Here’s What Lasers And Injectibles Do That Topical Skin Care Can’t

It’s no secret that retinol is considered the gold standard when it comes to truly effective and transformational skin care ingredients. If you’ve ever spoken to a dermatologist, read a handful of skin care articles or flipped through the pages of a magazine, then you know that the vitamin A derivative is the answer to many, many skin care woes. Got acne? Retinol. Starting to see fine lines? Retinol. Dark spots? We don’t need to say it.

Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but when it comes to certain types of wrinkles and skin issues like sun spots, there’s only so much that topical skin care products can do — yes, even omnipotent, beloved retinol. While there are definitely things that can be prevented and treated with topical serums and creams, some skin concerns are best left to professionals and things like Botox or laser treatments.

But how can you possibly determine whether your skin goals are attainable with the use of your favorite fancy serum, or if you’re simply throwing money down the drain by trying to DIY a solution that can only be found inside a dermatologist’s office? We asked the pros to break down the different types of wrinkles and dark spots that can appear on our skin — and how to determine when it’s time to see a dermatologist if you really want them gone.

First things first: Are there different types of wrinkles?

“There are generally two large classifications,” said Sheetal Sapra, dermatologist and co-founder of ICLS Dermatology & Plastic Surgery. First up are static wrinkles. These aren’t dependent upon movement. They’re just kind of there. “They usually occur from the natural aging process, [which causes] loss of collagen and volume. However, they can be accentuated by extrinsic factors, especially smoking and sun exposure.”

On the other end of the spectrum are dynamic wrinkles. “These are lines that occur due to repeated facial movements. These facial movements create creases in the skin that become permanent over time.”

How can you tell if your wrinkles are dynamic?

“The most common place you will see dynamic wrinkles are on your forehead,” Sapra said. “They result from moving your brow upward, squinting or being stressed.” You might have heard of the vertical lines between your brows referred to as “elevens,” while the horizontal lines on your forehead are called “worry lines.” “Another common area is around the eyes — ‘crow’s feet,’” Sapra explained. “When you move your brow up, for example, the lines on your forehead get deeper.” That’s how you know those are dynamic wrinkles.

<div class="js-react-hydrator" data-component-name="Slideshow" data-component-id="3113" data-component-props="{"index":9,"contentListType":"slideshow","id":"5dcc4030e4b0d43931ce364a","title":"Doctor-Approved Anti-Aging Skin Care","view":"slideshow","slides":[{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba210000516034cdb8.png","queryParams":{},"width":873,"height":629,"credit":"The Ordinary"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b03a7e0293cd21","caption":"Gary Motykie, a board-certified plastic surgeon and owner of Motykie Med Spas, has worked with the likes of Kylie Jenner and Sofia Riche. “I’ve been using chemical exfoliants, specifically The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution from Sephora,\" said Motykie, who is working on his own skin care line. \"Chemical exfoliants or washes are a great alternative to beaded cleansers like St. Ives.”

Find it for $8.70 onSephora.","credit":"The Ordinary","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba210000516034cdb8.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"The Ordinary","width":873,"height":629,"ops":""},"title":"The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bc210000516034cdb9.png","queryParams":{},"width":1005,"height":644,"credit":"CeraVe"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0d43931ce3a2d","caption":"To cleanse his skin and keep it moisturized, Motykie uses CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. “It is a great, affordable, hydrating cleanser,” he explained.

Find it for $13.79 onAmazon.","credit":"CeraVe","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42bc210000516034cdb9.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"CeraVe","width":1005,"height":644,"ops":""},"title":"CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba1f0000e204dee500.png","queryParams":{},"width":1393,"height":927,"credit":"EltaMD"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0d43931ce3a2a","caption":"Motykie also stressed the importance of using a sunscreen every day. “After I cleanse, I use EltaMD’s Broad Spectrum SPF 46,\" he said. \"In 2019 this almost goes without saying, but you should always apply SPF, not just on hot, sunny days.”

Find it for $35 onAmazon.","credit":"EltaMD","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba1f0000e204dee500.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"EltaMD","width":1393,"height":927,"ops":""},"title":"EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba210000516034cdb5.png","queryParams":{},"width":1396,"height":932,"credit":"Vitafusion"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b03a7e0293cd1f","caption":"Packed with biotin and vitamins C and E, Vitafusion Gorgeous Hair, Skin & Nails enhances skin, hair and nail growth and comes recommended by Elizabeth Mullans, a board-certified dermatologist who has been practicing for more than 20 years. The vitamins also promote the growth of collagen, an essential protein that promotes skin elasticity and helps it to appear more youthful and healthy.

Find it for $9.98 onAmazon.","credit":"Vitafusion","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba210000516034cdb5.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Vitafusion","width":1396,"height":932,"ops":""},"title":"Vitafusion Gorgeous Hair, Skin and Nails","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bb2500000605d2cff4.png","queryParams":{},"width":1140,"height":806,"credit":"RoC"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0d43931ce3a2c","caption":"Mullans also recommends RoC Correxion Eye Cream because it’s good for decreasing signs of aging around the eyes. RoC Correxion Eye Cream contains superstar ingredient retinol, which helps correct fine lines and wrinkles. RoC also has a formula for those who are sensitive to retinol and need something gentler.

