A trip to the cosmetics counter says it all: Skin care is an ever-changing business. Last year's big news is this year's snooze as fresh products hit the shelves, promising to tone, tighten, and smooth better than anything that's come before. Here, the pros address your biggest aging concerns, tell us what's hot and what's not, and offer a glimpse of what the future might bring.
Old Think: We learned early on that squinting, frowning, even smiling can lead to expression lines. The first fix, Wrinkle Eradicators, arrived in 1889: What was merely tape to train muscles to stay relaxed quickly became a Hollywood secret and was later renamed Frownies. The self-adhesive pads are still sold today ($20 for 144 pads).
New Think: At home: Topical muscle-relaxing creams help reduce muscular contractions, leading to a subtle smoothing, says New York- and Miami-based cosmetic dermatologist Fredric Brandt. Look for GABA, found in 24.7 Skincare Smoothing Anti-Aging Moisturizer, $30; Argireline, in Therapy Systems Line Tox for Lips, $68; and Ameliox, in KaplanMD Perfecting Serum, $295.
At the Doctor's Office: So far, nothing beats Botox. Botulinum toxin is injected into the muscle to prevent it from contracting so wrinkles can't be etched into the skin. The smooth results last up to four months.
Future Think: A new way to relax! Dysport, approved by the FDA in May 2009, works similarly to Botox but is said to kick in a little faster (Botox takes a week to work its magic) and lasts a little longer. Bonus: "A little Botox competition might lead to a decrease in price," says dermatologist David E. Bank, M.D., director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, NY.
Old Think: For decades, going under the knife was just about your only option for sagging skin. "We tried heavy peels for a while," says Brandt. They would slightly tighten the skin but required two weeks downtime and caused hyperpigmentation, an uneven darkening of the skin.
New Think: At home: You know excess sugar is bad for your waistline, but we're now learning that it's bad for your skin too. Glycation — when glucose (sugar) attaches itself to collagen and other molecules, causing them to break down — contributes to sagging. Topical products that target glycation, such as Patricia Wexler M.D. Intensive 3-in-1 Day Cream SPF 30, $42.50, can help prevent sagging skin. Also, peptides that increase collagen production can help maintain firmness. Try Esteé Lauder Perfectionist [CP+] Wrinkle Lifting Serum, $80.
At the Doctor's Office: "If you look at young faces, they're not tight and pulled; they're round and full," says Bank. So dermatologists are plumping up skin by injecting fillers like Radiesse, made of calcium-based microspheres, into cheeks and between the nose and mouth. Also making waves: radio-frequency technology such as Thermage, which stimulates collagen production head to toe, creating a tightening effect on skin's surface. Good news: Thermage is a onetime treatment with zero downtime. You won't see results until four to six months later, but those results can last two or three years.
Future Think: Uplifting news: Dermatologists say we'll see fillers with thicker consistencies, better for creating volume. Coming soon to the United States: Restylane SubQ and Voluma, two thicker fillers currently used in Europe.