Pre-Wedding Beauty Treatments

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2009

Manicures and pedicures are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your options for getting beautified for the big day. Microdermabrasion, cortisone injections, Botox, chemical peels, teeth whitening -- the types of procedures you can get these days are endless, which is great on one hand (whatever your beauty concern, there's a relatively quick and pain-free way to correct it) and not so great on the other (wading through all the options may not be as easy or painless). 

We asked some of the best doctors in the business to give us the lowdown -- the side effects (if any) and the results -- on the very latest non-invasive treatments and procedures available to brides-to-be. 

Before you rush off to your appointment, though, remember this: Just as you would tell the sales associate at Vera Wang exactly what style of dress you're looking for or show your hairdresser which celebrity haircut you covet, it's equally important to describe in detail to your doctor what you envision for your wedding-day face. 

Snehal Amin, M.D., a dermatologist at the Skin Laser and Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey, suggests that you bring in a photograph of yourself and point out just what it is about your appearance that you'd most like to improve. After all, while an unflattering makeup application can be erased with the swipe of a tissue and redone in a matter of minutes, a procedure gone wrong is not so easily corrected.

You Want: Clear Skin
You have 1 month: Isolaz
The procedure utilizes a new technology called Photopneumatics, which combines a vacuum with a painless laser: The vacuum extracts excess oil from pores, and the laser reduces the skin's bacterial content. The two-pronged approach treats acne (85 percent of patients report improvement), but it can also be used to remove unwanted hair and counteract sun damage and uneven skin tone. Need more incentive? The procedure is practically painless and has few to no side effects -- except that your skin will feel tighter (in a good way) and seem to glow (in a great way).
Plan: 1 to 4 treatments that last 10 minutes each.
Perk: Zero to minimal pain.
Problem: The treatment area may be slightly red, but it's totally fine to cover up with makeup immediately after the appointment.

You have 2 days: Cortisone shot
You feel a zeppelin-size pimple forming on your chin, and the wedding is just two days away. No need to panic and cancel the event. Instead, head to the dermatologist for a cortisone injection. "A shot of cortisone can be an effective way of reducing the swelling -- or even eliminating a pimple altogether -- within 24 to 48 hours of delivery," says New York City dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. With few side effects, a quick injection of this miracle steroid will fight both the inflammation and the offending pimple pronto.
Plan: 1 shot at least 24 hours before the event.
Perk: Near-instant gratification.
Problem: Not for those with needle phobia.

You Want: A Youthful Glow
You have 6 months: Microdermabrasion
Think of it as extreme exfoliation. Microdermabrasion is a mechanical skin-resurfacing treatment that sloughs off the dull top layer of skin to reveal the taut, baby-smooth layer you always knew was there. "The skin develops a smoother texture and a more even color tone, which gives it a luminous glow," says David Kriegel, M.D., director of the Manhattan Center for Dermatology in New York. There are several different types of microdermabrasion machines: Some rely on tiny, finely ground crystals to do the resurfacing work, while others feature a diamond tip or employ sandpaper-like paddles.
Plan: 5 to 8 treatments over 6 to 12 weeks.
Perk: No downtime -- it's a relatively gentle procedure, so you can get back to your everyday routine immediately without feeling like you have to put a paper bag over your head.
Problem: If you have rosacea or moderate to severe acne, microdermabrasion is not a good procedure for you.

You have 3 months: Chemical peel
A chemical peel (such as glycolic acid) works in the same way microdermabrasion does in that it sloughs away your dull top layer of skin. The difference is that no machines are at work here, just an application of the chemical peel. "You need at least six weeks between your appointment and your wedding, because you don't want any redness going into the event," says Kriegel. The process is well tolerated by most skin types, but it works best on those with fair skin and light hair. You can expect to feel anything from a slight tingle to a mild burning during the five- to 15-minute procedure.
Plan: 3 to 6 treatments, 2 weeks apart.
Perk: The peels can also help clear up acne and eliminate precancerous lesions.
Problem: Delayed gratification -- results often can't be seen until after several treatments.

