Ten Ways to Look Younger

Easy and (almost) painless ways to take a decade off your age. No knives, epic costs, or recovery time required. Yes, really.

how to look younger

photograph by image source/getty images

FORTY MAY BE THE NEW THIRTY — and fifty the new forty — by cultural standards, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your body got the memo. And while the signs of aging may make you want to devote your entire schedule to the pursuit of looking and feeling younger (insert operation scene from Nip/Tuck here), the reality is that your life — a.k.a. bosses, spouse, kids, and pets, to say nothing of your conscience — isn’t likely to let you out of your daily routine long enough to go in search of the fountain of youth.

[sidebar]So how to wrestle back the clock without major hassle, constant dedication, pain, and sticker shock? To find out, we tapped experts across the city to pin down the latest and greatest quick fixes for looking younger. After all, Botox may get most of the acclaim, but these days there are hordes of other contenders as well. We sought out the most promising of them, dipped into some of the scientific research behind each, spoke to clients who’ve had both good and bad experiences, played the guinea pig when necessary, and finally whittled down our list to the easiest and most sustainable options. The result: 10 solid ways to help you reclaim some of the vitality that’s more than rightfully yours.
1. THE PEARL LASER
We all know about face peels, which means we all know why they’ve become a cultural anathema: The threat of a long healing process, and thus unavoidable public humiliation, looms large. Which is precisely where the Pearl Laser comes in. The instrument is at the heart of a two-year-old process that zaps surface layers of skin cells, creating a controlled injury that brings up smoother, tighter replacement skin as you heal.

In the Brookline office of Dr. Leonard Miller, the procedure takes two forms. The heavy-duty version vaporizes the epidermis, then further heats the skin to create “coagulation” (a kinder-sounding word for blood clotting) and promote new collagen growth. Full recovery takes a couple of months, but downtime is only about a week, during which patients can’t have any sun exposure (it would cause hyperpigmentation, says Miller). The end result: much-softened wrinkles, and a far more even skin tone.

That’s the high-drama version. There’s also a less-invasive incarnation — the results of which are, not surprisingly, less dramatic. But after putting the treatment to the test, we found the upshot still quite noticeable. The process is similar to the first procedure, but the laser doesn’t penetrate as deeply, and results in mere discomfort as opposed to actual pain. It also takes less than an hour, and recovery time is about a week (it looks like you simply have a garden-variety sunburn for the first two days, and everything can be hidden under makeup after that). The yield? Softened fine lines, smoother skin texture, and subtly collagen-plumped skin — all with no need whatsoever to miss a meeting, a date, an event, or, in short, a beat. Heavy-duty, $1,500–$4,000, and superficial, $750; Boston Centre for Aesthetic Medicine, One Brookline Place, Ste. 427, Brookline, 617-735-8735, bostoncentreaestheticmedicine.com
2. TRX STRENGTH TRAINING
Mention the words “lean muscle mass” and almost any fitness-savvy person will likely launch into a passionate soliloquy about how important it is to your overall well-being. But even the less-ripped among us are probably aware of the research findings: Lean muscle mass increases metabolism, boosts stamina, builds strength, and supports longevity. But the other (far more important) fact is that developing it can require an enormous time investment.

“People just don’t have a lot of time,” says personal trainer Andrew Lombard of Revolution Fitness. “They’re looking for a workout they can come in and do just on their lunch break, and still get noticeable results.” So for those more concerned with time crunches than oblique crunches, Lombard suggests a workout on the TRX Suspension Trainer.

The mechanics behind the TRX are simple: Two heavy-duty nylon straps are anchored to a single point, allowing the user to go through a sequence of movements, called progressions, while leveraging body weight to create resistance. But what’s remarkable about the TRX is how efficient it is. Because you need to use your core to continually stabilize yourself as you’re working other body parts, it’s a constant abdominal workout (making additional ab exercises unnecessary). And unlike weight training, the machine also increases flexibility and aerobic capacity as it builds lean muscle.

