Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Good skin care makes it possible to look good at any age with a minimum of makeup. Four women received Superface makeovers at Susan Page Modeling agency to demonstrate how little it takes to enhance looks once one gets over the notion of makeup as camouflage. Pictured without makeup, from left, are Lisa Ansai, Diane McGaughey, Alex Maehara and Tanya Paik. See below for portraits showing their makeovers along with their ages.


Medical treatments abound
but pale beside prevention

By Nadine Kam

OK, so our faces didn't freeze in exactly the way moms and dads warned to stop us from making embarrassing funny faces as kids, but ... every feeling of joy, sadness, anger and stress has a way of grafting itself onto human skin, in the form of furrows and creases.

Put a positive spin on 'em and call them smile, laugh or character lines if you want. "It just means I've had a wonderful life," said 37-year-old part-time model Alex Maehara of her laugh lines, before adding, "How come everything that sucks is supposed to build character?"

A phenomenon of today's youth- and entertainment-obsessed society is that we tend to see the result of every celebrity's appointment with a scalpel or needle. As naive as we were in the beginning, attributing their good looks to good genes, we now know those 30-year-old "masks" are a little surreal for actresses now in their 50s and 60s. From the time Barbara Hershey plumped her lips for "Beaches," every new "crater filler" has been duly documented, from silicone to collagen -- a cow protein -- and, on the horizon, Perlane, which is similar to the body's age-depleted hyaluronic acid.

These days, Botox is advertised on TV with the slogan "It's not magic, it's Botox," and is the centerpiece of parties that seem to ignore the fact that a Botox injection is a medical procedure, not a parlor game.

While there's nothing wrong with such medical "magic," there is always the risk of adverse reactions. Maehara has seen enough of the downside of cosmetic work that it's made her think twice about what she may be willing to try as her skin ages. "You might see two people who have had laser treatment, and one will come out so good and another won't. I've seen people go in for chemical peels and come out with dark blotches."

She has other horror stories about lip implants that shift, making a person look like a stroke victim, and collagen injections that left lips loose and sunken.

"Ninety-nine people might turn out beautiful, but you might be that one person that doesn't get it done right," she said.

Lisa Ansai and Diane McGaughey

Alex Maehara and Tanya Paik.

There's something to be said about letting your face age gracefully.

"I really take care of my skin," said Maehara, who is also a mother of three. "I get facials every six weeks. I think it's important to spend the money and the time now. I also eat properly and drink a lot of water.

"Nowadays, people have the capacity to look better because we have more knowledge than our parents. We know it's important to stay out of the sun; I didn't know that when I was younger, and I've paid my dues because when you grow up here, it's all sun, sun, sun.

"I'm teaching my 17-year-old she has to wear sunscreen. I showed her horrifying photos."

"I'd rather spend money on good skin care than colors, and also, clothing, because if you have good skin, you'll always look pretty decent. If you're happy about the way you've progressed in life, you can't help but reflect that. I'll be 40 soon, and I feel I still look good. I think I look better than I did in my 20s. I can actually go out without makeup. In my 20s I never would have done that."

MAEHARA IS ON the right track. The sun is the culprit behind many of the skin dilemmas usually attributed to aging, according to Dr. Norman Goldstein, clinical professor of dermatology at the John A. Burns School of the Medicine at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, who is also in private practice. He said there is nothing wrong with cosmetic procedures if one takes into account the risk involved and the credentials of the person performing them, but said, "I would suggest it's best to prevent trouble if you can. At any age, further damage can be prevented. If you wear sunscreen every day for two years, your skin will be younger and healthier."

He said it's a reflection of our athletic, outdoorsy culture that 18-year-olds often have skin usually associated with 35- to 50-year-olds.

"Kids are starting to play golf at an early age, before they're 12," he said. "When I was a kid, no one played golf."

He said age 5 or 6 months is not too young to start a child on a sunscreen regimen, and he recommends looking for products with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 30.

The sun's damage is not restricted to age spots. Its radiation causes reduced elasticity and weakens muscles to cause sagging and jowliness. "The sun alters bodies' resistance," Goldstein said. "That's why people with immune deficiencies are told to stay out of the sun."

