Modern Day Age Erasers

In Oscar Wilde's classic novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray", the title character sells his soul to the devil, winning for himself perennial youth in the form of a portrait that takes on the "lines of suffering and thought" that would have accrued on the 17-year-old's face as he aged.

In a modern variant of the 1870 novel, Dorian could sidestep a deal with the devil while still enduring as the picture of youth, by choosing from a menu of "skin rejuvenation" procedures developed in recent years. He could make a lunch-hour appointment with his plastic surgeon or dermatologist for a quick-fix microdermabrasion, or for a more dramatic result, might decide to take a couple of weeks out from his debaucherous lifestyle for laser resurfacing.

Of the many skin-refreshing options, laser resurfacing and microdermabrasion are among the most popular. They can help reverse the telltale marks of aging and sun damage—among them, smile and frown lines, forehead wrinkles, crow's feet around the eyes, brown spots, and dry, rough skin. Also, the skin rejuvenation treatments can be helpful in treating medical conditions such as precancerous skin lesions and acne.

But which procedure is best? "It's surprisingly easy to match the right procedure with a patient—just listen to the patient," says Rockville, Md.–based plastic surgeon Mark E. Richards, M.D. What bothers them? How far are they willing to go to get it corrected, in terms of risks, recovery time, and financial investment? "There's no free lunch," he points out. "The more downtime and the more inherent risks involved in the procedure, generally the more dramatic the changes are going to be."