6 (More!) Things Nobody Explains to You About Aging
5. Your legs start to resemble a roadmap
Why: Maybe you noticed a couple of faint squiggles around your ankles a few years back. Now you see blue lines, like kudzu gone wild, creeping behind your knees, over your thighs. Though no one knows exactly what causes them, visible veins are probably influenced by genetics and hormones. Obesity and standing or sitting for long periods may also exacerbate blood pooling in the legs, which can cause some veins to swell and rise toward the surface of the skin.
What to do about it: If the squiggles are relatively light, a coat of self-tanner will be enough to camouflage them. A leg bronzer will also mask veins or broken capillaries—and wash off at the end of the day. (Yves Saint Laurent Make-Up Leg Mousse imparts both a veil of color and a cooling sensation.) When you want more serious coverage, makeup artist Mally Roncal recommends blending a concealer on top of veins, painting the makeup on with a brush, and then distributing it evenly with your fingers. (Choose something pretty heavy, like Dermablend Leg & Body Cover Creme.) A few pats of translucent powder will set the color, but you'll still want to avoid water sports and games of footsie for the rest of the day.
Want to dissolve that roadmap altogether? The tiniest veins can be zapped with a Vbeam, YAG, or diode laser. The beam destroys the walls of the veins (it will feel like a few quick rubber-band snaps), causing them to disappear within about two weeks. You'll need about three treatments. If the veins are large enough to be threaded with a tiny needle, sclerotherapy—the injection of various solutions into the blood vessels—is the best option, says Tina Alster, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The solution irritates the vein's lining and the resulting tissue inflammation causes the blood vessel to collapse and fade. The treatment takes 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of veins, and is nearly painless, but you may experience mild redness and swelling along the course of the treated veins. (Avoid sclerotherapy immediately before or during menstruation because of heightened sensitivity.) Expect to pay about $300 to $500 per treatment. Hate needles? You could try vascular laser treatments instead, which are a little more uncomfortable because they zap the veins with heat, says Dr. Alster.
Bottom line: The best time to have treatments for spider veins is in the winter, when your legs are covered and more easily protected from the sun. Tanned skin reduces visibility of the veins during the procedures and increases the risk of post-treatment hyperpigmentation. Be forewarned: You won't be vein-free forever; after a couple of years, new ones will probably form.
6. Your lipstick starts to bleed into the lines around your mouth
Why: I have those lines, and they're called perioral rhytids. And because when I develop something—especially something undesirable—I'm always curious about how it got there, I asked Stuart H. Kaplan, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA Medical Center, what causes them. He told me: repeated pursing of the lips; sun exposure; loss of subcutaneous fat, collagen, and elastin, which form the structural support of the skin, and of hyaluronic acid, which moisturizes; and genetic predisposition.
What to do about it: As for getting rid of these annoying lines, if you're a smoker, forget it. You don't smoke? Good! But if, like me, some of your favorite ways to pass the time include sucking a thick chocolate malted through a straw, kissing, slurping martinis, and kissing—oh, the louche life of the beauty editor!—you may be fighting a losing battle. On the other hand, you can prevent the lines from getting worse by applying sunscreen to the area between your lip and nose and using a topical retinoid, like Retin-A, Renova, Avage, or Tazorac, which helps build collagen and thicken the skin. If you believe you need the help of a power tool, then an ablative laser treatment, which resurfaces the skin, might be the ticket, says Kaplan. He also suggests injections of small amounts of Botox to prevent pursing, but warns of the risk of losing the ability to enunciate certain consonants. (That's all I needed to hear to reject that option.) Finally, Kaplan suggests the filler Restylane to plump up the creases. Results generally last up to six months.
Bottom line: A good offense is the best defense, so use sunscreen and a retinoid to prevent the lines from getting deeper.
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From the June 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.