Health & Fitness

A new toolbox for keeping your skin young and vibrant

Before and after: Man at right after receving injections of Juvederm Voluma, an injectable gel to add volume to your cheek area.
Before and after: Man at right after receving injections of Juvederm Voluma, an injectable gel to add volume to your cheek area. Dr. Leslie Baumann

Try as we might, there’s no real way to rein in the effects of aging and gravity on our faces. Daily sun exposure, stressors and environmental factors take a toll on our complexions, causing wrinkles, sagging jowls and other giveaways of our real age.

Don’t despair. There are new minimally invasive innovations to help us hit the pause button without the high cost and harsh recovery of plastic surgery.

Our new choices reflect the rapid advance of medicine and science. There are new creams, supplements and antioxidants that can be topically applied to help our skin look younger. Other innovations come in the form of lasers, injectables and therapies that tone our skin or reshape our faces to accomplish what only surgical procedures had been able to do in the past.

In the way of creams, skin doctors are excited about possible breakthroughs for making skin brighter and more youthful appearing. Some of the new ingredients being added to products include Activin, which is a protein that kicks off collagen production and improves fine wrinkles; Serpin B-3 inhibitor, a synthic amino acid that makes skin smoother; and Snap-8, which some call a minor version of Botox but in a cream.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann, who writes the Skin Deep column for Tropical Life, says the best way to hit the pause button is through daily use of sunscreen, retinol, antioxidants and Vitamin C. Retinol is one of the most powerful anti-aging ingredients to help retexturize skin and reduce wrinkles. It is derived from vitamin A, acts as an exfoliator and can appear in different skin care products at various strengths and forms. Baumann believes over-the-counter retinols are as good as those sold at medical offices or over the Internet.

In addition, she said topically applied vitamin C can minimize wrinkling, too. Being selective with Vitamin C also is important, she said. “The process of making topical Vitamin C is expensive, and there are a lot of fakes. You can save on less expensive retinols, but you will need to splurge on Vitamin C.”

When you’ve tried topical treatments and you still want to iron out wrinkles or lines in your aging face, it may be time for injectables. The injectable revolution is a driving force behind the increase in noninvasive cosmetic treatments and can give you a more youthful look for a fraction of what a traditional facelift costs.

“The idea with injectables is to look youthful, not altered,” said Dr. Leonel Calderon, a Miami aesthetic medicine specialist. With injectables, we now can address signs of aging like nasolabial folds, volume loss and deep facial lines or wrinkles by using solutions like Botox or Dysport, hyaluronic acid fillers, collagen-based stimulators and fillers, and even naturally injected fat. The late New York City and Coral Gables dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt said, “Everybody can benefit from an injectable at some point in time to keep looking young.”

The two types of injectables differ in their use and their longevity. Depending on the type and the amount used, their effects will last from six months to two years, doctors estimate. Prices vary per injection and amount. Reactions and lumpiness are a possibility, which is why it’s important to stick with a trained dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

Here’s where the two types of injectabes differ: Fillers restore volume, plump up wrinkles and can add structure. Some of the more common are Restylane and Juvederm. Last year, the FDA approved Voluma, which lasts longer than the others, is reversible and has immediate results. The price can run from $600 to 1,000 per treatment.

The other option is toxins, such as Botox and Dysport, which prevent the muscle contractions that lead to etched lines. “If done properly, it can give you an upper facelift,” said Dr. Carlos Wolf, plastic surgeon with Miami Plastic Surgery and who writes the Plastic Surgery 101 column for Tropical Life. “By using it in a certain way, it can rebalance the muscles of your forehead or even give you a brow lift.”

Wolf says he uses Botox also to rejuvenate the neck or mouth area, as well as smooth out crow’s feet around the eyes. “The key is to find people who have had proper training.”

Beyond injectables, lasers are good for zapping brown spots or spider veins and chemical peels are effective for removing fine lines and smoothing out the skin. “Chemical peels are very old, and while the chemicals haven’t changed much, the methods used have. There is less down time because the formulations are more gentle. I take a progressive, little by little approach, and the skin reacts beautifully,” said Calderon, owner of Refresh Your Beauty in Miami.

A new option in fighting aging is ultrasound therapy, a non-invasive treatment used to lift and tighten loose skin on areas such as the eyebrows, jawline and jowls, as well as improve wrinkles on the chest. Ultherapy uses ultrasound energy to heat targeted tissue under the surface of the skin, triggering the natural production of collagen. Baumann said the technology, which is new, is painless and has become a preferred alternative to cool sculpting.

“It can be used on the skin above the bra strap, on the underarm, the area known as the muffin top, or on the fat on your stomach. If you can pinch an inch, it will work.” Some of the online chatter says swelling is a common reaction. The cost can range as high as $3,000.

Other new tools include the Dermapen, a pen with tiny, superfine needles on the end of it.The needles roll over your skin, pinning holes in it as they go. Calderon said causing controlled damage to your skin will prompt it to produce collagen, and allow nutrients to penetrate.

Going forward, expect to see new skincare innovations around genomic technology and stem cell therapy. With genomic technology, by identifying the genes responsible for creating the proteins in young skin, scientists can formulate ingredients to keep us looking younger.

While genomic technology still is in early stages, dermatologists agree it will make big contributions to skin care. At the same time, stem cells have recently become a huge buzzword in the skincare world. Some researchers believe that using stem cell technology for a topical, anti-aging cosmetic trivializes other, more important medical research in this field. Others believe the serums that tap into the potency of these cells can go far to help renew your skin.

Said Calderon, “This field has so much room to grow.”