Fact: I have reached the point where I am scared of my skin. Frightened by it. Let me back up and say that I am not suffering from anything contagious, nor am I on meds. But, lately, it is like someone dimmed the lights behind my skin—it looks dull, speckled, a bit saggy and really, really tired. When I wake up in the morning and examine my face in the bathroom, I am terrified to see the signs of age catching up with me so quickly. (And I am not even looking in one of those big magnifying mirrors.)
Not that I deserve much pity. We all get older. But having gone through life with crystal-clear skin with just enough “squish” (you know, when you push down, it springs back), I am now feeling unjustly punished. I apply SPF and I don’t smoke, so the only crime I have committed is making it to my thirties. So I have decided to 1) buy myself a pair of Tom Ford cat-eye sunglasses (everything looks better through the smoky lenses) and 2) ask Philadelphia’s top estheticians what to do about my deepening creases.
My first call is to Judy Kim, a licensed medical esthetician at 3000BC WellMed Spa (8439 Germantown Ave.; 3000bc.com), who has spent years in the medi-spa trenches. She recommends the new Rehab Peel, a nextgeneration chemical peel comprised of pore-refining salicylic and glycolic acids plus wrinkle-fighting retinol. As a bonus add-on, I could do a session of skin-firming LED red light. “This speeds healing so you see a huge difference in your skin’s brightness and texture,” she promises. I am intrigued. I would need to repeat the peel/LED process every three to four weeks (which would run me about $265 each visit), but I could prolong my glow at home with the spa’s 3000BC Clinical-Skin Illuminator pads infused with kojic acid, green tea antioxidants and hydroquinone. “It’s like a multivitamin for your face,” Kim says.
Judy Kim of 3000BC WellMed Spa
Talk of vitamins gets me thinking about firming my skin from the inside out. So I phone Betsy Rubenstone, the director of medical skincare at Deme (2200 Arch St., Ste. 102; Devon Square Two, Ste. 100, 744 Lancaster Ave., Wayne), who tells me about Ultherapy, a new, noninvasive treatment that harnesses the power of sound waves to tighten and lift the skin from under the surface. “This is the most exciting antiaging advancement I have seen in the past 20 years,” she says. My pulse quickens! “The process heats the tissues at the epidermal junction to stimulate collagen and elastin, without needing surgery or needles.” I would be in and out in about 45 minutes, and although the procedure stings—Rubenstone says the amount of pain depends on a person’s tolerance—I could pop a painkiller and not feel a thing. Afterward, the payoff is profound. “If you have significant wrinkling, your skin will be 20 to 50 percent firmer and stay that way for up to two years,” says Rubenstone. The treatment can cost up to $3,500, and patience is required. “It takes about three months for the full effects to manifest, as the body needs time to regenerate collagen and elastin,” she tells me.
I have never been known for my patience, so I decide to explore some immediate fixes and turn to Ellen Cash, a medical esthetician with Joseph Anthony Retreat Spa and Salon (243 W. Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills; josephanthony.com). “The biggest push in skincare right now is combining resurfacing technology with pharmaceutical- level stem-cell creams,” she says. Her preferred skin-zapper is the Portrait Plasma Skin Resurfacing device, which delivers thermal energy at and below the surface to minimize wrinkles, discoloration and uneven texture. “I’ll be honest, you will be flaky and red for about two weeks while the skin sheds to reveal a new layer underneath. But then you’ll look like a new person.” As a follow-up, I could slather on Derma MD’s Pink Plasma Regenerating Cell Serum, a stem-cell elixir composed of snail secretions (yes, seriously) and apple pectin. “Stem cells are the future of skincare,” Cash says. “They work to improve oxygenation and cellular renewal to make skin incredibly luminous and smooth.”
Joseph Anthony Retreat Spa and Salon
I decide that my quest for beauty shouldn’t end with webbed feet or some other potentially bizarre side effect. But I could handle a slimmer physique. Perhaps what I really need is an antiaging solution from the neck down. Dr. Evan Zelinger at Abington Aesthetic & Laser Medical Center (11 N. Second St.; 235 N. Easton Road, Glenside; abingtonaesthetic.com) piques my curiosity by telling me about Coolsculpting, a recently FDAapproved technology that freezes fat cells so the body excretes them naturally over a period of two to four months. “This treatment is for someone who exercises and eats well but just can’t get rid of a few stubborn areas of flab, like on the abs or thighs,” Dr. Zelinger informs me, as I picture myself in a Tomas Maier bikini sans body jiggle. So, will the process feel like frostbite? “There’s a cool sensation, but after a while you don’t notice it. I have patients who fall asleep during the treatment,” Dr. Zelinger says. “The skin is a little tender the next day, but that goes away quickly.” Treatments start at $650, but the results are permanent. What if I eat pounds of brie and become sloth-like? “You can regain fat, but it would mostly be in other areas,” he says. Visions of fat toes and chubby wrists now dance in my head.
My last meeting is with Dr. Eric Bernstein, founder of the Centers for Cosmetic Laser Surgery (32 Parking Plaza, Ste. 200, Ardmore; dermguy.com), who fills me in on his new skincare line, LaseResults—which, as the name implies, aims to erase wrinkles with laser-like efficiency. It is boosted with CRV-8 Complex, Dr. Bernstein’s patent-pending blend of resveratrol, peptides and other wonderful age-delaying compounds, so I am inclined to believe it might actually work. The Intensive Focused Repair Lotion sounds especially divine: It’s a night treatment that strips away dead skin and stimulates “extracellular matrix production” to reduce pores, add clarity and impart a velvety glow by morning. All that, and for only $85. Of course, Dr. Bernstein does let it slip that he got in a new Fraxel laser—the Bright + Clear—that would blast away lines with the force of an aggressive laser but without the usual pain and downtime.
Still, I think I might start with a cream and see where I go next. Maybe all I need to do is to slip on those Tom Ford sunglasses and install soft lights in the bathroom. As far as quick fixes go, that’s as easy as it gets.