SCHAUMBURG, IL (November 6, 2003) - When consumers visit the cosmetic counter at a department store or walk through the skin care aisle at the local drugstore, they are met by a wide variety of anti-aging products available for the face and body. Magazine articles are also filled with information about cosmetic procedures that can reverse the signs of aging. However, all these options may only puzzle consumers and they are not alone. A recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) finds 94 percent of women are confused by the myriad of anti-aging treatments available both over-the-counter and by prescription, and those cosmetic treatments available in a doctor's office.
"The best place for consumers to find answers to their questions about aging skin is from their dermatologist, since we are the experts in the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of aging skin," said dermatologist Arielle N.B. Kauvar, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY. "Potentially, women could save time, money and confusion by simply seeking out the advice of a dermatologist, rather than guessing what might work for them."
The survey found that more than 69 percent of women are very or somewhat bothered by the visible signs of aging, particularly fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, facial hair and dryness. As women age these concerns increase, as well as the amount of time they spend each day on their skin care regimen. In fact, in women over 45, many noted that their facial skin made them feel older than they were on the inside.
"Women are bombarded with images of the 'ideal woman,' most of who are definitely not showing signs of aging. This has set a standard of beauty which many women want to achieve," said Dr. Kauvar. "As women age, they may become more anxious to achieve this ideal which can only lead to frustration as they continually search for answers to address their aging skin."
The most confusion seems to be in understanding the difference between topical treatments that are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
"The most important thing consumers can do to prevent aging skin and further damage is to protect themselves from the sun," recommended Dr. Kauvar. "Consumers should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays from the sun, and has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher."
"Consumers should also look for over-the-counter topical products with ingredients such as the anti-oxidants vitamins C & E, and a dermatologist can recommend the most effective form of these products," added Dr. Kauvar. "An alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) product can also help remove the dead outer layers of skin, leaving the face with a fresh, younger appearance. AHAs are particularly beneficial for wrinkles around the mouth and eyes, which are two areas of the face where women would like to see the most improvement."
In fact, when asked to choose one area of the face where they would like to make a change, women responded that they would spend time and money on their eyes (47 percent) and their mouth (18 percent). The skin around these areas is the most delicate on the face and is where sun damage first begins to show. The imperfections in these areas are highlighted throughout the day when people laugh, smile or squint.
"I encourage my patients to bring in the products they are currently using on their skin," said Dr. Kauvar. "By examining their skin, I can help develop an individual treatment plan that works best for their skin type and lifestyle. I can also prescribe products with stronger concentrations of active ingredients that may be more beneficial to their skin."
One of the prescription treatments available to reverse the signs of aging is retinoids, a vitamin A cream that can help reduce the signs of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots.
"As long as patients have realistic expectations of the kind of improvements they can achieve, both over-the-counter or prescription treatments remain a valuable tool in the treatment of aging skin," remarked Dr. Kauvar.
However, consumers are not just confused by over-the-counter and prescription treatments - cosmetic treatment procedures for aging skin are also puzzling for women. More than 78 percent of them reported uncertainty about the benefits of these types of procedures, how long their results will last and how invasive the procedures are.
One of the latest cosmetic treatment options is non-ablative laser skin rejuvenation where a high energy laser or light source is passed over the skin and absorbed by the water in the skin cells, thereby plumping up wrinkles and fine lines. Consumers may also want to consider microdermabrasion, which is known as a "lunchtime" procedure where crystals of aluminum oxide are blown onto the skin and then removed with a vacuum line thereby removing the outer layers of the skin. Chemical peels, where a chemical solution is placed on the face to remove the outer, dead layer of skin, revealing new, fresher looking skin underneath, can also be effective.
Injectible fillers and botulinum toxin are other options consumers may consider for the treatment of their aging skin. Fillers are injected or surgically placed in the skin to reduce winkles, furrows and hollows in the face, while botulinum toxin can be carefully injected to relax the muscles to soften frown lines, crow's feet and other wrinkles.
"All of these options are perfect for people with busy lifestyles who do not want the inconvenience of a long recovery," said Dr. Kauvar. "Each of these procedures can often be performed in under an hour, require very little or no downtime, and allow healing to occur rapidly. Most important of all is that there is minimal discomfort to patients during these procedures."
Dr. Kauvar encourages patients who are considering a cosmetic treatment to ask their physician questions such as what are the doctor's credentials; is he/she a board-certified dermatologist or other appropriately trained physician; what results can be expected; how long is the recuperation period; what are the risks; and what will the procedure cost?
"As more anti-aging treatments are introduced, I expect the amount of consumer confusion will continue to increase in direct proportion to the number of treatment options for aging skin," said Dr. Kauvar. "A dermatologist's recommendations can help consumers make informed decisions to reduce their signs of aging."
The survey results were determined by a random sample Internet survey of 2,079 American women conducted in August 2003. The survey was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Procter & Gamble.
The American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of over 14,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM or www.aad.org.
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