You respect anyone who wants to get Botox (or other injectables, like Juvederm), but you’re not there yet. Maybe you’ll never be there because you can’t fathom needles or their price tag makes these wrinkle-reducing options out of your budget. After all, botulinum toxin injections cost, on average, $397, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Luckily, there are other things you can do for your skin to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Here are five to consider:
1. Use Sunscreen, the Holy Grail Anti-Aging Product
Believe it or not, but you have to wear sunscreen every day, whether sunny or stormy. “Sunscreen is the most important anti-aging product you can use. Ninety percent of the aging on our skin is from the sun,” says Robert Anolik, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
And while prevention is the best strategy when it comes to aging, daily SPF does something more. After applying a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily for a year, before-and-after photos of participant’s complexions showed that skin texture, clarity, and hyperpigmentation improved up to 52 percent, per a study published in December 2016 in Dermatologic Surgery.
2. Try Retinoids, the Ultimate Skin-Plumping and Firming Superheroes
Among all the available products, if there’s one you buy, make it a retinoid. “A daily sunscreen and nightly retinoid can actually prevent the need for injectables,” says Lauren Ploch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Aiken, South Carolina.
Now that you’re fully on team sunscreen, let’s talk retinoids. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that can increase collagen, the protein that makes up skin’s supportive structure, per a 2019 StatPearls article. This protein can lessen the look of fine lines and wrinkles. "They also increase the number of cells that make collagen (called fibroblasts) in our skin, keeping it plump and firm,” says Dr. Ploch.
Research referenced in an October 2014 review in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine shows that it takes several weeks to see improvement after starting a topical retinoid, so be patient.
There’s also a chance retinoids will be irritating to your skin. In that event, Dr. Anolik suggests using it every other night and moisturizing after.
And if you’re pregnant, take a pause on your retinoid — this skin-care product has been associated with birth defects in some research, though more studies are needed, according to past research.
3. Schedule an In-Office Laser Treatment, a Needle-Free Way to De-Age Your Skin
You want to go beyond topicals, but you don’t want to go for a needle. Ask your dermatologist whether one of the many lasers available would be right for your skin needs. “Resurfacing lasers do so many things, including reducing brown spots and blood vessels, remodeling collagen, and increasing collagen production,” says Anolik.
While lasers of yesterday used to leave skin angry and fiery red, they’re now more sophisticated and can mildly resurface while causing minimal injury to the skin, he says. The lasers he likes for reducing the signs of aging include PicoSure and Clear + Brilliant. “We can pick and choose from these with patients. They each have their benefits, and I often alternate different strategies at different visits,” says Anolik.
That said, know that these treatments can be expensive. According to ASPS, laser skin resurfacing treatments cost about $1,000 to $2,000, on average. Still, they can do things that injections can’t, such as targeting discoloration. Talk to your doctor about your goals and if you may be a good candidate for one of the many lasers on the market.
4. Ask Your Dermatologist About Microneedling, Which Can Fade Scars and Smooth Wrinkles
One of the leading skin-care trends is microneedling. “Microneedling is a less invasive procedure that can treat wrinkles and scarring,” says Ploch. It can also be great for people with dark skin types because it’s less likely to cause hyperpigmentation than laser- and light-based devices, according to a small study published in August 2019 in Dermatologic Surgery.
The roller-like device is studded with micro-fine needles on the outside. It’s then rolled across the skin, and the needles penetrate its outermost layers. These pricks trigger skin’s healing process, boosting collagen production, noted a study published in April 2015 in Experimental Dermatology.
People who use it say it’s painless, and you can even buy these dermal rollers for use at home, such as on Dermstore.com, though the results won’t be as noticeable as those you’d see from a dermatologist’s office. This procedure can cost anywhere between $100 and $700, Manish Shah, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Denver, recently told Everyday Health.
5. Use Dietary Supplements, Which May Help Fight Wrinkles
Along with sun protection and dermatology procedures, there are some skin supplements that have research-backed benefits. For example, in a double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the July 2019 issue of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, participants who took a morning and nightly multivitamin saw a significant reduction in wrinkle appearance compared with a placebo group after three months. The supplements come from a company called Lumity and contained antioxidant vitamins A, C, D3, and E, as well as a variety of minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids.
Similarly, in another study published in December 2013 in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, people taking collagen peptides benefited from a reduction in eye-area wrinkles after four weeks compared with placebo. After eight weeks, their skin had developed a greater amount of collagen and elastin.
That said, there isn’t a wealth of human research on collagen supplements, are more studies are needed before they’re recommended.
6. Follow a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle, Two Musts for Good Skin
When it comes to smart skin-care habits, there’s no replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle. In the fight to keep lines and wrinkles at bay, your daily habits matter. Smoking, inactivity, and a diet high in sugary foods were linked to increased markers of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), per a study published in March 2018 in the Journal of International Medical Research. Higher levels of AGEs are associated with older age and are a factor in skin aging and collagen breakdown, noted a review published in November 2015 in Skin Therapy Letter, so make sure to continue to regularly exercise, eat a balanced diet, and stay away from smoking or quit if you’ve developed the habit.
Another study, published in May 2019 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, showed that eating fruit, yellow vegetables (these contain powerful antioxidants called carotenoids), and soy, and staying away from red meat led to less wrinkling over time for women. Staying active, on the other hand, may help lessen the risk of obesity and diabetes, as well as decrease stress, all factors that can help keep aging AGEs at bay, according to the March 2018 study.
Another to-do: Get adequate and quality sleep. For adults, that would be seven to nine hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In a study published in January 2015 in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology on Caucasian women, those who were characterized as “good sleepers” had less skin aging, and their skin was better able to recover after sun exposure. What’s more, they thought they looked more youthful too. And who can argue with that?