With so much buzz about plastic surgery – both invasive and noninvasive treatments – it’s hard to know if any of them are actually smart options. What works? What doesn’t? What makes sense for someone my age — and what should be avoided? Here, we explain seven popular anti-aging treatments — almost all under $500 — that don’t require a hospital visit or surgery.
Our experts, Todd Schlifstein, M.D., and skin therapist Colleen Lamoureux, weigh in on the benefits of each treatment and what makes them worth considering.
Be sure to consult your dermatologist or personal physician before making any decisions.
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What it does: Microdermabrasion instantly refines skin texture by physically removing flaky dry skin, bumps from trapped oil, and minimal sun-damage spots, and generally smooths out the skin.
How it works: A textured metal wand exfoliates and scrapes up skin cells and vacuums them away. Think of it as a facial scrub done by the pros with more lasting results—about two to three weeks..
Pain factor: Minimal.
Price: $100-$450 per session (depending on where you go).
Colleen's advice: For women over 50, this procedure is a great way to refine skin texture and soften lines, she says. "Because it is purely a physical exfoliation, microdermabrasion also prepares the skin for a [chemical] peel by getting [dead skin] out of the way and making your skin the ideal canvas for evenly absorbing and utilizing a chemical peel. My clients also find microdermabrasion relaxing."
What it does: The top layer of skin is destroyed via chemical, revealing a new one. Peels assist in removing brown spots and hyperpigmentation while minimizing injury to the outer layer of skin.
How it works: Acid (glycolic, lactic, alpha and beta hydroxy, typically) is applied to the face and, depending on its strength, can be left on for anywhere from a few minutes to overnight. Results are visible after about one week, and your skin may feel irritated or sensitive during that time.
Pain factor: Peels can sting and burn a bit, but about 15 minutes post-application one should feel fine.
Price: $300-$500 per series (depending on where you go and the strength and type of acid used)
Colleen's advice: “As we age, the desquamation process—meaning the skin's own ability to shed its outer layer of skin cells—slows down. A moderate to strong peel is especially great for women over 50. If done properly, your skin lines will soften, collagen will be stimulated, hydration levels will be boosted (once all has settled), your skin tone will be more even, and an overall glow should be noticeable." Colleen advises her clients to pair a peel with microdermabrasion for maximum effect.
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What it does: Cosmetically, Botox is most often used to eliminate lines and wrinkles between the eyes, across the forehead, and around the eyes (a.k.a. crow’s feet).
How it works: One of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the United States, Botox injections contain purified toxins which block muscle contractions under the skin, temporarily reducing or even erasing frown lines and wrinkles. Results last up to four months.
Pain factor: Minimal
Price: $150-$500 (depending on where you go)
Dr. Schlifstein's advice: “Botox is safe and effective, but I prefer a lesser amount than most, just to freshen up your face, while still allowing full motion. This achieves a more natural look.”
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What it does: When we're young, our bodies naturally produce collagen which keeps skin plump and firm. But as we age, our natural collagen production tapers off, resulting in lost volume in the face. Cosmetic fillers restore the lost volume by filling in the sallow areas via injection.
How it works: Wrinkle or dermal fillers work like collagen and can be used to fill in lines and help lift certain areas. Results last for about six months to a year.
Pain factor: Minimal
Price: $400-$1,700 per vial (depending on the kind used). Popular hyaluronic acid fillers include Juvederm and Restylane.
Dr. Schlifstein's advice: “Determining the best product depends on amount of volume lost, areas to be treated and your budget. They should make you look refreshed—too much filler will make your face appear round and bloated."
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What it does: This prescription-only formula stimulates hair growth at the root. In a clinical study, 92% of subjects were satisfied with Latisse after one year.
How it works: The active ingredient, bimatoprost, causes growth—but not without side effects. Some patients report itchy eyes and darkened pigmentation in the iris. Lash growth should be noticeable within one month.
Pain factor: None
Price: About $150 for a monthly supply
Dr. Schlifstein's advice: “Latisse is an effective way to obtain longer, thicker lashes. Depending on your needs and budget it maybe a worthwhile treatment (application is daily).”
Sclerotherapy (Varicose or spider vein treatment)
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What it does: Sclerotherapy is the use of saline injections to eliminate unsightly veins that are large and close to the skin's surface.
How it works: While smaller veins may be treated with a laser, sclerotherapy is done by injection. Eventually the vein turns into scar tissue and fades.
Pain factor: Mild to moderate
Price: $150-$1,000 per session. Prices vary by time needed to treat veins; time and frequency of treatments depend on the number of veins, size of the veins and desired effect.
Dr. Schlifstein's advice: “Recurrences of vein formation may occur as well as bruising after a treatment. It is important to match expectations with a treatment plan. Depending on the severity and how much it concerns someone may determine if it’s right for you.”
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What it does: Resurfacing with a laser micropeel or fractionated laser can make the skin smoother, more even toned, and tighter.
How it works: Fractional lasers use light energy to pierce into the skin's collagen layer, restoring collagen and elastin and removing hyper-pigmentation and broken blood vessels. You should see results within one week, and improvements may continue for a couple of months after the treatment.
Pain factor: Pain varies with depth of treatment. Topical anesthesia is often used.
Price: $800 and up. Prices vary, but this doesn’t come cheap; it depends on the laser and amount of treatments the candidate opts for/needs.
Dr. Schlifstein's advice: “Fractionated lasers obtain great results with less downtime and they have really improved the treatment of loose, rough, wrinkled skin. Depending on your skin’s problems and your desired effects, several treatments usually are needed.”