It’s not exactly news that having kids takes a physical and emotional toll on our bodies. We’re looking at you, mushy muffin tops and stress lines. As our kids grow up and we get older, our beauty (and cosmetic procedures) wish list seems to grow. “If something bothers you when you put on a certain pair of jeans, throw away the jeans and try to deal with it. But if something bothers you every single day, don’t feel badly about making a change to fix it,” says Joanna Partridge, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon with offices in Princeton and North Brunswick and the current secretary of the New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons.
We asked our readers to share their beauty wish lists and found that 58 percent are very interested in having cosmetic procedures, while 35 percent already had one. We also asked which cosmetic treatments most piqued their interest and fat blasters and skin rejuvenators were among the procedures that topped the list. Then, we asked the experts how they work, how long they last and how much they cost.
We once dreamt of melting the fat away. Now, everyone wants to freeze it. CoolSculpting targets pockets of pudge using special applicators that suck and chill FDA-approved areas including under the chin, arms, tummy, back, love handles, thighs and just under the tush, followed by a massage to get rid of that frozen fat.
“It’s not for weight loss. I make that very clear to patients,” says Shari Sperling, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Florham Park. “It’s to get rid of stubborn areas of fat. They should be at or around their target weight.” Each noninvasive, 35- to 75-minute treatment (length of treatment depends on the size of the area being treated) reduces fat up to 20-25 percent, but you’ll have to wait a few months to see the full benefits (each additional round delivers similar stats). Although CoolSculpting can’t remove nearly the same volume of fat as liposuction, it’s less likely to cause lumpy or bumpy side effects, says Sperling. Plus, there’s no anesthesia and downtime is minimal.
Frequency: Most find two treatments do the trick.
Cost: About $800 per area.
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
All hair removal—shaving, waxing, depilatories—is a thankless task. It’s no wonder many women long for an effortless, stubble-free existence via laser hair removal—it’s about as close to the dream as you can get. In the past, those with lighter hair and darker skin tones may have found laser hair removal to be less effective, but newer lasers with more effective wavelengths mean they work well for everyone.
Here’s how it works: A technician zaps an area with a concentrated light beam that hair pigments absorb before the heat damages the hair follicle. How much each zap hurts depends on where it is (a bit of lidocaine cream does wonders either way). While it’s recommended that a doctor or supervised medical professional perform the laser hair removal, experience matters. It’s also important to note that it’s not necessarily permanent, but more like a serious reduction, and hair can grow back during times of hormonal upheavals like pregnancy and menopause.
Frequency: At least six treatments (every four to 12 weeks depending on the area), plus maintenance treatments to thwart regrowth.
Cost: $100-$300 per session, depending on size of the area. Package deals are common.
For lines, crinkles, furrows, fold, dents, scars, hollows, sagging or whatever it is that bothers you (but we think you’re perfect as you are), there’s an injectable that can freeze it, fill it, lift it or plump it. John Paul Tutela, MD, a plastic surgeon with offices in Livingston and New York City, says our social media selfie culture has helped drive an increase in Botox.
“Everybody’s taking close-up pictures of themselves…and they see them immediately and see how a crowd reacts to them immediately, so I think that’s driven this force for people to look for more options in facial rejuvenation, and Botox is essentially nonsurgical,” Tutela says. “Botox is a neurotoxin that stops the action of the facial muscles. What that does is stop those muscles from driving creases into our skin. You see a lot of women who don’t even have any wrinkles and they use it as prevention so they’re stopping the skin from ever creasing.”
