The secret to looking sensational rather than spread-too-thin is to focus on your eyes. Sure, a surgical lift would definitely take off years. But that's not for everyone, and it doesn't need to be. Now you can give your eyes a noticeable boost without enduring all that angst-and paying all that money.
While none of the "no-knife" options can produce the full effects of surgery, procedures like injections (Botox and its cousins) and laser resurfacing are becoming almost commonplace. (The number of Botox injections given annually jumped 388 percent from 2000 to 2005, reports the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.)
If needles make you squeamish, there are easier ways to turn back the clock. Some women are content to let themselves age gracefully, while others (last year, 8.4 million people) have chosen one of the new alternatives to the knife. Read on to learn about your options-then decide what you feel comfortable with.
How Your Eyes Age...And How to Deal
Your face is surprisingly tough-except for the thinner skin around your eyes, which is very fragile. So that's where the effects of sun, time, and stress show up first. Here, the most common flaws and how to counteract them:
Problem: Wrinkles and furrows
Solution: From tiny crow's-feet to deep lines, all can be virtually erased by muscle-relaxing injections (like Botox) and resurfacing (think lasers and chemical peels).
Problem: Drooping or hooded eyelids
Solution: The skin on your lids thins and sags over time, eventually resulting in heavy or droopy lids that can make you look tired and older. The doctor's strategy: to inject Botox into your squinting muscles-the ones in your crow's-feet area. Relaxing these muscles will lift heavy eyelids and help open up your eyes so they look more youthful and awake.
Problem: Hollows under the eye; these represent fat loss (in a place you really don't want to lose it)
Solution: filler injections (like Restylane), which can plump up the recesses and brighten the area.
Problem: Dark undereye circles, often caused by thin skin, genes, a cluster of veins, or a buildup of blood
Solution: filler injections, which thicken the skin so the bluish color is less obvious and you look less tired.
Problem: Puffy undereyes due to fat pockets
Solution: The fat can be repositioned or removed-but those procedures are still the job of a surgeon.
Picking a Procedure - And a Price
Want big results, no matter how much it costs or hurts? Or is visible but modest improvement good enough? Check out your choices, and all the costs-physical as well as financial.
For a Dramatic Change
Muscle Relaxer (Botox)
What it is: Purified substance from bacteria that helps relax muscles so sagging lids, brow furrows, and crepey skin look more taut.
Cost: $300 to $600 for the eye area
Lasts for: Three to 6 months (the longer you use it, the better your results)
Pain factor: Mild soreness afterward. Also possible: headache, slight bruising, or just a weird awareness that something is in your forehead.
Hyaluronic Acid Gel Filler (like Restylane or Juvéderm)
What it is: The synthetic version of a naturally occurring protein-sugar compound found in skin. It binds to water and plumps facial folds or fills in undereye hollows.
Cost: $500 to $1,000 per injection
Lasts for: Up to 9 months
Pain factor: Minimal discomfort-even with a topical anesthetic or nerve block. Also possible: swelling
and/or bruising (which makeup can disguise).
Targeted Energy Treatment (like Fraxel or Portrait)
What it is: Procedure that uses infrared light, radio frequency waves, or other forms of energy to go deep into skin to boost collagen and diminish lines and wrinkles.
Cost: $1,500 to $3,000, depending on how many facial areas you target
Lasts for: A series works best; if you have 3 to 6 sessions, results will last a year or more.
Pain factor: Slight burning or prickling sensation during, with possible redness and/or peeling for several days after.
What it is: Micronized crystals remove dirt, dead cells, and discoloration from skin surface so eye crinkles and forehead lines look smoother.
Cost: $100 to $300 per treatment; best done in 6 to 12 sessions over 6 months
Lasts for: One treatment lasts about a week; repeat for lasting benefits.
Pain factor: No pain; possible redness after.
A Topical Retinoid
What it is: Vitamin A derivative. In prescription and over-the-counter creams, it speeds up cell turnover to diminish wrinkles and discoloration. Try RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream (shown) or Renova (prescription only).
Cost: $20 for OTC and $50 to $100 for Rx
Lasts for: Indefinitely, as long as you use the cream regularly. Initial results take about 6 weeks.
Pain factor: Some redness, flaking, skin sensitivity; will burn eyes, so apply carefully.
What it is: An active chemical (like glycolic acid) removes superficial layer of skin and promotes collagen production. One to try: Olay Regenerist Thermal Contour and Lift System (shown).
Cost: $15 to $250
Lasts for: If you use it monthly, you will get a glow and maintain a more even texture.
Pain factor: Nothing severe: a little tingle during; possible redness after.
Active Eye Cream
What it is: Moisturizer with antiaging ingredients like vitamin C or B5, peptides, or other antioxidants. Hydration helps smooth wrinkles. Try Elizabeth Arden Prevage Eye (shown).
Cost: $10 to $150
Lasts for: Anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours; with continued use, eye area will look better overall.
Pain factor: None
Frownies Facial Pads
What it is: An old movie-star secret. Sections of facial skin are taped with a sticky patch for several hours (or overnight), "retraining" the forehead and eye area to be less deeply creased or wrinkled.
Lasts for: One to 3 hours after Frownies are removed
Pain factor: None