“The complete workout, from warmup to training to cool-down, takes 45 minutes,” Lombard explains. “You’re pushing yourself, but staying in control and using the exercises in a way that’s safe but challenging.”

Our test-drive clocked in at precisely 47 minutes (including time for plenty of instructions from Lombard), and left us gratifyingly sore and tight for three days following the workout — which had us wondering what miracles several sessions could work. $240 for 12 lessons over 6 weeks; Revolution Fitness, 209 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-536-3006, revfitboston.com.

3. BALAYAGE HAIR COLORING
Sure, we’ve been briefed on the less-glamorous points of dealing with that sometimes-cruel power couple, Mother Nature and Father Time. But no one, and we mean no one, warns you about the seemingly endless game of “hide the roots” that comes after stepping into the world of hair coloring. As the years roll by, trying to keep up your hair color can leave locks dull, lifeless, and looking older than they ever did precoloring.

To break the cycle, the France-born balayage process does away with the most notorious culprit when it comes to demarcated root lines: the foil. Instead, color is applied to the hair with a brush using gentle, sweeping motions — lighter near the roots and heavier at the midlength and tips — to mimic the way sunlight would hit the strands. And since the balayage process uses less product on the hair, not as much of your mane is affected by chemicals, which reduces the possibility of cuticle damage from overdyeing.

“Balayage adds a more-youthful look, because it appears to be more natural,” says Lisa Evans, a veteran colorist at Salon Mario Russo’s Newbury Street location. “It gives a more-organic and healthy look than foils, with less overall upkeep.” Evans also points out that the process eliminates the possibility for cookie-cutter color results: “Because the product is applied freehand to the hair, you’re getting a personalized color. If you and a friend spent the day at the beach, your hair wouldn’t look the same when you got home.” $185–$350; Salon Mario Russo, 9 Newbury St., Boston, 617-424-6676, mariorusso.com.
4. VEINWAVE PROCEDURE
Time was (and by that, we mean all of 20 months ago), if you spotted a spider vein on your thigh, you either made friends with it or made an appointment to suffer injections or painful laser work, then wore compression hose and sat around watching bad daytime TV on your couch for upward of a week, all the while missing your job, your friends, your errands, and anything else past your doorstep. Suddenly, along came the (FDA-approved) Veinwave treatment, which Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has been administering for more than a year.

In place of a scalpel, there’s a tiny insulated needle that gets pressed down along the skin where the vein has appeared, barely penetrating the surface. To us, the procedure felt like 10 to 20 aggressive mosquito bites, all in a row. Annoying, to be sure. But painful? Feh. Our mini trial had nowhere near the aggravation or pain described by most students of old-school sclerotherapy. Any redness was gone within two or three hours… as was the vein. No Lidocaine, uncomfortable stockings, or Ace wraps necessary. And the treatment’s not limited to legs: It’s been used with success on the nose and cheeks of older patients, as well. $500; Cardiovascular Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 110 Francis St., Boston, 617-632-9959.

5. THE RÉGENIQUE FACIAL
Anyone looking for a noticeable youth boost with zero discomfort — meaning not even a standard facial’s nigh-torturous extractions — and even less-than-zero recovery time, listen up. The treatment known as Régenique was stumbled upon by Ardan Medspa clinical director Kathy Nash at a medical conference three years ago, and it’s been a part of Ardan’s program ever since.

An RN with almost two decades’ worth of aesthetics cred under her belt (doing nonsurgical clinical work, and building up an ardent following in the process), Nash has refined the standard Régenique process to four steps. First is a medical-grade microdermabrasion to painlessly remove the very top layer of skin. After that she dabs on a touch of low-grade chemical peel, which gradually lightens imperfections such as sunspots or scars. Then comes an ultrasound and electrical stimulation that patients swear improves face muscle tone and, moreover, readies the skin to absorb skin-care products like an overzealous sponge. Those steps alone would be enough to wind the clock back at least a few years for many. But what pushes Nash’s handiwork over the edge is her fourth step: the customization.

