In last summer’s blockbuster hit Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise impressed moviegoers by doing his own stunts, most notably the one where he hung from the side of an Airbus while the aircraft took off over the UK. Remarkable, yes, but what really impressed me is how the 52-year-old actor has seemingly stopped the aging process.
Tom Cruise looks good. He looks young. And he looks young without any evidence of weird, stretchy-pully plastic surgery. Could the mega-star have access to a time machine?
“In the old days, surgeons used to pull and tighten skin, but they missed the part of replacing volume,” says Karen Nern, MD, of Vail Dermatology. “Now they replace volume, as well as looking to improve the skin’s texture. As we get older, we get thinner and thinner and you want to add volume back. I think that is what Tom Cruise is doing. He has about the same volume he had when he was younger, and he has a really good person maintaining his volume loss, a little at a time, to keep it from changing.”
Most of the evidence of aging (wrinkles, brown spots, dullness and broken capillaries) –basically all the reasons people seek cosmetic dermatology – is related more to sun exposure and less to chronological age, Nern says. Just peek at a breast or butt, for example. Hidden from the sun, those areas of the body are still smooth and luminous, not spotted and wrinkled, even in someone’s 50s. Sun exposure breaks down collagen in the skin, reducing elasticity, and creates pigmentation and poor texture.
“Young skin, like a baby, is very uniform and it reflects light. It’s very radiant. As we age, our skin’s surface becomes irregular and dull and it doesn’t reflect light as well,” Nern says.
Prevention is key, which is why most cosmetic dermatologists preach sun protection as the most effective strategy for age maintenance. Use sunscreen and a good skin care line, products that contain topical lightening agents and antioxidants, like Vitamin C, Retinol and Vitamin A, which help gather free radicals so they don’t damage the collagen and elasticity in the skin. Antioxidants help produce collagen and promote cell turnover.
But what if you haven’t been sporting a wide brim hat your whole life and are guilty of using bar soap on your face and rubbing baby oil on your body to actually accentuate the sun’s tanning powers? Can you reverse the damage and rewind the clock? The answer is … yes, to a degree.
Pump up the volume and freeze face
To put it simply, there are basically two camps of cosmetic dermatology. The first camp includes fillers and Botox, both of which require needles. Fillers (usually made up of hyaluronic acid, a natural substance in the body that helps maintain skin volume and hydration as well as joint lubrication and cushioning) add volume and lift back to the aging, sagging, thinning face. These are products that are injected under the skin to help soften the appearance of fine and deep lines in the face. Results can last from six months to two years.
Botox is arguably the most common cosmetic dermatology procedure. These injections are made from botulinum toxin A and reduce or eliminate facial wrinkles, squint lines, crows’ feet, etc. Botox blocks the nerve signal that tells the muscle to contract. The muscle still functions, it just never receives the message. Wrinkles begin to fade within 24 hours and results typically last up to 4 months.
“A lot of people are afraid of Botox, that it’s injuring the something, but that’s not the case,” Nern says. “Botox is actually used more in the medical world than it is cosmetic for Cerebral Palsy and bladder spasms.”
Nern says there are 25 years of safety data and Botox is deemed highly safe. In fact, recent studies have found that it actually helps with depression. Data can’t conclude why – whether it’s because people look younger or are scowling less and thus having better day-to-day interactions – but Botox reportedly makes one happier.
Buff, peel and shine
The second camp of cosmetic dermatology is surface work, including procedures like chemical peels, Microdermabrasion with Dermalinfusion, laser resurfacing and photofacials. These procedures improve texture, color and luminosity of the skin, usually caused from sun damage.
At Mountain Dermatology Specialists in Edwards, Jean Liu Urquhart, M.D., handles the injections, while aestheticians Karen Dammen and Jena Holt perform the exfoliation and laser work.
Dammen says that most people come to her with hopes of lightening pigmentation, like brown spots, freckling and broken capillaries, from sun and aging. For the least invasive procedure, she recommends Microdermabrasion with Dermalinfusion.
“Microdermabrasion is a mechanical exfoliation that resurfaces skin on the epidermis layer. It’s a pretty fantastic machine. You can then choose an infusion to brighten, hydrate or add Vitamin C or more of clarifying infusion for more acne skin types,” Dammen says. “It smoothes the surface of the skin pretty intensely but with no down time.”
Dammen says men are particularly good candidates for Mircrodermabrasion because their skin tends to be thicker and oilier with larger poles.
“It really helps to smooth their skin but it’s not as touchy as a regular facial. Men like their machines, right?” she says.
Going deeper into the water layer of the skin is laser work, procedures like photofacials and non-ablative fractional resurfacing, great for 40s and up, which is when you have the money to do it, Dammen says.
Fractional resurfacing targets age spots, improves skin tone and texture and treats wrinkles, scars and stretch marks. Fractional resurfacing heats the skin to stimulate the body to produce new collagen, which helps the skin appear more smooth and clear. Several treatments typically are required to see results.
“There’s no real down time with laser work, your skin looks like have a sunburn for 24 to 48 hours,” Dammen says.
Results more than skin deep
Eagle resident Megan Green has seen Dr. Nern for cosmetic dermatology for the past 10 years. She’s done “a little bit of everything,” her husband chimes in from the background. Green is extremely candid about it, she’s done fillers and Botox for wrinkles, fractional resurfacing for her dark spots, and most recently, injections to shrink “the flabby part under my neck.”
“It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. I don’t want to look 20. I don’t want weird lips or weird eyes. I’m in my 50s. I want to look like I’ve slept. I want to look alert and healthy and well rested,” Green says.
For Green, results from cosmetic dermatology are more than skin deep: She feels better about herself.
“When you look better, you feel better about yourself. I don’t want to spend too much money, but I do budget for it,” she says.
Green also recommends using an active skin care line. She likes Obagi and SkinMedica’s serum TNS, which Green calls “your little black dress. You need to have it.”
Using a good skin care line in tandem with fillers, Botox and surface work, these age maintenance techniques can stall the aging process and reverse sun damage to make you look and feel younger. Hello, Tom Cruise.