MSN Health & Fitness – Look Younger Without Plastic Surgery

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Five strategies for shaving years off your appearance.
By Bethany Lye for MSN Health & Fitness
(c) Steve Mason/Getty Images
Wendy Bryant-Gow’s job is to worry about how other people look. “People always want to know how to look younger and slimmer,” says the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based image consultant.

But, lately, the newly divorced mother of two has started seeking her own fountain of youth—and her own advice.

“My 50th birthday is just around the corner, and my 30th high-school reunion is a few months away,” says Bryant-Gow. “I’ve been thrown back in the dating scene after all these years, and I’m surrounded by much younger women.”

Amid pressures to look younger in her personal and professional life, Bryan-Gow says that plastic surgery is not an option. Ever.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s invasive. I have two girls, so I don’t want to go under and not come out,” says Bryant-Gow. “I’m really just looking for a confidence boost.”

Most American’s seem to share this outlook; about nine out of 10 patients seeking to look younger want to do so without going under the knife, says Dr. David McDaniel, a dermatologist and the director of the Institute of Anti-Aging Research at East Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.

“People want to look like they’ve had plastic surgery without the surgery, the anesthesia, the down-time or the added expense,” McDaniel says. “The other thing is that people don’t want to look like they’ve had plastic surgery at all—they want to look like they’ve had rest or a vacation.”

Thankfully, shaving years off of your perceived age can be done without enlisting the help of a plastic surgeon (or taking a vacation). Here’s how:

Try Thermage

If you want cosmetic surgery without the surgery, consider Thermage. “In younger women, it can be comparable to a mini-face lift,” says McDaniel. “For older women, it’s an alternative to face-lift, but not quite an equivalent substitution.”

Thermage is actually a type of radiofrequency treatment that uses heat to tighten the skin and stimulate collagen production. The Food and Drug Administration first approved of the technology in 2001, but only recently and after a series of equipment upgrades has Thermage begun yielding marked skin-tightening results, says McDaniel.

The procedure is particularly attractive to people who do not want plastic surgery because it’s noninvasive and requires no recovery time. The drawbacks of Thermage, however, are that it’s still a rather pricey solution (depending on how many treatments you get, the entire process could costs you several thousand dollars), and clients usually have to wait three to six months for the skin’s collagen to grow before seeing results.

Still, says McDaniel: “It just fits with the more active lifestyle that people have today.”

Get a Massage

According to Joanna Czech, an esthetician who counts Uma Thurman, Kyra Sedgwick and Kate Winslet as regular clients, massage is not just for sore bodies—it’s also an important anti-aging tool.

“Massage can help keep your skin nice and firm; it is like a workout for your face muscles,” says Czech, who owns Sava Spa in Manhattan. The idea here is that kneading muscle tissue improves blood circulation, which in turn delivers nutrients and oxygen to the treated area. As a result, collagen fibers contained in the skin are more likely to retain their elasticity, she says.

Regular facials, which involve massage, are the ticket to keeping your face looking young, Czech says. The even better news is that massage works for the body, too. “It is simply the best way to prevent and minimize the appearance of cellulite. It makes the entire thigh and butt area look smoother,” she says.

Even the conditions of this solution don’t seem so bad. “If you want to see results, the most important thing, in my mind, is consistency,” says Czech. Ideally, this means receiving body massages and facials on a monthly basis. “We can reshape and improve women’s bodies until about the age of 60, so you can start this at any age,” Czech adds.  (After 60, collagen fibers have difficulty retaining their full elasticity—at this point, they’re like worn out rubber bands.)

But seriously, it’s a massage! Why wait?

Eat Away the Years

What you eat can affect how old you look, according to Stephen Gullo, author of Thin Tastes Better and a nutrition psychologist based in Manhattan.

“Foods that increase inflammation and free radical production stimulate the aging process,” says Gullo. The good news is that this relationship also works in reverse: Eating foods that reduce inflammation and free radical production actually helps your body combat the march of time.

What, then, should an aging omnivore eat?

Dine on low-mercury—“white-colored”—seafood and lots of green and white non-starchy vegetables, Gullo says. “Eat these foods and avoid anything high in simple carbohydrates or fat—these are foods that can help accelerate the aging process,” he adds.

Gobbling down white bread and sugar can also leave you (and your face) looking quite bloated. This is because, for every gram of simple carbohydrate a person consumes, their body retains three grams of water, according to Gullo. Eliminate these foods from your diet, however, and in a few weeks, you’ll notice a big difference when you look in the mirror. “It’s the easiest way to look 15 years younger without a face-lift,” he says. Bye, bye bagels, hello sharp cheekbones!

Stay Young With Juvenon

Another key to looking young is feeling young. Cue a team of biochemists from the University of California, Berkley, who have created a pill that counters the development of aging in mice and rats. No, really.

The pill, called Juvenon, contains a cocktail of natural micronutrients that aid a cellular organelle called the mitochondria. Scientists often describe mitochondria as the “powerhouse” of cells because they are the source of energy for all cellular functions.

Research has shown that as we age, our mitochondria’s ability to produce energy diminishes. Consequently, this energy deficit eventually and adversely affects our mood, our central nervous system and every organ in our body—particularly our brains.

Like grease added to a squeaky wheel, Juvenon works by supplying our aged mitochondria with its missing micronutrients. As a result, the mitochondria are able to pump out as much energy as they did during their youth, according to Bruce Ames, the supplement’s principal creator and a professor of biochemistry at Berkeley.

So far, in preliminary experiments involving rats, the supplement has excelled. “All that I can say is that, if you are a rat, you have reason to be ecstatic,” says Ames. In these trials, Juvenon-fueled rats had higher IQ tests, less oxidative brain damage and a better immune system relative to the study’s controls. In addition, the rodents’ energy deficit almost entirely disappeared.

But what about humans in need of a pick-me-up pill?

Nearly 100,000 people have already purchased the supplement online, though Ames says that he and his colleagues are still investigating Juvenon’s impact on human aging. The biochemist also warns that the supplement’s purported effect on humans (that it improves cognition, boosts energy and lowers blood pressure, among other things) is still, by and large, rooted in anecdotal evidence. Yet, the scientist concedes: “So far, everything looks pretty good.”

Saving the Simplest Solution for Last

As you age, the color and texture of your hair changes and so does the color and texture of your skin. “We need to pay attention to these changes,” says stylist Bryant-Gow, who admits to practicing what she preaches. “A lot of times, our old high-school makeup palettes and 20-year-old hairstyles just won’t do.”

Older women can start to update their look by ditching their powders and foundation (which tend to accentuate facial wrinkles and fine lines) and invest in a light, tinted moisturizer, instead. Bryant-Gow also recommends enlisting professional help. “If you’re in a cosmetics store, it’s important to shop the faces behind the counter,” the stylist urges. “If you don’t like the way someone looks—if their own makeup seems too wild—keep walking.”

This approach also works when selecting a hair stylist. “How you style your hair needs to change as you age,” says Bryant-Gow. “Just make sure you’re consulting with the right people, and don’t be afraid to ask for their input.”

But what if your body—not just your face and hair—needs “updating”? Try body slimming undergarments, says Bryant-Gow. Creating a good foundation under your clothes will thin your silhouette and add polish to any outfit, the stylist says. “Plus, these undergarments hide everything—stomach bulges, sagging skin. Just everything.”

The simplest answer to anti-aging is, of course, to learn to accept yourself—lumpy thighs, age spots, wrinkles and all. There is no scarring or anesthesia involved, and you’re guaranteed to love the results.