Find it and thesensitive formulafor $17.95 onWalmart.com.","credit":"RoC","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42bb2500000605d2cff4.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"RoC","width":1140,"height":806,"ops":""},"title":"RoC Correxion Eye Cream and RoC Sensitive Eye Cream","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba2100005e6034cdb6.png","queryParams":{},"width":971,"height":609,"credit":"Drunk Elephant"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0d43931ce3a2b","caption":"Calling retinol \"liquid gold,\" Zain Husain, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of New Jersey Dermatology and Aesthetics Center, recommends Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream. “These products work by increasing skin cell turnover, boost collagen production and help keep the skin looking youthful by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps combat acne and uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation,” Husain said.

Find it for $74 onSephora.","credit":"Drunk Elephant","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba2100005e6034cdb6.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Drunk Elephant","width":971,"height":609,"ops":""},"title":"Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba210000486034cdb7.png","queryParams":{},"width":830,"height":513,"credit":"Obagi"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0a794d1f98768","caption":"Zain is also a fan of vitamin C serums because vitamin C is a natural antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Zain said, “I love Vitamin C because it assists in skin cell damage repair and protects against free radical agents that can harm the skin. Vitamin C also has anti-aging benefits including diminishing fine lines, reducing redness and brightening your overall complexion.” If you want to incorporate a vitamin C serum into your routine, Zain recommends Obagi Professional-C Serum.

Find it for $102 onDermstore.","credit":"Obagi","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba210000486034cdb7.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Obagi","width":830,"height":513,"ops":""},"title":"Obagi Professional-C Serum","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bd1f00009304dee506.png","queryParams":{},"width":874,"height":647,"credit":"Alastin"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b03a7e0293cd24","caption":"Retinol alternatives “work by increasing collagen, the building block of our skin, without irritation or sun sensitivity,” explained Deanna Mraz Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist from Westport, Connecticut. One of her favorite anti-aging products is Alastin Restorative Skin Complex, a peptide-based serum that improves collagen and elastin fibers in the skin.

Find it for $195 onAlastin’s website.","credit":"Alastin","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42bd1f00009304dee506.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Alastin","width":874,"height":647,"ops":""},"title":"Alastin Restorative Skin Complex","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc48be210000e85f34cdc2.png","queryParams":{},"width":1076,"height":826,"credit":"Care."},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc48c5e4b03a7e0293dc0a","caption":"Robinson also likes Care Skincare Eye + Lip Nourishing Cream, which she described as “a dense cream with a light-diffusing finish that softens the look of fine lines and dark circles; it absorbs quickly and won’t drift into eyes or interfere with makeup.\"

Find it for $30 onCare Skincare’s website.","credit":"Care.","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc48be210000e85f34cdc2.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"care","credit":"Care.","width":1076,"height":826,"ops":""},"title":"Care Skincare Eye and Lip Nourishing Cream","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba1f00008204dee502.png","queryParams":{},"width":922,"height":637,"credit":"Isdin"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b03a7e0293cd20","caption":"Another favorite of Robinson’s is Isdinceutics Melatonik 3-in-1 Night Serum, a vitamin C and bakuchiol-based serum that helps reduce fine lines and pigmentation and improve texture.

Find it for $160 onIsdin.","credit":"Isdin","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba1f00008204dee502.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Isdin","width":922,"height":637,"ops":""},"title":"Isdinceutics Melatonik 3-in-1 Night Serum","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bd1f0000e204dee505.png","queryParams":{},"width":1087,"height":783,"credit":"La Roche Posay"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0a794d1f9876b","caption":"“Broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen is the most effective anti-aging tool,” said Sheila Krishna, a board-certified dermatologist who serves on the advisory board for Smart Style Today. “Broad-spectrum means it protects from both UVA and UVB rays, and a high SPF is generally anything over 30.” Her personal favorite is La Roche Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 because “it blends in very well into all skin types and doesn’t smell strong. It has excellent protection and SPF and stays on for long periods of time.”

Find it for $21.99 onDermstore.","credit":"La Roche Posay","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42bd1f0000e204dee505.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"La Roche Posay","width":1087,"height":783,"ops":""},"title":"La Roche Posay Melt In Sunscreen Milk","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42ba1f00008504dee501.png","queryParams":{},"width":1392,"height":911,"credit":"SkinCeuticals"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0a794d1f98766","caption":"Krishna also recommended vitamin C because “it is a potent antioxidant that absorbs free radicals from ultraviolet damage, pollution and general skin wear and tear. It also assists in collagen production and improves fine lines.” She personally uses SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum.

