Every award season, we see one celebrity or another drift down the red carpet sporting a more youthful appearance. Like clockwork, speculation ensues: What’s his secret? And, more importantly, how do we get in on it? When asked, the celebrity usually responds by citing a water-and-vitamin combo. And while the benefits of adequate hydration are many, we have trouble believing it’s responsible for a seemingly overnight transformation.
To get to the bottom of this recurring question (and score some skincare wisdom), we consulted Penn Medicine cosmetic surgeon, Ivona Percec, MD, PhD. According to Percec, healthy skin practices are extremely important and aid cosmetic interventions later on, but a new vitamin amalgam won’t reverse decades of damage on its own. Read on to learn about the newest skin procedures and how to look five years younger.
Following the Golden Globes, there was a lot of fuss about Brad Pitt’s youthful skin. Rumors have attributed it to many things, including diet and a new skincare regimen. Is that possible?
Well, if we’re talking specifically about the skin, it’s true that everything contributes to the quality of skin, including diet, vitamin supplementation and topical applications or in-office procedures.
Typically to get the best quality of skin, you have to do a combination of everything. Over time, you have to not only protect the skin, but also stimulate it. These include laser or light-based sources to stimulate the skin and chemical-based sources in the form of a chemical peel. The most recent thing you may have heard about – which is also great for the skin – is microneedling. Microneedling involves taking tiny needles and puncturing the top surface of the skin to elicit collagen response.
There are many modalities to stimulate the skin and rejuvenate it, and typically, the best approach is to use a combination of them.
So it’s not just preventative, it’s also stimulatory?
Exactly. You need to rejuvenate the skin, as well as take care of your skin long-term. There’s no easy solution. For example, even if you undergo surgical rejuvenation in the form of a facelift or eyelid lift, and you don’t have good, quality skin, your result isn’t going to be as good as if you had taken good care of your skin. You really have to do both.
We’ve all been told that earlier is better when instilling healthy skin practices, but what if your patient hasn’t done that? What advice do you have for people who didn’t take care of their skin when they were younger?
I have a very frank discussion with my patients. Men, unlike women, don’t have as good of a repertoire of taking care of their skin, so they’re not used to applying products in the morning or several products at night. Obviously, there are exceptions, but most men prefer more effective treatments that they have to do less often. For them, the simpler, the better. That’s important for me to realize because with simpler methods, they’re much more likely to be compliant and see results.
Do you make sure to ask your patients about their lifestyles?
Absolutely, I always ask my patients: What are your habits? Do you actually like to wash your skin or do you prefer to wipe your skin?
You have to understand their habits and work within that context. Some people will have one eye cream and one face cream; that’s all they’re going to use, but they’ll do the routine religiously. Other patients like to play around with different products and want to try what’s new on the market. You have to take that into consideration, in addition to their budget.
What is the most common cosmetic concern amongst your male patients?
I would say there are a few categories of concern in my male patients:
- Some patients come in for liposuction. They are generally fit but have resistant pockets of fat—typically the love handles, around their belly or even on their chest.
- Surprisingly, men want to have one-and-done kind of approaches, so many come in for facelifts and eyelid lifts.
- Another common procedure for men is [removing] gynaecomastia (extra fat tissue around the chest).
- More recently, men want the injection called Kybella, which dissolves fat underneath the chin. It does require coming in every month to six weeks for three to four treatments if you have a decent amount of fat there; however, once the fat is dissolved, it’s a permanent result.
Do you have any parting wisdom for men about aging gracefully? What can they start doing today?
The most important thing—everybody says it, but it’s true—is sun protection, especially in men who are avid sportsmen. Applying sun protection properly is really important.
The most effective sun protection for men comes in the form of powder. It’s not palpable, and you can’t feel it. It’s clear.
Number two: Most men shave their face, which gives them a natural exfoliation process—but only on the lower half of their face. They really need to pay attention to the others parts of their faces (typically their eyes and the brow areas). I would recommend that men take care of their eyes with the gold standard: A retinol-based product.
Lastly, [it’s important] to be well-educated about how your face is changing over time. Compare pictures from five years ago and today, and assess what has changed. Or, ask a professional like one of us, how we can return you to that kind of appearance.
Fillers can be very effective for men as long as they’re used appropriately. We use fillers in completely different areas in men than we do for women. Men’s brow positions are different; their cheeks are different. You have to go to someone who has a good patient clientele and is used to treating men.
So, it’s important to bring in a picture of yourself instead of, say, a celebrity?
Yes, you want to bring in a picture of yourself and not another person. If you’re asking to look like someone else, it’s not rejuvenation; it’s altering your appearance. What we’re talking about is rejuvenating your face and bringing it back to where it was five or 10 years ago.
This interview has been condensed and edited for length.