People can postpone the trip to a surgeon, Goldstein said, by taking advantage of over-the-counter Buf-Pufs, abrasive scrubs or an abrasive soap such as Brasivol, with "fine," "medium" and "rough" levels. Anyone starting to use the product should start with fine, and finish the jar before moving on to the next level.

Because the products exfoliate dead skin cells to expose new skin, it's important to use the products only at night. Going in the sun after exfoliation may result in dark patches. It is important to note that care should be taken in combining products such as glycolic acid peels and alpha hydroxy products. Overuse can lead to skin irritation. It's important to follow instructions carefully, and consult a dermatologist if you have any concerns.

After these home remedies, the next course of action would be getting a prescription for Retin-A products such as Renova, Tazorac and Differin.

Makeup artist Sian Salerni, left, applies final touches to Alex Maehara's makeup.

ONCE SAGGING sets in, however, natural options are limited. Goldstein said he's heard of people standing on their heads to defy gravity. "Yeah, they look good standing on their heads, but they can't get around that way," he said, adding that muscle stimulators don't work, and massage will have only temporary, if any, effects.

In his practice, he uses liquid nitrogen spray treatments for drying acne, smoothing the skin's surface and removing surface pigmentation and superficial lines. It's the equivalent of erasing five years of your skin's age, and the results are good for six to eight weeks.

The prices around town range from about $35 to $70 per treatment, depending on diagnosis and prognosis. By comparison, microdermabrasion treatments are about $65 to $100. The number of treatments required for both varies with individuals.

But Botox is the treatment du jour now that it's earned FDA approval for cosmetic use, making it OK for manufacturers to claim it treats wrinkles. Since April it's been a frequent magazine topic, and new TV commercials make its use seem as casual as munching on snack food or buying Kleenex. The purified, diluted form of the Clostridium botulinum toxin causes muscle paralysis and has been approved since 1989 to treat headaches, muscle spasms and eye twitches. It was the latter treatment that caused doctors to observe Botox's side effect of erasing fine lines around the eyes.

The cost of a single injection ranges from $300 to $500. The downside of Botox is that it can cause headaches or cause muscles to relax too much. Injected into the forehead, it can cause skin to droop, giving eyes a hooded appearance.

Goldstein said there is nothing inherently wrong with Botox treatments as long as people are aware of possible side effects.

"What I do not want people to do is have a Botox party," he said. Usually, these involve barely trained general practitioners who rent a hotel suite and invite people to eat, drink and fix their faces -- "which is terrible, terrible," Goldstein said. "You could have complications or die from this stuff. It hasn't happened here yet, but it's a medical procedure, not a social thing."

He is not anti-treatment but urges caution rather than reacting to a birthday crisis. "If you want to look better, then go for it, but look for someone trained in that procedure."

He said medical practitioners are seeing more problems now that dermabrasion is being performed in spas and beauty salons. Again, he said, "There's nothing wrong with that as long as they know what they're doing. Problems turn up when they try to do too much. Keep in mind, the less you do, the better. Don't look for miracles in one treatment."

DIANE MCGAUGHEY'S lifelong practical approach to her skin has paid off in that, at age 50, she's just been signed to Premier Models and Talent as a way of building a second career, without having required any surgical lifting or tucking.

"I've always been an outdoorsy type, but I always used sunscreen. Now that I'm older, I'm trying to pay a little more attention to my skin -- and it does change. I use more moisturizer than I did when I was younger, and I use some lifting products around my eyes, and that helps."

But her real secret is avoiding worry. "Twenty years ago I learned to ask myself in every situation, 'Is this life-threatening?' If it isn't, I don't worry about it. You have to accept things that you can't change, and if you don't sweat the small stuff, it's amazing how much that will help you.

"There are enough truly important things to worry about. Little ones don't bother me. Not only are you more relaxed, but when it comes to making life decisions, you make better choices."

Goldstein also urges a sensible approach to life. "Your skin can reflect years of doing the wrong thing. Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, not getting enough sleep -- all of these things have an effect."

At the same time, he doesn't advocate a cloistered existence.

"Enjoy life every day, but just use common sense," he said. "If your body says, 'Get out of the sun,' get out of the sun."

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