Beauty Toolkit

Choosing a direction in the quest for beauty and youthful looks can be overwhelming. New products and services hit the market every day—infomercials, glossy billboards and TV commercials boast dramatic, if anecdotal, results. Hollywood stars seem walking proof of all that's possible if we buy that perfect cream, laser, pill, procedure. The truth is, of course, there simply is no quick miracle treatment for looking and feeling your best.

There are, however, effective and tested options that will work for you, if you know where to look and whom to trust.

"Surgery is still the best value for your dollar," says Dr. Richard Parfitt of Parfitt Facial Plastic Surgery Center and AestheticA Skin Health Center. "It makes the most significant, and—in the hands of experienced and skilled surgeons—the most natural-looking and longest-lasting results."

The most effective surgical procedures, in general, are those for any significant eyelid skin laxity or bags; jowls, neck fullness or laxity; nose, ear, cheek and chin appearance issues.

But if surgery still isn't for you, Parfitt says the best non-surgical values on the market are Botox or Botox-like products, such as Dysport and Xeomin; hyaluronic fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm; intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments; microdermabrasion; trichloracetic (TCA) chemical peels; Oral isotretinoin for acne; and retin-A (tretinoin cream or gel) for topical treatment to improve skin texture and tone.

Parfitt says he's tried some of the other products and treatments, sometimes at great expense, particularly in the early years of his practice. Today, though, any new technology or product he considers is subjected to a rigorous and thorough testing process, performed on himself and his staff, generally over the course of at least a year.

It might interest people "practicing this at home" that Parfitt has a high opinion of at-home laser procedures for hair removal and fine wrinkle reduction. Although the intensity doesn't compare to medical-grade lasers, their sophisticated safety features make them relatively foolproof and, for the cost, they're relatively effective. That said, the most effective tool you've got is your own critical thinking skills, combined with the professional expertise of a doctor who will give it to you straight.

"The best way to evaluate the value of any cosmetic treatment, as well as the skill of the physician doing it, is to critically assess before-and-after photos," says Parfitt, warning of lighting and lens tricks, misleading makeup applications and facial expressions. "Always insist on seeing photos of the entire face when evaluating the effect of a product or procedure on a specific part of the face, such as the eyes," he says.

Perhaps one of the most important keys to unlocking full beauty potential is taking time out from everyday responsibilities. Valuing yourself enough to view preventative procedures as investments, rather than luxuries, can be a beauty treatment in and of itself.

"It's easy for our schedules to get the best of us, and we put everyone's needs before our own," says Dr. Stacy Shropshire, P.Sc.D., of Evolution Body Transformation. "From the minute we step out of bed, we have gravity working against us," she says. "As we age, the quantity of collagen in our skin diminishes—especially after the age of 40. We now have procedures that can help rebuild collagen, slowing the signs of aging. It's important to invest time in yourself."

Shropshire values effective, efficient treatments without downtime, so those are the sorts of services she provides. Microdermabrasion for face or body is "tried and true," a non-invasive treatment that promotes cell turnover; vital to improving aging skin, reducing acne, and maintaining overall appearance.

"Microdermabrasion does a deeper exfoliation than your at-home scrub, but has no down time," says Shropshire. "It's easy to do in a lunch hour and return to work refreshed with a healthy glow."  Evolution also uses chemical peels and masks to undo signs of aging, with virtually no pain and visible results in about a week. Peels can be combined with microderm appointments for faster results.

Evolution also offers Venus Legacy treatment for face or body, using radio-frequency and pulsed magnetic fields to stimulate fibroblasts in the skin to rebuild collagen. It promotes increased blood flow to treated areas, resulting in diminished fine lines and improved overall smoothness of the skin. Shropshire says a series of treatments once per week over several weeks promotes tightened skin, a reduction of the appearance of stretch marks, and a reduction of cellulite.

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