You know the benefits of Botox. Hailed by dermatologists worldwide, the anti-aging treatment works by preventing nerves from releasing the chemical signals that trigger muscle contraction. It’s served as an excellent treatment for a wide variety of problems, from eye movement disorders to excessive underarm sweating to migraines, but Botox is most commonly known for its ability to soften the look of fine lines and wrinkles, explains Ken Howe, MD, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology.
“Minute amounts delivered to areas of excessive tone, like the forehead or between the eyes, will relax the muscle so that it stops tugging on the skin and creating the lines,” Dr. Howe says. That’s why it’s become an increasingly popular preventive treatment for women in their late twenties or early thirties, who are just starting to see dynamic wrinkles (aka the ones that appear when you form facial expressions). According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, preventative Botox is one of the fastest growing trends, with a 32 percent increase in injections since 2010 among the age group 20-29.
But Botox isn’t for everyone, and given the fact that it’s a minimally-invasive procedure – ahem, a needle to the face – it’s really no surprise that some people are a bit timid to partake. If, for whatever reason, you’re not ready to take this kind of a leap to rid your face of wrinkles, we certainly don’t blame you. Luckily, there are plenty of treatments and tricks that can help keep wrinkles away – sans the prick. Here, we asked top dermatologists to suggest some Botox alternatives.
The most important thing you can do to avoid premature aging of the skin is to practice diligent sun safety, says Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. “Studies from Australia show us that the skin of people who use sun protection on an everyday basis ages better compared to the skin of people who use sun protection sometimes,” she notes.
Wearing a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher will help keep lines at bay, especially if you reapply it every two to three hours and avoid direct sun exposure during the times of 11am-3pm when the UV radiation is the strongest, explains Jerome Garden, MD, a dermatologist at Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago, IL. Per the latest findings by the FDA, your best bet is using a mineral sunscreen formula with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, like La Roche-Posay Anthelios Body and Face Gentle-Lotion Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50. “It is also very important to avoid tanning beds as the UV in those lights damage our collagen, which results in wrinkles and also cause brown spots to form,” Dr. Garden adds.
Most dermatologists agree that topical retinoids, the umbrella term for retinol products, are the gold standard in anti-aging. “They not only help soften wrinkles, but they make skin thicker as a result of the new cell growth,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City. This gives skin an overall healthier appearance.
Expect it to take three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are really apparent. Prescription formulas containing retinoic acid, like Retin-A, are the strongest, but for an over-the-counter option, Dr. Dendy recommends Shani Darden Retinol Reform. “This serum uses stabilized retinoid to reap the benefits of collagen production and improved tone,” she says. “It also has calming and hydrating ingredients like niacinamides and aloe to offset irritation.”
Antioxidants help fight the free radicals from environmental stressors, like sun and pollution, that age the skin. The most powerful ones, according to derms, are vitamins C and E. What’s more, the ingredients help the skin look younger by boosting collagen production and in turn, reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. A fan-favorite among skin care enthusiasts is Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, which contains a combo of 15 percent pure vitamin C, one percent vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), and 0.5 percent ferulic acid to protect and restore skin.
“Silicone pads like Wrinkles Shminkles are another great non-invasive option for lines formed from facial expressions or from the compression of the skin during sleep,” says Dr. King. “The pads help prevent transepidermal water loss, locking in moisture so the skin will be better hydrated and will be better able to repair itself and produce collagen.” Since the pad also keeps the skin taut, it helps prevent the creasing that causes lines while you sleep.
Pillowcases made from silk or satin may also be helpful in reducing lines that become etched overnight, adds Dr. King. “The Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Delay Pillow is a great option for these kinds of lines on the cheeks and around the mouth and eyes that become deeper when pressed in during sleep,” she says. The structure of the pillow allows you to sleep on your side without creasing your face while the silky satin fabric causes less friction on your face.
One of the most effective ways to stimulate collagen growth is through laser resurfacing treatments, says Dr. Howe. He recommends the Fraxel laser: “It lays down a pixelated pattern of laser hits across the skin, with each microscopic wound creating a zone of healing around itself, resulting in collagen production.” There is some downtime involved (think redness and peeling), and it typically takes three to five sessions to make a significant improvement in wrinkles. For a treatment that results in zero downtime, try Aerolase. “The nano-second technology delivers potent collagen stimulation without the pain or side effects that occur post-treatment,” Dr. Howe says.
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