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3 Skin-Saving Treatments That Can Save You Money Too Comments

  • By Susan Gregory Thomas
  • March 27, 2013

woman applying moisturizer

A few years ago, I was writing a story for Vogue magazine on new skincare treatments, when I got the straight dope in hushed tones from a top-rated Manhattan cosmetic surgeon. Only three things actually work, she said: exfoliation, retinol and injections.

Everything else—expensive serums, creams, masks—do nothing for texture, spots, or wrinkles.

You heard right: nothing.

As an aging sucker for marketing, this was far and away the best beauty tip I’ve ever gotten. Even better? What she recommended was darned inexpensive (at least, compared to the range of pricier products and procedures out there).

The best scrub, she said, is nearly free: a simple paste of water and baking soda. Scour gently three or four times a week, and your skin will shine.

Exfoliation is key because it sands away dirt and dead skin cells, not only stimulating new cell growth but making it possible for retinol-based products to get in and do their spot- and fine line-removing work. (Retinol is a similar but less potent variation of the vitamin A-derivative tretinoin, an FDA-approved wrinkle treatment available by prescription only.)

You don’t need to pay up for retinol creams either. There are excellent ones available at drugstores for under $25 (think Oil of Olay and RoC).

Everyone has her own convictions about injections—Botox for erasing brow lines, Juvederm and sundry fillers for plumping out frowny grooves—and I’m not here to opine.

But my surgeon source did share one surprising tip: It’s registered nurses, not doctors, you want to seek out for skin injections. Doctors are carvers. Nurses are shot experts. (Look for one with three to four years of cosmetic injection experience.) Even better: injections given by nurses are typically less expensive. So you can save face—and save money!

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