Clients with fine lines receive a layer of brushed-on nutrients under a mask, which both sweats out toxins and gets absorbed, leaving the dermis softer and more hydrated than it’s been in years. $250; Ardan MedSpa + Salon, 72 Central St., Wellesley, 781-235-7788, ardanspa.com.
6. ZOOM! TEETH WHITENING
Beige and ecru may be hot colors for spring wardrobes, but not for teeth. Studies have shown that your smile is often the first thing people notice when meeting you. (And fair or not, they tend to believe that the brighter your smile, the smarter, nicer, more attractive, and more capable you must be.) “The unfortunate inference that gets made subconsciously is, If this person can’t take care of their oral hygiene, then they likely won’t treat me very well, either,” says Dr. Steven Spitz of Smileboston Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry in Brookline.

If a dingy set of noshers doesn’t do you any favors in the first-impressions department, it does even less in the youthful-impressions department; people associate darker teeth with older age. That’s despite the fact that, according to Spitz, darkening isn’t a clinical factor — it’s actually caused by wine, tea, coffee, and the staining foods that we consume over the course of a lifetime.

Thankfully, there’s an arsenal of weapons against discoloration. There are, of course, the well-known whitening options: strips (which can take months to actually work) and take-home trays (same deal). Spitz offers the trays — as do most dentists — but notes that many patients don’t have the fortitude to stick to the regimen for the several weeks it can take. “If you’re not consistent, it’s not going to work,” he explains.

All of which makes a strong case for laser whitening. Spitz has settled on the Zoom! whitening system, which uses concentrated light to activate a gel that penetrates the teeth and breaks up stains; after four 15-minute sessions, most smiles are an average of eight shades whiter. Ours was three shades whiter — though to be fair, we’d already been longtime take-home-tray addicts, and didn’t think we could possibly get any pearlier. We stand corrected. $450; Smileboston cosmetic and implant dentistry, 1180 Beacon st., Ste. 2b, Brookline, 617-277-4100, smileboston.com.
7. GOOD POSTURE
Mom, it turns out, really did know best. At least when it came to slouching. “Improving posture not only looks better aesthetically, but if your posture is better, you’ll live longer and have lower chances of chronic diseases,” says Woburn-based chiropractor Dr. Scott Fuller. Sound like an overstatement? He begs to differ: “The science indicates that if your posture deteriorates, your overall health deteriorates.”

Bad posture accelerates degenerative processes of the spine, spinal joints, and surrounding soft tissues, says Fuller. That, in turn, hurts the general functions of the nervous system. Some of this back abuse happens every day while we peck away on our computers — because we tend to slouch for better screen viewing. In fact, sitting in a slumped position puts up to 170 pounds of pressure per square inch on the spine. Over time, that’s sort of like having dental braces that are pulling your teeth in the wrong direction.

In his book, Happy Back, Fuller argues that the first line of defense against spinal disaster is what he terms ergonomic awareness — i.e., paying attention to how we use our bodies in everyday situations. He stresses the importance of “sitting aerobics” (simple bends and wiggles that release spinal tension), and most of all, taking frequent sitting breaks. “Spinal joints and spinal disks need lubrication, and they get lubrication from motion. Sitting all day is like not getting oil into the engine of a car.” Fuller recommends getting out of your chair (even if it’s expensive and specially designed) for at least 10 seconds every 15 minutes. That’s enough time to give your back a much-needed respite and keep you out of slump-induced chronic pain.
8. THE RELAXATION RESPONSE
With the mainstreaming of Eastern religions, the practice of meditation has gained more than its share of attention — especially from the masses looking for an anxiety reducer. But modern meditation is merely one among many methods of tapping into a physiological counter-stress mechanism that can improve our health, sans pill-popping.

