Lunchtime Procedures Fight Off Aging Skin
By Minas Constantinides, MD, FACS
Published on August 01, 2006
Have you ever wondered why your friend who always looked tired and worn out suddenly came over one day looking like she had finally gotten some rest? Do you wish there were something you could do that could give you that same rested look?
Different factors-- sun exposure, smoking, and time--play into aging of the skin; treating aging skin depends upon these factors. The daily pull of the underlying muscles on the skin also causes lines. When skin is young, it is smooth and supple. This is because young skin contains dense collagen fibers that give it strength and pliable elastin fibers that give it resilience.
As our skin ages, collagen and elastin fibers become weaker and the skin begins to lose its ability to hold water. As a result, the skin dries and loosens creating lines and wrinkles. What's more, the effects of a lifetime of sun exposure begin to take their toll, causing irregular spots and darker areas.
Treatment targets seven main areas:
Stop smoking. Drink plenty of fluids. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 every day. These simple steps will keep your skin looking younger, even as you age.
II. Smoothing the Skin's Surface
A popular way to smoothen the skin is to use a mild fruit acid cream. The acid loosens and peels off upper layers of dead skin. This causes mild swelling, which hides fine surface lines. Vitamin C and copper creams work similarly. None of these produce long-term changes. As soon as they are stopped, the skin returns to its pre-treatment condition.
Microdermabrasion is another option. This medical procedure gently sands away irregular skin. A series of four to eight sessions is required for best results. Microdermabrasion may also improve the effectiveness of the skin's collagen and elastin. However, we do not know how long these improvements last.
III. Improving Strength and Elasticity
Retin-A or Renova is the only FDA-approved cream for aging skin. When used properly, it can smoothen the outer layer of skin and improve collagen, elastin, and blood flow. Skin becomes tighter, less splotchy, and rosier.
A combination of light chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments also produces stronger skin rapidly while not requiring a significant healing period. Unfortunately, more effective, longer lasting changes to the skin can only be achieved with more invasive procedures that require longer healing periods.
Moisturizers used to be the only means of restoring moisture to the skin. A recent product, Kinerase™, has changed that. Kinerase is a cream derived from a plant growth hormone that locks moisture into the skin. It is complimentary to other regimens.
V. Improving Irregular Color
Variable pigmentation is a problem with sun-damaged skin. In more severe cases, it can be improved with bleaching agents like hydroquinone. These gently and gradually improve dark spots when applied daily. A sunscreen will prevent further problems.
VI. Reducing Lines from Muscle Action
Certain lines are caused by the pull of muscles over time. These are the frown lines in the forehead and crow's feet around the eyes. The most effective treatment for this type of lines and wrinkles is Botox injections. When injected into the appropriate muscles, it weakens them. The result: a smoother appearance to the skin. To determine whether you are a good candidate for Botox, gently stretch the skin around the lines you do not like. If the lines disappear, then Botox will erase the line. Botox can last from four to six months.
VII. Tightening the Skin's Support
Unfortunately, after a certain age, the only way to tighten sagging skin is with surgery. This is what facelifts, neck lifts, forehead lifts, and eyelid lifts do. In younger patients, liposuction or injecting collagen or fat into deepened folds around the mouth can provide excellent cosmetic improvement.
Modern medicine has come a long way in improving skin quality. A consultation with your plastic surgeon, dermatologist, or facial plastic surgeon can help you decide whether it is time to step away from the beauty counter towards a more effective program designed for your own skin type and problem.
Dr. Minas Constantinides is Director of Facial Plastic Surgery for the Department of Otolaryngology at New York University School of Medicine. Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, he attended Brown University as an undergraduate and completed his M.D. at Columbia University. He has lectured nationally and internationally on a variety of topics in facial plastic surgery and is widely published. In addition to his academic responsibilities at NYU, he runs a private practice limited to Facial Plastic Surgery at NYU Medical Center in New York City.