cosmetic surgery are somewhat permanent.

9. Try prevention

If all this sounds extreme (and expensive), remember that you can start immediately to prevent any further damage: Start wearing sunscreen every day. And none of these treatments or procedures are a substitute for healthful eating and regular physical activity. Some doctors will not perform surgery on patients who are so overweight that it might jeopardize post-surgical results. When patients who have a body mass index above 30 (that is, obese), for example, many doctors refer patients to a weight-loss clinic before they’ll operate.

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