“The secretion of stress hormones directly affects various diseases: anxiety, depression, excessive anger, insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, and high blood pressure,” explains Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The consistent presence and buildup of those hormones accounts for 60 to 90 percent of all doctor visits.” But, he insists, we also have an “innate, nonpharmacologic capacity that is the opposite of the stress response: the ‘relaxation response.’”

By that he means zeroing in on an image or idea that breaks your train
of thought, usually through the repetition of a word, sound, concept, mantra, prayer, or movement. The institute’s research shows that evoking the relaxation response for 10 to 20 minutes daily actually changes functions at the genetic level.

“There are 50,000 or so genes in our bodies controlling proteins that help to determine characteristics, like high or low blood pressure, and whether we experience various pains,” says Benson. “We now know we can influence the
activity of these genes by evoking the relaxation response. We not only
observe a decrease in the stress response, but also beneficial effects to the immune system and a favorable impact on the aging process.”
9. NEEDLES
So many ways to get injected these days, so little time. But in fact, most people turn to the likes of Botox, Restylane, Radiesse, and Perlane because of time — and the battle against it. Nichole Brennan at Back Bay’s Skin Deep Med Spa is a specialist in that particular cause. “I restore and soften,” she says. “I don’t try to change anyone’s look in any way. People should look rested, not different from themselves.”

Such are the claims of most contemporary plastic surgeons. Brennan’s departure? Convenience.  She deals mostly in fillers (“I love injections for immediate results,” she says), which require little or no healing time. And yet, with so many medispa injectors out there right now, it’s tough to tell who among them has an eye — or any taste — that’s trustworthy.

She bolsters cheekbones, nasal-labial lines, and the jawline with the calcium-based Radiesse (which lasts roughly a year); she plumps under eye areas, lips, and the tops of hands with Perlane or Juvéderm (both are hyaluronic acid — a sugar gel that lasts about six months). And while she uses Botox in the usual brow areas, she also has a trick: As age sets in, the nose keeps growing. Brennan hits the area just below the nostril and above the lip with a few small injections to relax it and perk the nose slightly. “Some people think that facelifts make you look younger, but it’s the opposite,” she says. “It’s not about looking pulled-back and harsh. It’s about giving back volume lost as our faces age.” $300–$2,000; Skin Deep Med spa, 231 Newbury St., 2nd fl., Boston, 617-266-7546.
10. MORE SEX
Yes, we saved the best for last. There’s been significant research conducted about the relationship between sex and good health. From a reduced risk of heart attack and cancer, to bladder control, to an improved sense of smell, researchers have repeatedly linked humankind’s oldest pastime to
overall well-being.

But the biggest physical boost it offers, not surprisingly, is improving how you feel. “Indeed, good sex can save your life, and in the most efficient way,” says Dr. Aline Zoldbrod (better known as Dr. Z.), sex therapist at Winchester Hospital. “It can make you feel calm and centered when you’re stressed, feel energized when you feel lethargic, make you feel pleasure when you feel pain, and even make you feel young once your youth has fled.”

Mind you, not every roll in the hay is created equal. Dr. Z. is convinced that “hookup culture” sex is not likely to provide the same physiological benefits. “It’s kind of the difference between eating a gallon of generic-brand ice cream versus eating a smaller scoop of gourmet gelato. They’re both dessert, but if you have the quality scoop and savor it, that would make a memory that could make you smile long after the moment has passed.”

In her books, Sex Talk and Sex Smart, Dr. Z. emphasizes the importance of honest talking and mutual trust to help ensure a quality, beneficial sexual experience. And while hormones released during sex, such as oxytocin, adrenaline, and dopamine, might be the clinical cause of the renewed vigor and sense of contentment we feel afterward, Dr. Z. says the psychological benefits of good sex are equally important for staying younger longer. “When a person experiences a fulfilling sex life, they feel better about themselves and better about being alive,” she says. “At its core, youthfulness is aliveness.” Sign us up.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/01/ten-ways-to-look-younger/