Feb. 7, 2012 As we age, our skin undergoes a number of changes affecting its texture, volume and appearance. Fortunately, dermatologists can use fillers or lasers to correct the most notable signs of aging and can recommend skin care products with added ingredients that can further repair damaged skin.
"Many fillers for the aging face are now designed to create a fuller, more youthful appearance, instead of targeting only wrinkles or fine lines. In addition, facial rejuvenation with lasers is now more targeted, resulting in quicker results and less downtime," said dermatologist Jenny Kim, MD, PhD, FAAD, associate professor of medicine, division of dermatology, University of California, Los Angeles. "Couple these treatments with the wide range of inexpensive skin care products with high-quality ingredients that are now available and patients can see dramatic results for many problem areas."
New Fillers Pump up the Volume
While skin fillers and botulinum toxin are the most widely used procedures to rejuvenate the skin, Dr. Kim explained that the newest fillers being introduced will work as volumizers to replace the plumpness of the face that is lost with aging. Similar to how a balloon deflates over time, the face loses its roundness or fullness -- the sign of a youthful appearance -- with age.
"As much as lines and wrinkles make us look older, we're learning that volume loss is just as critical," said Dr. Kim. "Because of that, we're looking at the aging process a little differently now and understanding the importance of replacing volume loss in the face to restore the fullness of a more youthful appearance."
Most facial volume loss occurs after age 40, although some people start noticing this change in their late 30s. When this happens, areas of the face that were once full get depressed and are made more prominent by shadowing or darkening -- making the face look older.
The newest filler introduced and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for facial rejuvenation is calcium hydroxylapatite. This filler restores facial volume and promotes collagen production, lasting for up to a year in most cases. This calcium hydroxylapatite filler is thicker than the hyaluronic acid fillers currently available, requiring less product to be used. However, Dr. Kim noted that the thickness of calcium hydroxylapatite also is associated with slightly higher adverse effects than hyaluronic acid fillers.
"I expect that we'll see more advances in volumizing fillers in the near future, which should offer patients better results and fewer side effects," said Dr. Kim. "Since each filler has unique advantages and disadvantages, it is important that patients discuss their expectations with their dermatologist to determine which procedure is best for them."
Lasers Focus in on Skin Repair
New laser technologies offer another alternative to rejuvenate the skin with fewer side effects than earlier lasers. For example, fractional photothermolysis is a newer technology that works by targeting a very small percentage of the skin during each treatment, improving the damaged area and resulting in less adverse effects and downtime for the patient. Even pulsed-dye lasers, which have been around for a long time, have evolved so a dermatologist can treat visible broken blood vessels without bruising the skin by adjusting the laser to the patient's skin.
"Laser technology continues to evolve and provide dermatologists with more options to target not only specific signs of aging, but specific cells responsible for age-related changes in our appearance," said Dr. Kim. "In the future, lasers could even produce significant skin tightening or effectively target oil glands to improve acne, decrease oily skin and reduce large pores."
Skin Care Products Offer Daily Dose of Vitamins and Antioxidants
Patients looking to supplement their treatments or those not yet ready for anti-aging treatments in a dermatologist's office, but who would still like to see some improvement in their skin, can look for over-the-counter skin care products. Once sold exclusively at high-end department stores, a vast assortment of anti-aging products is now available at drug stores.
Dr. Kim recommends that patients look for ingredients such as retinoids (chemical compounds derived from vitamin A), peptides (smaller proteins that stimulate collagen production), and growth factors (compounds that act as chemical messengers between cells and play a role in collagen production). Added into inexpensive skin care products, these have the ability to repair skin damage from sun exposure or other toxic chemicals and, in some cases, stimulate collagen production.
Future Technologies to Watch
Another area of research for its potential anti-aging properties is stem cell technology. Since fat cells contain adult stem cells, their use for facial rejuvenation is being explored. The idea is that if stem cells from fat can be signaled to turn into skin structure, they could potentially make a person look younger by adding volume to depressed facial areas. Dr. Kim explained that while this is an exciting area of research, the efficacy and safety of this technology has not been tested in large clinical studies.
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