Find it for $166 onDermstore.","credit":"SkinCeuticals","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42ba1f00008504dee501.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"SkinCeuticals","width":1392,"height":911,"ops":""},"title":"SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bd1f00008204dee504.png","queryParams":{},"width":1344,"height":900,"credit":"Neutrogena"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0a794d1f98769","caption":"“Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is a great moisturizer that uses hyaluronic acid to plumps the skin very nicely. I use it every day and I like that it is universal so works with most skin types,” said Sapna Palep, a board-certified dermatologist who works at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. She added, \"It’s an effective non-clogging moisturizer for people needing some extra moisture.”

Find it for $23.99 onUlta.com.","credit":"Neutrogena","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42bd1f00008204dee504.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Neutrogena","width":1344,"height":900,"ops":""},"title":"Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bd2500001105d2cff8.png","queryParams":{},"width":1128,"height":791,"credit":"Drunk Elephant"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0d43931ce3a2f","caption":"“Vitamin C, topical retinol, and sunscreen are what I consider the ‘holy trinity’ in skin care. I incorporate a vitamin C serum as a quintessential component in my morning skin care regimen,” said Rina Allawh, a board-certified dermatologist who practices at Montgomery Dermatology in Philadelphia. “My top pick is the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, containing L-ascorbic acid, pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme. This cruelty-free product helps to both exfoliate and brighten the skin. I found that the ingredients are safe, effective and gentle on sensitive, dry and acne-prone skin.”

Find it for $80 atSephora.","credit":"Drunk Elephant","creditUrl":"","source":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"5dcc42bd2500001105d2cff8.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"anti-aging","credit":"Drunk Elephant","width":1128,"height":791,"ops":""},"title":"Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5dcc42bc1f00009304dee503.png","queryParams":{},"width":987,"height":699,"credit":"Almay"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"5dcc42c2e4b0a794d1f9876a","caption":"Allawh also recommends using foundation to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. “My top pick is the Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging skintone matching makeup,” Allawh said. This foundation is cruelty free and has an SPF of 20. “I find that the lightweight liquid formula and buildable texture is ideal for my Mediterranean skin type.”

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Doctor-Approved Anti-Aging Skin Care

How do you reverse dynamic wrinkles?

It’s much easier than reversing static wrinkles, which are caused by genetics or sun exposure, said Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare. “You can treat [dynamic wrinkles] with Botox … paralyzing the muscle that is the cause of that wrinkle.” However, he points out that these types of wrinkles are caused by a repeated habit (like squinting or raising your brows), so you’ll need to “modify your habitual behavior, too,” to really see long-term change.

How do you reverse static wrinkles?

It depends on the location and depth of the wrinkles, but static wrinkles, especially those caused by genetics, are tricky. “Some people have stronger muscles in different parts of their face, and whatever the gene expression is, it’s going to be the same as it was for their parents,” Murad said. So prevention is really key when it comes to these types of wrinkles. “Medical-grade skin care should be introduced as early as possible to assist in preventing wrinkles from forming,” said Sapra, who views topical products as a preventive measure and suggests you “continue fine-tuning your regimen as you age. But skin care [products] would not be best suited as a stand-alone treatment for severely aged, wrinkled skin.”

Since lifestyle and environment play such a major role in the development of these types of wrinkles, “the most important skin care product in anybody’s regimen is a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with minimum SPF of 30,” Sapra said. “Sunscreen is anti-aging — it prevents the photoaging process.”

But that doesn’t mean that topicals won’t do anything for static wrinkles that have already formed. “While it’s not necessarily the best solution, you are going to get benefits regardless from consistent use of topical skin care [products] that address your specific concern,” Murad said.

What type of skin care products work best for static wrinkles?

Look, you already know the answer. “Retinol,” Murad said. “It’s one of those versatile ingredients.” (See, we told you.) So while it won’t freeze any muscles and totally smooth out skin, retinol “visibly minimizes lines and deep wrinkles, evens skin tone, and boosts radiance,” Murad said.

What about skin tone issues caused by sun damage?

While “overexposure to the sun’s rays [can] cause damage to the collagen bundles that live below the surface of the skin” and cause wrinkles, explained Murad, that hot ball of fire in the sky with which we have a major love/hate relationship also contributes to — surprise — dreaded sun spots. Over time and with repeated damage, a collection of pigmentation or melanin, known as a sun spot, may appear, Sapra said.

Do topicals work for sun spots, or are lasers the best solution?

Everything from vitamin C (for brightening) to alpha hydroxy acids (for exfoliating and encouraging skin cell turnover) to, yes, retinol, will likely make a difference — it’s simply a matter of how much of a difference you’re looking for.

“Laser treatments such as ExcelV or PicoSure can actually target single lesions, such as sun spots or broken blood vessels,” Sapra told HuffPost. “IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments can treat overall superficial brown and red pigmentation in the skin. We also use lasers known as Fraxel, Halo or ProFractional to treat pigmented skin. It’s ideal to utilize medical-grade skin care in combination with an individualized treatment plan to get the most optimal results for each and every person.”

If the dark spots you’re looking to get rid of are minor, “I would always just try topical agents first,” Murad said. “Give them a solid chance to work for a couple months, and if that doesn’t help, then go further with laser treatment.”

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