EVEN IT OUT
Wrinkles aren't the only indicator of age. A recent study conducted by the University of Goettingen and the University of Vienna suggests that discoloration may be just as incriminating, because an even skin tone is equated with youth, health, and fertility.
3 months: Eat right. Dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad says that to protect skin from spots, work from the inside out: "Up your internal SPF by eating raw fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, like pomegranates, goji berries, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, and green tea." The more consistent you are, the better your skin will look. The goal: a lifetime habit of good eating, and great skin.
1 month: Mix in vitamin C. Ingredients like hydroquinone and kojic acid have been Rx mainstays for years, but the newest and more gentle way to an even skin tone is vitamin C — now delivered in high-tech "activated" but stable serums. Shiseido and Kiehl's have just debuted formulas that utilize the ingredient, alongside extracts like peony and angelica root, which together break up spot-causing melanin.
2 weeks: Resurface lightly. As an alternative to lasers and traditional ablative treatments that can take a month to heal, some derms are turning to plasma skin resurfacing, Portrait PSR3 (starting at around $2,500 for a full face treatment), a newly FDA-approved technology that uses high-energy ionized nitrogen to remove brown spots and kick-start a clear complexion overall. Expect redness and tenderness for about 14 days.
5 minutes: Try blemish balms. Also known as BB creams, a phenomenon in Asia, they're hitting the U.S. market full force. The idea? They instantly cover and treat skin imperfections, such as acne, dark spots, and scars. Dr. Fredric Brandt's new one-shade-fits-all formula adjusts to your skin tone after you apply it; Garnier's version comes in two shades and boasts mineral pigments.
SMOOTH WRINKLES AND FINE LINES
Antiwrinkle fighters range from the tried-and-true to the seemingly sci-fi. Here's one for every comfort zone.
3 months: Soften deep wrinkles. L.A. cosmetic surgeon Dr. Ronald Moy recommends doing three fractional erbium laser treatments (varies; about $600 per treatment) to shock collagen production into overdrive — timed at least one month apart. (Downtime is about a week, and best results appear as skin heals over the course of each month.)
1 month: Reverse skin's DNA. "A new UCLA study proves you can reverse cellular DNA damage, and therefore fine lines, with topical repair creams," says Moy, referring to new products from lines like DNA EGF Renewal, and Celfix Cosmeceuticals. Patients typically see results in about 30 days.
1 week: Be aggressive. Botox, Dysport, Xeomin injections (about $500 each), and gentle lasers have minimal recupe time. Skin guru Kate Somerville preps clients for events with her Pearl laser treatment, $1,500. "It quickly reduces wrinkles and fine lines but also targets large pores and uneven texture," she says.
FIRM UP SAGGING SKIN
Whether you want to add a little tone, strategically fill, or even go under, a subtle lift and tightening is the goal for a natural-looking sculpted face.
6 months: Use CO2. Plastic surgeon Dr. Leslie Stevens says CO2 lasers like Lutronic and Fraxel Dual (about $2,000 each) can "contract collagen fibers in the dermis, tightening and smoothing the skin's surface," adding that results take between four and six months.
1 month: Decide if you're scalpel-shy. "Most women in their 30s and early 40s aren't candidates for a face-lift, but neck or upper-eyelid surgery is an option," says Stevens. "One month is plenty of time to fully recover from most small surgical procedures." For those daunted by knives: Cosmetic companies are banking on new ingredients like gravity-fighting mitostime (Clinique) and "Stretching Micro-fil" technology (Armani) to mimic fillers.
1 day: Use heat. Thermage, a noninvasive procedure used to tighten skin, yields immediate results with minimal discomfort (patients report a warming sensation) and the added benefit of continued improvement for up to six months. Between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the area treated.
5 minutes: DIY tone. The new Kate SomervilleDermalQuench treatment lends a plumping infusion of oxygen and hyaluronic acid — a five-minute home version of her signature facial.
FINE-TUNE YOUR FACE
Whatever area you want to target, get the best results from topical treatments and other procedures by boosting your efforts with simple lifestyle changes. Even little things like chewing gum or using straws or, of course, smoking can contribute to lip wrinkles, says Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu: "All that puckering creases the skin and accentuates fine lines — so cut it out!"
3 to 6 months: Fight crow's-feet, lip lines, and acne scars. Start using a prescription retinoid to fight those outer-eye wrinkles, stat. Wu also swears by the Affirm machine, a noninvasive, fractionated laser that zeros in on lines around the eyes and lips via three treatments spaced a month apart, from $900 each. And Stevens recommends cutting-edge LaViV (about $3,000), injections a derm harvests from your own fibroblasts — cells that provide the structural framework for collagen — which may help erase acne scars and those annoying marionette lines between your nose and mouth.
1 month: Lift your face, neck, and frown lines. "I use Botox for vertical neck 'bands' and downturned corners of the mouth that make you look like you're frowning," says Wu. Her latest trick is a new technique out of Asia. "By injecting the filler Juvederm [about $560] deep into the cheekbone, temple, or jawline, a person's own muscles and fat are subtly lifted back into the position they were years ago. It's a more natural look compared with pumping filler just into the cheeks, which is quicker and easier but can give you a blowfish look."
1 week: Get a flawless face and décolletage. Ask your dermatologist for an LHA (lipo-hydroxy acid) peel, $300, for face and chest. "It's great for mild breakouts and minimizes large pores," says Wu. For those living in cooler, drier climates, "use a humidifier. It will help prevent dry skin."
1 day: Reduce under-eye bags and chapped lips. Wu has specific instructions for her celeb clients when they want to look amazing for an event: Be sure to avoid salt after lunch the day before. And she instructs them to sleep on an extra pillow later that night to encourage drainage. And don't forget a thick slick of Aquaphor on your mouth before bed for soft lips the next day, she says.
5 minutes: De-puff eyes. Wu suggests taking an antihistamine like Claritin, then dunking two cotton balls in cold soy milk (it contains several anti-inflammatory components), squeezing out the excess and holding over your closed eyes to shrink swelling.
A dose of dewiness makes anyone's skin look better (and younger!) overall. Here's how to get your glow going by degree.
6 months: Go all out. To bring back that baby-skin sheen, Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer outlines a hard-core yet effective regimen, including red-light LED therapy ($250), to increase collagen and luminosity, and lasers, such as the skin-resurfacing AFT-540 (about $2,000), to remove sunspots and other skin irregularities. Consult your doctor to space out treatments over six months to allow skin to heal between visits.
2 months: Opt for a peel. Lancer uses a medical-grade skin-resurfacing mask from Sinnoqa ($1,000), popular with derms in China because it can be used on every ethnicity with reliable results. "It's a great way to even out skin tone and increase luster," says Lancer. "But you must stay out of the sun during the next 60 days."
1 week: Try the latest laser. Seven days before an event, Dr. Anne Chapas of Union Square Laser Dermatology recommends the new Clear + Brilliant ($400), a gentle laser that boosts radiance with almost no downtime. (Expect some redness for a few hours after the procedure.) "You can really see the results the next day," she says. "But if you're anticipating an event like a wedding, I recommend a week just in case you have any reactions."
5 minutes: Lighten up your makeup. You may be tempted to mix illuminating liquids in with your foundation, but Dubroff disapproves: "You end up with shine where you don't want it," she explains. "I like to be strategic with glow products." Instead, use a highlighter around the eye orbital and cheekbones for a dewy look without oiliness.