Botox, which kicked off the injectable cosmetic procedures craze, can immobilize dynamic facial wrinkles, freeze neck bands, provide a little lift to brows and more for up to four to six months (competitors like Xeomin and Dyasport work the same way). Juvéderm and Restylane, two of the best-known fillers, come in various viscosities to better treat different areas from lips and lids to cheeks and jowls. Sperling personally loves Juvéderm’s Vollure XC. “It’s great for [the] mid-face to add volume, and for filling out nasolabial folds, marionette lines and the corners of the mouth and lips,” she says, plus it lasts up to 18 months. For even longer lasting results, products like Sculptra prompt the body to create new collagen, while fat grafting offers permanent, if unpredictable, results. More important than the product, however, is the person who wields the syringe. “You need an experienced injector to make it look natural,” she says, since the common filler complaint is looking fake. Also, just about any medical professional can legally wield a syringe. If the price seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Frequency: Every few months.
Cost: $300-400+ per area; fillers are $700+ per syringe.
Your epidermis is showing. Is it dull and lifeless? Pitted and pocked? Fine-lined and freckled? If so, there’s a skin resurfacing treatment capable of improving the texture, tone and color with a bit of tightening to boot. Years ago, this was done via a tissue-vaporizing ablative CO2 laser or a deep chemical peel—both scary, oozy procedures with months of downtime.
“Today, we resurface not from the outside in, but from the inside out for a recovery that’s much shorter and carries much less risk,” says Mitchell Chasin, MD, cosmetic physician and founder and medical director of Reflections in Livingston. How? Through controlled wound creation under the skin. Tissue-vaporizing ablative lasers (like Fraxel: Repair) and tissue-sparing non-ablative ones (like Fraxel: Dual and Clear and Brilliant) deliver heat and energy fractionally so that only a percentage of the skin is targeted at a time (like pixels in a photo). The higher the percentage, the more damage and the more collagen and healthy new skin is created in response.
Adjacent treatments such as platelet rich plasma (PRP), stem cells and stimulating fillers like Sculptra can be incorporated to boost remodeling and healing. Prefer something lower tech? Microneedling similarly creates trauma (and holes for deeply infusing serums) via pixelated pin-pricks, and also benefits from add-ons including radio frequency. “There’s a synergy between these different things,” says Chasin. “We have 10 different ways of resurfacing skin and we try to decide what’s best for each individual. What are we treating? What’s the availability for downtime? What’s safe for different skin tones?” All these options can get pricy and time consuming, so an experienced doctor with a full arsenal of offerings is your best bet for achieving your goals.
Frequency: One intense treatment is typically more effective (and cheaper) than multiple milder ones, but most people prefer the latter.
Cost: From a few hundred for microneedling to several thousands for a Fraxel series; customized add-ons like PRP and stem cells also add up.
TUMMY TUCK AND LIPOSUCTION
Pregnancy is no joke. Hormones, stretched abdominal skin and weight gain means we may end up with fat accumulation in places we might not like. Abdominoplastys, or tummy tucks, are major cosmetic procedures. General anesthesia is required and most people are seriously laid up for at least a few weeks. Waiting at least a year after giving birth to your last child is recommended (trust us, you won’t want to do it again). The procedure looks like this: After a hipto- hip incision is made, skin is lifted allowing the rectus muscles to be tightened like a corset and excess skin and stretch marks to be trimmed away. “The result is a flatter, smoother abdomen without the redundant skin overhang,” Partridge says. Liposuction, which is often performed in conjunction with sculpting your desired shape, can also help contour other areas where diet-resistant fat has taken residence. “Liposuction is performed by making tiny incisions and inserting a blunt tipped cannula into the fat layer, then removing small amounts of fat cells evenly and permanently,” she says. Some newer types use radiofrequency and ultrasound to liquefy fat, resulting in less trauma, more refined contouring and skin-tightening properties.
Frequency: Typically once, though follow-ups to fine-tune results are common.
Cost: $8,000-12,000 for a tummy tuck; liposuction is $4,000+.
—Jennifer Kantor is a lifestyle and parenting writer. She lives in Maplewood with her two kids.
Editor’s note: All prices for cosmetic procedures are estimates. Costs vary depending on the doctor, location, post-operative costs, extensiveness of the procedure and other fees.