Aging Skin: 4 Ways to Look as Good as You Feel

From Botox to microdermabrasion: Ways to erase wrinkles without surgery.

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 31, 2008

Drop off the dry cleaning, get the oil changed, have your wrinkles erased, pick up the kids up from soccer practice -- wait, whose to-do list is this?

Cosmetic procedures don't all require general anesthesia, a nip, and a tuck. Some minor procedures can ease wrinkles in the doctor's office in less than an hour, and with little or no recovery time. Today, having cosmetic work done can be a lunch-hour errand.

Botulinum Toxin (Botox)

Botulinum toxin A, sold as Botox, is the purified toxin of the bacteria that causes botulism. Creepy, for sure, but it's also extremely effective as an anti-wrinkle treatment.

Tiny, over-clenched facial muscles are responsible for crow's feet, frown lines, and other facial wrinkles. Botulinum toxin is a paralyzing agent, which in tiny doses can relax these uptight muscles for months at a time.

Botox represents the ultimate in cosmetic convenience. Injections of Botox usually take about ten to fifteen minutes in an office setting. The injections cause minimal discomfort for most people, with no recovery time.

The flip side to this almost drive-through efficiency: the results are temporary. Treatments must be repeated every few months.

Chemical Peels

In a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to small areas of skin on the face, neck or hands. The chemicals damage the outer layers of skin in a controlled way. After the procedure, the damaged skin becomes red and peels off. Chemical peels can remove age spots, acne scars, and some wrinkles.

As the smoother skin underneath heals and grows, your skin looks younger.

Chemical peels come in a variety of strengths and types. Glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicyclic acid, lactic acid, or carbonic acids are used, sometimes in combinations. The application can take as little as 15 minutes. There may be mild redness and irritation afterwards, but most people return to normal activities immediately. It's important to wear sunscreen to protect your vulnerable skin after a chemical peel.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

"Regular" laser skin resurfacing uses a high-powered laser to damage outer layers of the skin with heat. Recovery can take weeks.

Newer "nonablative" lasers penetrate beneath the surface skin. This stimulates collagen production, improving skin's tone and texture and minimizing fine lines. There is no damage to the outer skin, so there is no recovery time.

Each 15- to 30-minute procedure may cause some mild redness, which goes away quickly. A total of four to six treatments, spaced out over several weeks, provide the best results.


Microdermabrasion involves a device that "sandblasts" the skin with a spray of abrasive microscopic crystals. Scars from acne or chickenpox, wrinkles, and age spots can be reduced or removed with microdermabrasion.

Several treatments (up to 10 or so) may be needed for good results. Each treatment takes 30 minutes to an hour, repeated over weeks. Microdermabrasion has no side effects and no recovery time for most people.

Full dermabrasion uses a rougher but more effective approach. In dermabrasion, a "skin sander" abrades skin more deeply. Seven to 10 days of recovery time are usually needed for skin to heal after dermabrasion.