The treatment: LED facial
What it does: An LED treatment—often tacked on to a medical facial—involves sitting in front of a bank of light-emitting diodes (low-level lights) for 35 seconds. As Star Trek-y as it sounds, it really works, insists New York dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler. "LEDs have amazing anti-inflammatory benefits to decrease redness, rosacea, and irregular pigmentation." (It's a derm secret for getting rid of a sunburn.)
Time commitment: An LED treatment itself lasts 35 seconds; medical facials are about an hour.
Maintenance: One or two times a week for eight weeks, then once-a-month follow-ups as needed.
Cost: Medical facials run $100 to $500. Solo LED is $100 to $150 per session.
The treatment: Low-energy fractionated laser resurfacing (Clear + Brilliant, Fraxel re:fine)
What it does: "This type of laser works on a shorter, more superficial wavelength to resurface and smooth skin texture and reduce discoloration. It also penetrates deep enough to stimulate some collagen production," explains Washington, D.C. dermatologist Dr. Melda Isaac. "It's perfect for someone in her 20s or 30s who doesn't have a lot of wrinkling or sun damage." Says Wexler: "Consider it a light laser peel."
Time commitment: 15 minutes.
Maintenance: Recommended seasonally (four times a year).
Cost: $250 to $500 per session.
Zap dark spots
The treatment: Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
What it does: IPL pulses the skin with a range of light wavelengths that target red and brown discoloration. If you have dark skin or significant freckling, however, skip IPL at lunch. "Any light energy that zones in on melanin can make brown spots turn much darker before they eventually peel off, and it can trigger pigmentation problems in darker skin types," says Dr. Ellen Marmur, vice chair of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at NYC's Mount Sinai Medical Center. In most cases, your skin will be slightly pink for only a few minutes afterward. "I have people come in once a month for a lunchtime IPL treatment," says Washington, D.C. dermatologist Dr. Tina Alster, "because it improves blotchiness and redness, and brightens the skin in general."
Time commitment: 15 to 30 minutes.
Maintenance: An initial series of three to five treatments, followed by touch-ups every year.
Cost: $300 to $500 per session.
Get an eye-, face-, or neck-lift
The treatment: Radiofrequency (Pellevé, Thermage)
What it does: "Radiofrequency goes beneath the skin's surface and works by heating the dermal layer to tighten and build collagen," says Marmur. "This causes collagen fibers to contract instantly—like wool tights that shrink up in a hot dryer—and produces a controlled injury that stimulates collagen production. I love Pellevé to tighten and lift the delicate skin around the eyes and shrink bags underneath, and to firm the laugh-line and jowl area. And it feels like a warm massage." Thermage, which is stronger and penetrates deeper into the skin, isn't a pain deal-breaker, either. "New Thermage units use lower energy, so you don't need pain medication," insists Alster.
Time commitment: 20 to 60 minutes (depending on the area being treated).
Maintenance: Pellevé requires a series of three to five treatments; Thermage, one or two treatments.
Cost: A Pellevé series is $1,000 to $1,200; Thermage, $1,200 to $4,000.
The treatment: Ultrasound (Ulthera)
What it does: Ultrasound technology works just like radiofrequency, but its wavelengths go deeper, translating to superior lifting and tightening--but also increased pain. Some sensitive patients have compared it to childbirth! (Perhaps an exaggeration, but still ...) While some derms recommend Rx painkillers for the treatment, others say just pop an aspirin. "Half of my patients don't need any pain medication for Ulthera, or they tough it out with a couple of Extra Strength Tylenols," says Isaac. She uses the device for the upper face (from the cheekbones up) and the lower face and neck. "You'll see maximum results in three to six months [as skin heals], but you get an initial tightening right away."
Time commitment: 30 minutes for each half of the face.
Maintenance: It's a one-shot deal.
Cost: Full face is typically $3,500; half is between $1,500 and $2,500.
Erase lines and wrinkles
The treatment: Neuromodulators (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin)
What it does: This procedure is practically a drive-through dermatologist special! "Our most common treatments are injectable toxins or fillers," says Alster. Neuromodulators like Botox block receptors at the junction between the nerves and the muscles to relax them, resulting in an unfurrowed brow and vanishing crow's-feet. You can take 10 years off your face in 10 minutes. Note: Even if you skip the numbing cream (most toxin diehards do), be sure to add in a few minutes to take off your makeup and put it back on again. And pack a good concealer—some people do bruise.
Time commitment: 10 to 15 minutes.
Maintenance: Touch up in three to six months when you notice lines returning.
Cost: $300 to $750, depending on size of area treated.
Plump and lift drooping features
The treatment: Injectable fillers like hyaluronic acid (HA, aka Restylane, Perlane) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
What it does: Fillers restore volume to deflated or drooping areas like the cheekbones or under the eyes to bring back a youthful plumpness, strengthen the facial structure, and diminish fine lines. "The latest breakthrough is known as 'vampire filler' because it's custom-made from your own blood," says Isaac. It's actually not as macabre—or time-consuming—as you might think. "We draw some blood, separate the platelets in a centrifuge for 15 minutes, then inject it into the skin. Those platelets are packed with natural growth factors, and the golden color of the serum gives a luminescent quality to the skin, especially under the eyes." To minimize bruising from injections, Wexler gives her patients strict instructions: "No multivitamins, vitamin E, omega-3's, aspirin, Aleve, ibuprofen, or red wine a week before the procedure."
Time commitment: 15 to 30 minutes.
Maintenance: Results typically last six to 12 months.
Cost: $500 to $1,500 per syringe for HA fillers; for PRP, approximately $400 to $600 per vial.
Freeze away fat
The treatment: Cryolipolysis (Zeltiq CoolSculpting)
What it does: A clamp-like device sucks in fat and delivers cold air (like dry ice) to the area in order to freeze and kill fat cells, which then leave your body through the lymphatic system. "A protective gel sheet is placed over the skin, so there's no pain or injury and no recovery time at all," explains Isaac. "The procedure works well for the abdomen, love handles, arms, and thighs." Adds Marmur: "Once the clamp is attached, you can sit and read magazines, answer e-mails or—ironically—eat your lunch. It's genius."
Time commitment: One hour for a single area like the upper abdomen. Double that time for love handles, which require a treatment on each side.
Maintenance: One treatment (if you stay at the same weight).
Cost: $800 to $1,000 per treatment.
Firm up flab
The treatment: Radiofrequency body contouring (Thermage, Bella Contour, Exilis)
What it does: This technology works the same way on the body as it does above the neck: by heating and contracting tissue deep under the surface. "We often combine Zeltiq freezing with a radiofrequency treatment like Thermage because when you get rid of fat, there can be some laxity in the skin," says Isaac. Radiofrequency energy can also heat fat cells enough to flatten them. "It drains the fat cells of lipids, but it doesn't kill and eliminate them like Zeltiq does," says Alster. "If you gain weight, the cells fill up again with fat. Body contouring is very effective if you don't have enough fat to treat with cryolipolysis."
Time commitment: 40 to 60 minutes per area.
Maintenance: Four to six treatments, each session scheduled every one or two weeks, are suggested for one area.
Cost: $1,200 to $2,400 for the series, depending on the area being treated. (Package prices are usually offered.)
MC NOTE: As simple as these treatments sound, there's always some risk for complications. Play it safe and see a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
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