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Look Younger Without Signing Up for the Full Heidi Montag

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Elizabeth Thorp:I think it was the combination of just having a birthday and seeing a recent photo of me with my hot, twentysomething friend, DJTommy McFly. Next to Tommy's milky-smooth skin -- unblemished by the elements of time and stress -- my forehead made me look like a champion breed Shar-Pei. Or maybe it was the time I was dancing with Tommy at a club and a fellow dancer said, "Dude, your mom is hot!" to Tommy, nodding at me. Ouch. I was one of the only 40-year-old Botox virgins that I knew. Clearly that was going to change ... and fast.

heidi montag

Before taking the plunge, I started doing research. I found there are many ways for women to age gracefully that don't involve pulling a full-on Heidi Montag.

Here's what I've learned:

Botoxis the most popular cosmetic treatment. "While the economy seems to have stabilized, moms are still being frugal," explains Dr. Miles Wendell, a Washington-area plastic surgeon. "Botox and fillers allow them to freshen their appearance without breaking the bank." Injections can improve the appearance of worry lines, frown lines, laugh lines, crow's feet and other so-called "dynamic" wrinkles. Botox, a neurotoxin, blocks impulses from the nerves to the facial muscles that are related to expression lines. Botox paralyzes the muscles so they don't contract. After treatment, the overlying skin becomes smooth and unwrinkled, while the untreated facial muscles contract in a normal fashion, allowing normal facial expression.

When I was doing my research, one of the most "naturally beautiful" women in Washington told me, "I love Botox! When I see friends -- hell, even people on the street -- who are not taking advantage of this miraculous toxin, I want to shout to them, 'Run, do not walk, to your nearest dermatologist and get Botox!' It is simple, nearly painless and can take years of worry off your brow. Botox is truly a gift." I made my appointment that day. Botox can cost from $400 to $2,000, depending on where you live and how many units are used.

Fillerslike Restylane and Juvederm can give amazing results to people who have lost volume in their faces with aging. It can also fill in nasolabial folds (the comma lines around your mouth) and tear troughs (the lower-eye indents that make you look so tired). These hyaluronic acid-based fillers have proven to be safe and effective for the correction of facial lines and scars. They can also be used to enhance lip and cheek size and contour and restore facial symmetry.

Improvement with hyaluronic acid fillers is temporary, with benefits typically lasting from three to six months, depending on the individual. Discomfort is minor, but bruising can occur, especially around the sensitive eye area. Always ask the practitioner how many of these procedures they do a year, and to see their before-and-after portfolio. Fillers can cost $400 to $2,000, depending on which filler and how many syringes are used.

Fraxel laser fractional resurfacing can help turn the clock back on aging by reducing sun damage, enlarged pores, wrinkles, skin discolorations and acne scars. Fraxel is a unique approach to repairing aging and sun-damaged skin pixel by pixel, spot by spot -- with little downtime. Repeated treatments will encourage new dermis to grow. Fraxel is expensive, but has permanent benefits. Unlike fillers, the resurfacing of your skin is long-lasting, provided you wear sunscreen. The average Fraxel treatment costs $2,000.

Dr. Shafer, a respected plastic surgeon in Manhattan, performs "Mommy Makeovers" using a unique and individualized combination of procedures designed to counteract the physical effects of childbearing and breastfeeding to restore and enhance your post-baby bod. These procedures may include but are not limited to:

  • Liposuction / Body Contouring / Mini-Lipo

  • Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

  • Breast Lift, Augmentation, Reduction

  • Buttocks Lift

  • Labiaplasty (Wow -- saving this one for a separate column!)

  • Neck Lift
A "Mommy Makeover" can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $50,000, depending on your location and how many procedures you have done. Many women choose to bundle some of these cosmetic services, because, as one woman put it, "I'm going under and will be bruised and recovering anyway."

My Botox experience

I was nervous -- really nervous. I also bruise like a ripe peach and was terrified of looking like Rocky. I went to a woman that I had heard many, many women recommend. These friends are pretty and fresh-faced, so I decided to try their Botox babe. (We'll call her "Ms. J.") She evaluated my lines and told me I had deep-set eyes and that Botox above the brow could possibly cause my lids to droop. She recommended a bit of Botox on my upper forehead and around my eyes for those smiley crinkles. I told her I wanted a natural look and movement, not the frozen, "Oh no!" wide-eyed look. We put ice on the areas for a few seconds, then Ms. J did her injections quickly and almost painlessly. I was a little bit red at the injection sites, but there was no bruising or swelling at all. I learned that Botox takes a while to work; in about two days, I felt a different sensation on my forehead ... a mild sensation of being tighter. I love Ms. J's results -- I do look "fresher," and it's very natural. She recommended another treatment for me, and based on her Botox performance and her portfolio of befores-and-afters, I'm saving up!

Before you decide on any procedure, do your research and consult with a few practitioners. Also, check it's an open forum for real-life reviews of cosmetic procedures, with a "Was it worth it?" index for each procedure.

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