Best Face Forward: Or, How to Look Beautiful Without the Knife


Over the past 18 months, people have discovered all sorts of new interests and activities. Bread baking. Extreme TV binge-watching. Pandemic pets. Pandemic parenting. Me? I discovered my face, or rather, the crumbling infrastructure of the area around my mouth and other, um, age-related markers.

I also discovered that Zoom is not my friend.

Apparently, lots of other people discovered the perfidy of the platform and made their way to medical-aesthetic spas in record numbers. And not just boomers. Women (and men) from their 20s on are practicing preventive and reparative care, using everything from Botox to fillers to sunscreen and expensive potions to fill wrinkles, lift jowls, fade discoloration and generally hold back time.

Fun fact: Skin is the biggest organ of the body. And it’s no surprise that aesthetic treatments are a big (and high-priced) business. Worldwide, the market is expected to grow to approximately $15.9 billion within the next five years. Unlike certain plastic surgery procedures, they’re not considered medically necessary, so they’re not covered by insurance. That stings.

Still, I was desperate. So I threw my feminist principles to the winds and went down the rabbit hole of aesthetic self-improvement. Along the way, I spoke to several practitioners, the medical officer of a medical-aesthetics practice as well the founder of a dermatologist-created skin care line. And here is what I learned:

  1. Sunscreen is a must, inside and out. UV rays, A and B, are not the only thing you need to worry about, says Suzy French, a nurse practitioner and founder of Helios Laser Center in Spring Valley. Although 80 percent of skin damage on the face comes from the sun, our love affair with our digital devices and the blue light they emit also contribute to premature aging.
  1. Wash your face. Seriously. Pollutants (again, inside and outside the home) create inflammation, magnify sun damage and aggravate existing skin problems. Keeping your face (especially) clean protects your skin, which protects you.
  1. Feed your skin. Celeste Hilling, chief formulator-founder of Skin Authority, gave me a master class in skin nutrition.

Vitamin C, which you can only get from food or applied topically via a vitamin-enriched serum, fights damage, promotes cellular turnover and supports collagen production, especially when combined with vitamin E. Together, they act to restore your skin’s resiliency and luminosity.

Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone, builds immunity and repairs damage inflicted on your skin throughout the day.

Vitamin A (also called retinol) goes beneath the surface of the skin to boost elastin and collagen to improve skin texture and tone.

Hyaluronics hydrate and makes your skin look dewier and, when combined with collagen, push plumper, hydrated skin cells from below the surface to the top layers. Think fillers, without the needles.

That’s what goes on the body. What goes in is even more important.

The condition of your skin, Hilling told me, mirrors the state of your health. A healthy diet — what nutritionists call “eating the rainbow” — is the very best way to promote your skin’s well-being.

  1. Don’t fear the needles. Botox, fillers, laser hair removal and photo facials have come a long way from the frozen foreheads and laughably plumped lips of the early aughts. According to Dr. Mark McKenna, founder and chief medical officer of OVME, today’s practitioners are highly trained in ever-evolving procedures that work faster, last longer and, more importantly, give clients a more naturally beautiful look versus the plasticity of the past.

The journey to happier skin and enhanced self-worth doesn’t happen overnight, he cautions, and recommends that everyone start with a thorough skin analysis for a more personalized approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and every age has different needs and expectations. In your 20s, it’s all about prevention and enhancement. In your 30s, you start taking action to minimize those age-related changes. And in your 40s and 50s (and beyond), you can make more aggressive use of fillers, lasers and other treatments.

I was in the fillers (Restylane and Sculptra) and Botox camp and am happy to report that the crevasses around my mouth have disappeared, and I have a top lip again! (TMI?) My skin also looks brighter (thank you, retinol) and fresher (Vitamins C, E, D).

Thanks to kind ministrations of all my aesthetics miracle workers and the many, many new creams and serums now adorning my vanity, Zoom and I are now on speaking terms.

To learn more about treatments and products, consult with your dermatologist or visit: Helios Laser Center, helioslasercenter.com. Skin Authority, skinauthority.com. and OVME ovme.com. (The practice has two locations in the D.C. area in Bethesda and Merrifield.)

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