You Want: Rx for Sun Damage
You have 6 or more months: Retin-A (or another topical retinoid)
You may have used it as a teen to treat acne, but did you know it also helps correct sun damage? Prescription vitamin-A derivatives (a.k.a. retinoids) are known to build collagen, regenerate the elastin that lets skin stretch, and reverse abnormal pigmentation. Just make sure to stay out of the sun, or at least use a high-SPF sunblock, as Retin-A can make you more prone to burning.
Plan: Apply nightly for at least 6 months. Use sparingly -- a little goes a long way -- and start with an every-other-night schedule.
Perk: Also fights fine lines and wrinkles.
Problem: Minor skin irritation and dryness.

You have 3 months: Q-Switched YAG Laser
To zap sun spots, age spots, and freckles, schedule a session with the YAG Laser, which targets melanin on the surface of the skin to erase any pigment imperfections. The same technology can be used to expunge tattoos, so if you're looking to get rid of an unsightly shoulder tattoo that might offend your nana, you can get that done at the same time. In addition, "There is a new study that suggests this laser may also be effective in treating fine lines and wrinkles caused by sun," says Kriegel.
Plan: 1 to 2 treatments at least 1 month ahead.
Perk: Treatments are super-short, lasting only a few minutes.
Problem: Residual hyperpigmentation (patches of skin that look darker than the surrounding skin) can last for weeks.

You Want: A Wrinkle-Free Face
You have 4 months: Fraxel Laser
Microscopic laser beams penetrate deep into the dermis to create tiny wounds, which trigger the body's natural response system and expedite the remodeling of collagen and elastin. The results: tighter, fresher, and younger-looking skin. It can be mildly uncomfortable, so derms use topical anesthesia one hour prior to treatment. Just beware that results aren't usually visible until two to three months after the procedure.
Plan: 4 to 5 treatments, 3 to 4 weeks apart.
Perk: The outer layer is not removed completely with this method, so healing is faster.
Problem: Temporary bronzing. "If you're willing to tolerate a few days of a sunburn-like appearance, then this is a great option," says Amin.

You have 1 month: Botox
Want porcelain-smooth skin? "Nothing is better than Botox to ease the lines around the eyes and forehead, and between the eyebrows," says Kriegel. "It's consistent and works beautifully." Botox, a purified protein produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, paralyzes the muscles between the brows and the ones that cause frown lines. (Who needs to frown on their wedding day anyway?) And if you have overly active sweat glands, you can even use it to reduce severe underarm perspiration. Just make sure you see a reputable dermatologist. Lots of doctors offer Botox, but not all are skilled.
Plan: 1 treatment, at least 1 month in advance.
Perk: Results are almost always predictable.
Problem: The most common side effect is bruising at the injection site. More rare side effects are a temporary drooping of the eyelids and moderate cold- and flu-like symptoms.

You Want: An Even Complexion
You have 5 months: Intense pulsed light
Blushing bride, yes. Ruddy bride? Not so much. If an uneven complexion is your beauty obstacle, try intense-pulsed-light therapy. The treatment, in which a concentrated flash of light passes through the top layer of skin and penetrates to the deeper layer where blood vessels, pigment cells, and collagen are found, helps improve redness resulting from rosacea and broken capillaries. (The pulsed light vaporizes the capillaries that cause redness.) "The first things patients say after IPL sessions are 'My makeup goes on a lot smoother' and 'My face looks awake,' " says Amin. Expect mild to moderate discomfort during the treatment, similar to a rubber band snapping on the face.
Plan: 2 to 4 treatments, 4 to 6 weeks apart.
Perk: Out, out, red spots! The results can last for two or more years.
Problem: Minor bruising, swelling, or crusting on treated area for up to 7 days.

