Photo: Daniel Gabbay
Ten years ago, we were just starting to hear buzz about Botox. Lasers seemed totally sci-fi. And you probably didn't think you'd soon be using clear plastic strips to bleach your teeth at home. So what innovations will the next decade bring? Will you be tightening your skin with a wand? Not quite. But you may be erasing lines with a topical gel, or slimming your love handles in one afternoon, without a single incision. We canvassed dermatologists, plastic surgeons, dentists, and chemists about what's ahead, and found that the future is looking bright—and very beautiful.
More Effective Sun Protection
The sun does a number on your skin: dark spots, wrinkles...not to mention potential cancers. The best protection against all of this damage is sunscreen. And it will soon be more powerful. In the next several years, the FDA will likely approve a proposal requiring sunscreen bottles to carry an SPF value (which denotes protection only from UVB rays) and a designation of its UVA protection level. "The new rules will ensure that sunscreen manufacturers are providing adequate protection from UVA rays," says Steven Wang, MD, director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Once the proposed guidelines go into effect, the FDA will also likely green-light Tinosorb, a sunscreen ingredient that absorbs a wide spectrum of UVA and UVB rays and is currently approved in Europe and South America.
A Slimmer Waistline, Trimmer Hips—No Surgery Necessary
It sounds too good to be true, but it may soon be a reality: Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons are confident that in the coming years they'll be able to eliminate unwanted fat painlessly, without the invasiveness and risks of liposuction. One new technology uses high-intensity focused ultrasound waves to penetrate the skin and break up the fat cells that lie about three-quarters of an inch beneath the surface. Once these cells are destroyed, they are eliminated from the body (some are metabolized as calories and the rest are processed through the liver as waste, along with normal dietary fats). A machine that has harnessed this technology, UltraShape, is currently cleared for use in 57 countries, and its manufacturer is pursuing FDA approval. The UltraShape treatments are said to be relatively painless—"just a slight tingly sensation," says Canadian dermatologist Mark Lupin, MD. Three treatments, spaced two weeks apart, are usually required, with noticeable results seen within a month after each. "On average, patients ultimately see about a two-inch reduction in circumference in the treated area," Lupin says. "And we've seen as much as three inches."
Another new body-contouring option is Zeltiq, a machine that uses intense cold to destroy fat cells (which are more vulnerable to freezing temperatures than surrounding tissue). Like the ultrasound treatment, Zeltiq requires no needles, incisions, anesthesia, or recovery time. It's already FDA approved to cool the skin during other dermatologic procedures, and some doctors are starting to use it off-label to reduce fat. "These technologies are still in the early stages, but they will be perfected over the next decade and we will finally have the ability to eliminate fat without surgery," says Sadick. Big caveat: UltraShape and Zeltiq are not designed to remove large volumes of fat; doctors stress that the machines are most effective on areas of "localized fat," like love handles or back bulges.
Prettier Skin, Without a Doctor's Visit
The past year has given us some effective at-home laser hair-removal options (we've seen impressive results from the Silk'n SensEpil, $499, and the Tria Laser Hair Removal System, $595)—but hair-free legs are just the beginning. "In the not too distant future, lasers and intense pulsed light machines that remove pigment, soften lines, and treat acne will be sitting on bathroom counters next to our toothbrushes," says Tina Alster, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. First up: An at-home skin-resurfacing laser will be available for purchase in doctors' offices next year. The device pinpoints small areas of skin with every treatment to gradually improve discoloration and fine lines.
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