In the 21st century, Americans seeking to improve their appearances have relied on nonsurgical procedures in record numbers. (Note that most health insurance companies don’t pay for cosmetic surgical procedures.) These are the five most common:
Botulinum toxin (Botox)-How it works: When injected into the face, it paralyzes muscles that cause wrinkles, minimizing laugh lines and crow’s feet. Advantages: Gives the skin a smooth appearance. Some research suggests that the injections can also ease migraines and excessive sweating. Drawbacks: Results are temporary; you’ll need injections every three months. Possible side effects include stomachache, flu-like symptoms, headache and eyelids that droop temporarily. Time: The procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes.
Soft-tissue fillers-How it works: Different materials (including collagen and human fat harvested from your body) can be injected into the face to minimize wrinkles, plump up thin lips or fill in sunken scars. Advantages: It’s less drastic than a facelift and can erase some of the initial signs of aging. Drawbacks: Local anesthetic helps minimize pain, but the procedure may cause discomfort, swelling or bruising. Complications are rare but may include “over-filled” wrinkles or clumping beneath the skin. Time: Depending on the area being treated, the procedure can take just a few minutes.
Chemical peel-How it works: Chemicals placed on the face can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, blemishes and discoloration. Alpha hydroxy acid peels are mildest, and phenol peels are strongest. Advantages: Peels may lessen the appearance of acne. They should give your skin an even texture and color with a healthy glow. Drawbacks: Peels may cause scarring or irritation. Phenol peels may damage the skin’s ability to produce pigment, so you’ll always need to keep your skin protected from the sun’s rays. Time: Mild peels can be done at home. The strongest can take an hour at the doctor’s office, but you may need to have someone help you while you recover for a few days.
Laser hair removal-How it works: A laser removes unwanted hair from the face or other body parts. For sensitive areas, local anesthetic may be used. Advantages: Sometimes, hair removal is permanent. When it isn’t, the hair usually grows back lighter and finer. Drawbacks: You may feel a pin-prick sensation or smell hairs burning. Treatments may not be permanent, but results should be long-lasting. Time: Depending on the area, the procedure takes five minutes to an hour.