In days past, a woman who wanted to wipe away the lines got a face-lift. Then, in the late 1980s, came Retin-A, a prescription cream that was developed as an acne medication but that also smoothed away wrinkles and removed sun-damaged spots.
Suddenly, anti-aging help was affordable for the masses. And since then, a whole industry has developed to help people turn back the hands of time - or at least look as if they had.
Now, you can find a way to fight time at your favorite discount store, your favorite plastic surgeon and a whole lot of places in between. Prevention remains the best medicine, of course.
Dermatologist Chris Moeller says that staying out of the sun and away from cigarettes goes a long way toward heading off wrinkles. Eating the way you should also makes a difference.
Even so, you might eventually decide it's time to do more. The chart here shows some of your options, what they'll do and how long they'll last. When it is time to act, remember this: Unless you're willing to do the things you need to do to take care of your skin the results you get won't last, no matter how much you spend or what you have done.
Prescription and Over-the-Counter Creams
Costs: Inexpensive to expensiveWhat you can expect: Some can be helpful in minimizing fine lines and wrinklesRisks and side effects: Some people may have redness or other sensitivityHow long it lasts: TemporaryWho can do it: Anyone
Costs: $130 to $160What you can expect: Exfoliates outer layer of skin to diminish fine lines and reduce appearance of skin damage; can be repeatedRisks and side effects: Minor discomfort, temporary redness and flaking skinHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician or designee
Costs: $125 to $1,500What you can expect: Range from superficial to deep; can erase "mask of pregnancy," brown spots, fine lines, age spotsRisks and side effects: More aggressive peels may cause redness, increase recovery time, cause pigment changesHow long it lasts: Several yearsWho can do it: Physician or designee
Nonablative "Cool Touch" Lasers
Costs:$150 to $500 per treatment; requires two, three or more treatmentsWhat you can expect: Results aren't as dramatic as with ablative lasers, may take six months to appearRisks and side effects: Scarring, blistering, redness, painHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician or designee
Costs:$200 to $300What you can expect: Erases frown lines between eyes, upper lip wrinkles, crow's feet, downturned mouthsRisks and side effects: Unintentional saggy eyelids or eyebrows, local pain, bruising and swellingHow long it lasts: Three to five months; can be repeated and subsequent treatments may last longerWho can do it: Physician or designee
Costs: $450 to $500What you can expect: Collagen and other fillers are injected or inserted to plump skin from within, filling moderate to severe wrinkles such as those from the nose to the corners of the mouth; many are used with Botox, to keep lines from re-formingRisks and side effects: Collagen doesn't last very long and some people are allergic to it; Restylane and Hylaform are "natural" fillers but can cause swelling, lumps, redness or infectionHow long it lasts: Six months, on averageWho can do it: Physician or designee
Costs: $450 to $2,000What you can expect: Uses pulsed light to reduce appearance of sun damage, age spots, pigmented lesions, spider veins, fine lines; can be repeatedRisks and side effects: May cause temporary redness, swelling and peelingHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician or designee
Radiofrequency, such as Thermalift or Thermage
Costs: $1,000 to $2,500What you can expect: Tightens skin, not by an inch but by 2 to 3 millimetersRisks and side effects: Low risk but it does hurt; chance of burn, blister or scarringHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician or midlevel provider such as nurse practitioner
Costs: $5,000What you can expect: Burns outer layers of skin; takes off 20 yearsRisks and side effects: Requires general anesthesia, two weeks of downtime; may result in sun sensitivity and redness; may leave scarringHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician
Costs: $1,000 to $2,000What you can expect: Eyelid surgery, done under conscious sedation, to remove excess skin and fat around eyeRisks and side effects: May cause bruising for a week or longer, risk of infection, risks of surgeryHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician
Costs: $3,500 to $4,500What you can expect: Surgery, under general anesthesia, to lift forehead to correct drooping brows, minimize frown lines and smooth the foreheadRisks and side effects: Risks of surgery, infection and anesthesia plus bruising, swelling, discomfort for up to three monthsHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician
Costs: $5,500 and upWhat you can expect: Surgery, under general anesthesia, to remove excess fat, tighten underlying muscles and redrape the skin on your face and neckRisks and side effects: Risks of surgery, infection and anesthesia, risk of nerve injury, plus bruising, swelling, discomfortHow long it lasts: Permanent; aging continuesWho can do it: Physician