Blogs and tabloids were recently abuzz with unconfirmed rumors that songbird and actress Jessica Simpson had gotten injections of Botox to paralyze developing wrinkles and lip fillers to plump up her smile.
And while Simpson, who was just 25, may seem rather young for wrinkles, plastic surgeons tell WebMD that for better or worse, many 20- and 30-year-olds are opting for such preventive plastic surgery to actually try and stop aging before it starts as opposed to stopping it in its tracks once it has begun.
"By and large, this is a trend that we will see more of," predicts Julius W. Few, MD, an assistant professor of plastic surgery at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Anatomy of a Wrinkle
"As one gets older and loses some of the elasticity of the skin, creases and wrinkles become more permanent," he explains. That said, "it's not unreasonable to believe that doing some preventive things now such as using sunscreen or getting Botox injections may stave off the process," adding that this has not been proven scientifically.
"It is a reasonable kind of impression that if someone were to have maintenance Botox injections fairly regularly then theoretically they may be able to slow the development of wrinkles," he says.
According to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), Botox injections were the top nonsurgical procedure among 35- to 50-year-olds in 2005. Botox injections work by blocking signals from the nerves to the muscles. As a result, the injected muscle can no longer contract, which causes the wrinkles to relax and soften.
And for people in their late 20s or early 30s who have just the beginning of creases or depressions in their frown line, Botox is a great option because it can eliminate these problems and may also be able to slow the development of a deeper crease, Few says.
But that's not all Generation Y-ers are doing to turn back time. "We are also seeing an increase in skin resurfacing," Few says. "Women who, perhaps in their early 30s or late 20s, have developed early sun damage or have some residual acne scars are opting for microdermabrasion or nonablative laser resurfacing of the skin, and this also has a role in helping to slow the aging process and behave like a preventive tool." During microdermabrasion, the doctor sandblasts tiny crystals across the face to remove dead skin.
But buyer beware, there is no surefire way to prevent aging. "It's not appropriate to prevent all signs of aging. If someone says, 'I don't want any muscle in my face to move because I don't want to age,' that would be inappropriate and unnatural," Few says.
"I think we are seeing a lot more patients coming in earlier on," agrees Renato Saltz, MD, a plastic surgeon at the Saltz Plastic Surgery in Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. "This group of patients in their 20s and 30s that do take advantage of noninvasive plastic surgery will see a much different type of aging than older generations," he says, adding that sunscreen use alone, which is utilized by younger people today more than ever, will make a huge difference in the visible signs of aging. Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sunlight accounts for many signs of premature skin aging, including wrinkles.