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How Much Is Too Much?

Over-bleaching, over-tweezing, over-Botoxing.... The craze in upkeep has women so hooked, doctors and industry pros are now turning them away.


While it is tempting to think Americans invented plastic surgery gluttony — after all, when we find something we like, whether a hamburger or a handbag, we supersize it — this isn't entirely true. Gilman points out that South Korea has the greatest number of aesthetic surgeons per capita in the world, and Brazil has the greatest number of procedures per capita. It's a burgeoning worldwide obsession he attributes to the rise of a global "health culture" in the past 10 years — fueled by our desire to look younger and more attractive, and thus be more accepted.

Luckily, most trends in this country eventually produce their own backlash (see, an addictive phenomenon in its own right). And these days, most women don't see Janice Dickinson, with her waxlike complexion, as a beauty ideal they wish to emulate. With In Touch accusing Ashlee Simpson of "Botox at 23!" could it be we will become savvier, more skeptical consumers of antiaging treatments thanks to the same tabloid weeklies that sold us on them in the first place?

"Every time Michael Jackson comes on TV, my phone stops ringing," says Dayan. "When celebrities go a little overboard, that actually hurts us. People don't want to look like that."

However, walk into the tony Manhattan department store Henri Bendel on any Saturday and you'll still be surrounded by trout pouts and shiny, lasered skin. But you'll also be reminded of another, increasingly important part of the antiaging landscape: dermo-skin care, which has stolen at least some of the attention from more drastic interventions. "The majority of people I see want to know about skin care first," insists Lancer. "Five years ago, people came in saying, 'I need this laser or this chemical peel.' This is a positive step backward."

And in the meantime, as we watch overworked Hollywood faces broadcast their cartoonish perfection like JumboTrons, it becomes increasingly clear that the ever-evolving buffet of available antiaging procedures will only complement the things we've known all along: that you also need sunblock, water, and a sensible diet if you're going to look like Demi Moore well into your 40s. And that the most elusive nonsurgical factor — happiness — is the real silver bullet.


Marie Claire Photo of Woman with White Teeth

These days, cosmetic dentistry is all about The Great White Way. "We've had to create new porcelain colors to keep up with the bleaching trend," says New York dentist Dr. Gerald P. Curatola. Newfangled strips and trays are flooding shelves to meet the demand for what he calls "toilet bowl white."

But the victim of a blinding-white smile could be your health. During the stain-removal process, peroxide releases carcinogenic free radicals, destroys healthy bacteria, and makes enamel more porous, says Curatola.

To stay safe, he suggests limiting bleaching to once every three months, thoroughly rinsing the mouth with water immediately after lightening, and using an enamel-strengthening toothpaste (like Sensodyne ProNamel) instead of whitening toothpaste. "You want Soft Scrub for the mouth, not Ajax," he says.

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