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Modern Day Age Erasers

Microdermabrasion: A Quick Fix for Light Wrinkles

Jean Trapani has undergone several consecutive once-a-week microdermabrasions—a treatment in which a highly controlled vacuum moves fine, sand-like crystals across the face to smooth out lines and lighten age spots "Sometimes I feel the granules, but there's virtually no pain," says the 52-year-old office assistant. "It's a very pleasant treatment."

By stimulating the skin to heal itself, the technique effectively treats fine wrinkles and can reduce skin imperfections like superficial acne scars, Richards says, but it can't be expected to reach the moderate and deeper wrinkles that laser resurfacing can.

Why choose microdermabrasion, then? Not everybody needs the deep-down reach of laser resurfacing, and microdermabrasion has two notable advantages over lasers, Richards explains: virtually no down time for recovery and no significant risks.

Losing Appeal: Dermabrasion and Chemical Peels

Dermabrasion is a far different procedure from the micro-form, with a far different risk profile, Richards says. Dermabrasion is described as a controlled scraping of the top layers of skin with a hand-held rotary wheel, but Richards says, "You're trying to have precise control of depth while basically holding a power drill in your hand." Richards prefers other techniques today, but acknowledges, "Done expertly, dermabrasion can produce very good results."

Because her father had skin cancer, 52-year-old Frances Maestas underwent facial dermabrasion three years ago to remove some skin growths, with hopes of diminishing her acne scars in the process. The dermabrasion effectively eradicated the growths and "softened" Frances' scarring but didn't eliminate it. Frances plans to pursue her doctor's initial recommendation to follow up the dermabrasion with laser resurfacing.

The trend among doctors, Richards says, is away from things like dermabrasion that are inaccurate as far as depth of penetration, in favor of more precise procedures like microdermabrasion and laser resurfacing. These days, Richards rarely performs the procedure called "chemical peel," either. Chemical peels, like dermabrasion, remove the top layer of skin, but use a caustic solution instead of a rotary wheel. Chemical peels can be done with mild "glycolic acids" or with the stronger chemicals phenol or trichloroacetic acid for a deeper reach. In Richards' view, strong chemical peels are inaccurate and risky compared to newer skin rejuvenation techniques.

The list of youth-restoring cosmetic procedures doesn't end there. A couple of additional examples: so-called Botox injections that temporarily paralyze facial muscles for a more youthful look, and injections of collagen to plump up wrinkles and decrease creases.

One on one, a doctor can help you choose your optimal rejuvenation treatment (or combination) from the modern cosmetic surgery menu. Or you may choose to wear your wrinkles proudly, as a badge of wisdom of sorts, as has England's Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It is said that the elderly British monarch, who has just celebrated her 100th birthday, once politely refused an offer to retouch her photograph to conceal a few facial wrinkles, saying, "I would not want it to be thought that I had lived for all these years without having anything to show for it."