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Joe Muehlenkamp
Phone: 314.977.8015

October 8, 2003

Saving Face: Plastic Surgeon Gives Tips on How to Stay Young Looking and Avoid a Face Lift

Start When You're Younger, Dr. Greg Branham Advises

ST. LOUIS -- Men and women in their 20s and 30s can do simple things now to avoid a facelift or major surgical procedure in the future, says a Saint Louis University facial and plastic surgeon.

"Avoid the sun, put down that cigarette and don't drink too much coffee," says Dr. Greg Branham, M.D., F.A.C.S., director of facial plastic surgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a SLUCare physician. "What you do now will affect the way you look down the road."

Branham said that he's noticed in his practice that younger and younger people are starting to get cosmetic surgery or other services. In some cases, these procedures could have been avoided or at least postponed had the patient taken better care of his or her skin.

"It's important for people to realize that the more you maintain your skin, especially when you're in your 20s and 30s, the less you'll have to overhaul when you get older," Branham says. "So get on a skin care program now, and you can hold off on the major cosmetic procedures later."

Branham gave the following advice for people who want to stay young looking.

  • Get enough sleep. "Not enough of it leads to puffy, baggy eyes," he said.
  • Eat healthy. "It's not just a cliche," Branham says. "You are what you eat." Branham advocates foods that will promote cancer prevention because similar mechanisms also cause the skin to age. So he advocates "striving for five" fruits or vegetables a day. "Your dinner plate should look colorful," he says.
  • Limit caffeine. It's important to avoid dehydration, Branham says. "Coffee dries you out; it's a diuretic. So be sure to drink lots of water. This will help your skin to look its best."
  • Use sunscreen. In the morning, before you leave for work, use a sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, or a makeup base with UV protection. You also could use a moisturizer that contains sunscreen as well. "This routine, over many years, will make a big difference in how your skin ages," Branham says.
  • Avoid the sun. While using a daily sunscreen is an important step, limiting sun exposure is better. "When you have UV exposure over time, that radiation damages the skin's ability to repair itself," he says. "The end result is that skin is no longer elastic."
  • Wear sunglasses. You won't squint as much; over time a lot of squinting will lead to lines and wrinkles. And don't forget your hat, either.
  • Don't go to tanning salons. "There's no such thing as a safe tan unless it comes in a bottle," Branham says. "In fact, some experts feel tanning beds are more dangerous because some of them have a higher concentration of UVA rays. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin, and we don't know what the longer-term results of that deeper penetration is. We do know that it ages the skin."
  • Get into a nighttime ritual. "In the evening, you have more time to devote to maintenance of your skin," Branham says. "For men and women, the evening is the time to cleanse your face and perform your skin care routine. So make it a habit." That skin care program should include an acid-based skin-care product after cleansing. "They work to keep the outer dead layers of the skin peeled away and hydrate the deeper layers."
  • Use the right skin-care products. "People spend billions a year on cosmetics and skin care, you might as well spend it on something that will be beneficial," Branham says.

    If you're using a moisturizer with alpha hydroxy, be sure to get one with enough of the hydroxy acid in it. "Typically, you're looking for something with 10 percent glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acid for it to be effective," Branham said. "Some of the over-the-counter products don't have enough to be effective."

    Some cosmetics boast of Vitamin C or its derivatives for their antioxidant effects. "While it is true that vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant, a lot of those topical products don't penetrate into the skin," Branham said. "Some newer products have good skin penetration. If you are going to spend money on a product, you need to look at what they claim.

    "The best systems are usually available through an esthetician or a physician's office."

  • Don't smoke. Smoking breaks down the natural proteins in the skin -- the collagen and the elastin. "Smoking causes this breakdown and decreases the blood supply to the skin," Branham said. And when smokers pucker their lips, guess what happens? "Over time, those lines will stay around," Branham said. "For women, this causes the lipstick to bleed down into these lines."
  • Consider anti-wrinkle creams. "In terms of maintenance, anti-wrinkle products such as Retin A or Kinerase are a good option. "These are very effective, especially when you are dealing with finer lines. They should be a part of a skin care maintenance program and a part of your nightly ritual," he said.

    Branham also said that minimally invasive approaches -- the use of Collagen and Botox -- also are popular options instead of more invasive surgical procedures. The same holds true for laser resurfacing and chemical peels. "We have patients coming in their 20s who want to start a program including Collagen for fuller lips. Generally, we see many people in their 30s beginning Botox for the fine lines in the upper face."

    For those patients who do opt for surgery, Branham said the good news is that techniques have been refined over the last 10 years that give patients more choices and better outcomes.

    "We now have surgical techniques to address the whole face that we didn't have 10 years ago. This is especially true for the mid-face or cheek area."

    People are becoming more and more health conscious, Branham says. "I have people come in their 30s starting to worry about crow's feet, forehead wrinkles. That's the best time to start before you have a major problem. If a young person starts now, they'll be thankful when they're older."

    The Facial Plastic Surgery Center at SLUCare Des Peres in west St. Louis County offers a full range of cosmetic services for the face and neck. The center is staffed by Dr. Branham, a board certified facial plastic surgeon, and cosmetic dermatologist Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., as well as an esthetician to assist in the care of your skin and to give you a fresh new look.

    SLUCare is the physician practice of Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Doctors can be reached by calling 314-268-5880 or 1-800-268-5880.

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