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Turning Back the Clock

WebMD Health News

Dec. 20, 2000 -- Wouldn't it be great if we could just erase crow's feet, laugh lines, and other wrinkles, just as easily as we can delete a phrase on our computer?

Well, according to leading dermatologists and plastic surgeons, we can ... sort of.

Women and men, including those in their 20s, are getting their wrinkles "filled" with a whole host of new filler substances from one's own fat to donor tissue and/or man-made or synthetic plastics. Newer "hybrid" fillers, which combine natural and synthetic products, will offer even more possibilities once approved for use in the U.S.

"Wrinkles are a focus for everyone, and when you hit 25, you get your first few lines and you panic," says Nicholas Perricone, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale University Medical School in New Haven and the author of The Wrinkle Cure.

The innovations in wrinkle removal are fueled in part by the baby boomer generation. Just like they revolutionized the diaper industry when they were born, baby boomers born from 1946 to 1964 are now getting wrinkles and they are taking some extraordinary measures to look better, Perricone says.

For instance, soft-tissue wrinkle fillers that are injected into crow's feet, fine lines, and wrinkles on the face are helping them look as young as they feel and act.

One of the oldest wrinkle fillers is bovine collagen, also known as cow skin tissue, Perricone tells WebMD. But the downsides of this filler are that a person could be allergic to it and its effects only last three to six months and then they are gone.

Then there's human collagen, which offers an alternative to bovine collagen for people who are allergic to animal products, but its effects also are short lasting.

"Your own tissue is often the best choice, so we sometimes harvest fat from another part of your body and inject it and that way you can't be allergic," says Darrick Antell, MD, a New York City-based plastic surgeon.

Fat is harvested or taken from the body via mini-liposuction using tiny instruments and only a local anesthetic, he says.

"Some of the fat always gets absorbed by the body, so we always over do it," Antell says. "A disadvantage [of fat] is that it is a fairly thick material, so it is hard to use for fine lines. It's better for larger areas," Antell says.

While not technically a filler, Botox injections are still Antell's first choice for the treatment of wrinkles.

Botox or botulinum toxin is a purified form of the same botulism toxin that can cause serious food poisoning. Small doses of the toxin are injected into wrinkles, paralyzing them.

"We use it between brows or on the forehead, and we can also use it to soften crow's feet on the sides of the eyes," says Antell, who's also a spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons based in Arlington Heights, Ill.

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