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Turning Back Time

New Face, New Outlook

A Smorgasbord of Options continued...

Besides facelifts, there are other possibilities. Laser resurfacing, for instance, vaporizes the superficial layers of damaged skin and helps firm the deeper layers with high-energy light, allowing new, smoother skin to emerge. In the last five years, lasers have largely replaced deep chemical peels that use harsh chemicals to rejuvenate facial skin. Wrinkles around the eyes and mouth and on the cheeks respond well to laser resurfacing.

Laser resurfacing does not work well, however, on much deeper frown lines, forehead creases, and crow's feet. But these wrinkles do tend to fade after injections of Botox (a brand name for botulinum toxin, the substance that causes a deadly form of food poisoning). When injected in tiny amounts, this substance "cuts down the nerve activity that causes these wrinkles," says plastic surgeon Fritz Barton, MD, a clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

The tiny amount of Botox injected shouldn't harm the rest of the body but banishes wrinkles for three to six months. "People get Botox twice a year for one, two, or three years until they're ready for a facelift," says Barton.

Eyelifts, or blepharoplasties, involve removal of fatty bags and droopy skin on the eyelids and can cut years off a person's appearance. Of all blepharoplasties performed in 1999, 63% were in people older than 51, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Truths About Recovery

As promising as some of the new cosmetic surgeries are, however, it takes time to recover from them.

For the first few days after a facelift, "you look like you've been in a car crash," says Kron. She warns people to cancel all social contacts for at least two weeks. People also should plan on going into social hibernation for two weeks after laser resurfacing, since the treated skin swells, turns bright red like a sunburn, and oozes and crusts like a blister.

"It used to take a month to heal. Now it takes a couple of weeks," says Kenneth Arndt, MD, a professor of dermatology at Harvard School of Medicine. Improvements in lasers and techniques, as well as better wound dressings, reduce pain and healing time, Arndt tells WebMD.

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