You have 3 weeks: Diet change
Though the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, studies have shown that certain foods can trigger the flush. "Avoid red wine, spicy foods, and caffeine during the week leading up to the wedding," says Gross. "They can cause facial redness and aggravate rosacea among those who have it to a minor degree." Other foods that have been implicated include dairy (especially cheese) and tomatoes. Watching your intake of these items is not easy, but if you're really worried that you'll have the flush of rosacea instead of the flush of love, changing your diet is certainly worth a try.
Plan: Every meal, every day up to the wedding.
Perk:
Doesn't cost a dime.
Problem: Unfortunately, many of the foods on the forbidden list are on most brides' delicious list. And sticking to a strict diet is always tough.

You Want: Perfect Teeth
You have 1 month: Bonding and whitening
"These combined techniques can make you look 10 years younger," says Jonathan B. Levine, D.M.D., a New York City dentist who specializes in aesthetic dentistry. Bonding, in which a composite resin material is bonded onto teeth, is a relatively inexpensive and quick way to lengthen tiny teeth, improve edges, and close spaces. For the biggest impact, Levine recommends adding whitening treatments to your beautification plan as well, both in your office and at home.
Plan: For bonding: 1 to 2 appointments, 1 week apart; for whitening: 1 appointment, followed by an at-home maintenance program.
Perk: Painless.
Problem: Bonding can chip and become discolored, while whitening treatments can lead to sensitivity for up to a month. And, counterintuitively, staining is more of an issue just after a whitening procedure. Coffee drinkers, beware!

You have 2 weeks: Porcelain veneers
If you dream of wedding-day teeth that look straight, white, and perfect, then porcelain veneers are your answer. "This is the platinum level of what you can do noninvasively," says Levine. The outer surface of the teeth is covered with a dense, glass-like ceramic that mimics the look and reflective qualities of real tooth enamel (so you don't have to worry about getting the dreaded denture look). "The color is outstanding, and the ceramic never picks up any stain," adds Levine.
Plan: 2 appointments that last 2 to 3 hours each, not including your initial visit to determine what type, shape, and size of veneers you need.
Perk: Drink all the red wine, tea, and coffee you want -- no staining here!
Problem: Inflammation if the tissue is irritated during the procedure. If the veneers do not fit, the tooth is subject to decay and the patient may develop bite problems.

Beyond Botox
You've heard of Botox, of course, but what about Juvederm, Restylane, and the other dermal fillers on the market? Some are best for plumping and replacing volume to the skin for a soft, youthful look. Others can be utilized to shape the face, for example by giving brides more-prominent cheekbones or fuller lips. They can even be used to give nonsurgical nose jobs! Here, the top fillers being used today

Juvederm: A gel made from a natural complex sugar called hyaluronic acid that temporarily reduces nasolabial folds, a.k.a. the wrinkles from the nose to the corners of the mouth.
How long it lasts: 6 months.

Restylane: One of the first widely used fillers, Restylane is composed of bacterial hyaluronic acid and is best used for fine lines and moderate skin folds.
How long it lasts: 4 to 6 months.

Sculptra: A filler composed of synthetic poly-L-lactic acid, it's been approved to remedy full facial lipoatrophy (loss of fat beneath the skin). It's injected under the skin into the fatty layers to replace lost volume, sculpt facial contours, and reduce sagging.
How long it lasts: 2 years.

Radiesse: This calcium-based synthetic filler is used for deep skin folds. It can also be used for scars and in other areas where a long-lasting effect is desired. The filler can be injected into noses to fill depressions, smooth out sharp angles, and change the tip of the nose.
How long it lasts: 2 years.

Perlane: A bacterial hyaluronic acid product that has a larger particle size than other fillers, Perlane allows for injection deeper into the skin. It's popular for softening wrinkles, acne scars, and facial folds, as well as lip augmentation.
How long it lasts: 3 to 9 months.

Evolence: Derived from pig collagen, Evolence is one of the newest fillers on the market. It works best for softening medium-depth skin folds, such as those from the nose to the corner of the mouth. It can also be used on the lips, nose, earlobes, and cheeks.
How long it lasts: 1 to 2 years.

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