Forever Young? The Cost of Literally Keeping Your Chin up

Good skin isn't always cheap, but there are ways to stretch a self-care budget. Don't forget the sunscreen.
Sara Rathner
By Sara Rathner 
Edited by Erin Hurd

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Millennials, you can delay traditional markers of adulthood all you want, but your face doesn’t care whether or not you’ve bought your first home. It does care, however, how often you sunbathed and bummed cigarettes in your younger years.

You can certainly show off those fine lines and gray hairs with pride. Getting older is a gift, after all. But it’s OK to want to slow the process down to look as young as you feel. And for that, millennials are embracing cosmetic procedures that need little to no recovery time. According to a January 2020 article in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, millennials outspend baby boomers 2-to-1 on self-care, including aesthetic medicine. Younger adults, the article states, have embraced the “prejuvenation” trend — getting less invasive procedures like injectables earlier to push back the need for more intense cosmetic procedures later on.

Freezing and filling your face comes at a cost, though, especially since you need to get these treatments on an ongoing basis to keep up the effect. This is no small commitment. Each visit to the dermatologist’s office can start at a few hundred dollars.

The cost of cosmetic dermatology

The current average cost of botulinum toxin injections (this includes Botox, Dysport, Jeuveau and other brands) is $528, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Dermal filler treatments, including Juvederm Ultra, Voluma and Restylane, start at an average of $794. Laser skin resurfacing, which addresses concerns like acne scarring and sun damage, costs an average of $1,489.

But prices vary depending on where you live, what treatments you choose and who performs the procedures. Be prepared to pay more if you live in a high-cost area.

Keep in mind that none of these are one-and-done procedures if you’re happy with the result and want to continue. “The aging process never stops,” says Dr. Chris Adigun, a dermatologist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “No matter what you do, you’re going to be doing it for a while.”

Preventive care: The ultimate way to save

Taking care of your skin can delay the appearance of issues like fine lines and sun damage. “You cannot overstate the importance of skin quality. You’re more likely to get that line on your skin if your skin is dehydrated and you frown,” says Dr. Mary Lupo, a dermatologist in New Orleans. “Yes, Botox helps prevent etched-in lines from becoming etched-in, but quality of skin is the most important thing.”

Some good habits cost nothing at all: don’t smoke, limit alcohol consumption, stay out of the sun and sleep on your back to avoid squishing your face against your pillow.

Your skin care regimen doesn’t need to be overly complicated. You can stick to a trifecta of sunscreen, retinol and vitamin C serum, according to Dr. DiAnne Davis, a dermatologist in Dallas. These products are available at a variety of price points, and you can opt for drugstore brands if high-end products aren’t in your budget.

Lupo recommends bringing your products to your dermatologist to get their opinion. You may be inadvertently using two products that cancel out each other’s benefits, which would be a waste of money.

Getting the most bang for your buck on treatments

If you’re ready for more intense procedures, there are ways you can spend wisely. (And if you’re wondering, no, for strictly cosmetic treatments you cannot harness the tax savings of a health or flexible spending account.)

First, work with your dermatologist to craft a treatment plan that meets your goals and budget. A skilled injector can provide an honest take on what treatments you can skip, or use lightly, for now. According to Lupo, excessive filler when you’re young can actually make you look older. Just one syringe injected strategically, she says, can make a noticeable impact.

Join your dermatology practice’s email list for notifications about special offers. Sometimes specific products or services go on sale, or you may be able to stock up on discounted gift cards for future treatment.

Davis advises against skin care devices that make it possible to perform treatments on yourself at home, such as hyaluronic acid pens you can inject into your own face. These devices can cost hundreds of dollars and may not be as effective as in-office treatments. It may seem like you’re saving money, but those dollars might be better spent with a professional.

When to see a plastic surgeon instead

Dermatologists focus on skin quality, but for some cosmetic concerns, a plastic surgeon could be more appropriate, and for the cost, you’re more likely to get your desired result.

Both Davis and Adigun suggest plastic surgery when patients want to treat sagging skin, while Lupo recommends it when a patient needs their nose fixed for any reason, has severe fat pads under their eyes or wants to correct a recessed jawline with surgery or a chin implant.

Even after plastic surgery, you may still choose to work with a dermatologist on other cosmetic issues. “It’s a partnership. I love my plastic surgeons,” Adigun says. “I can’t do what they do. I need them.”

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