The price of looking youthful
On the cover of the book she recently co-authored with her son, Gloria Vanderbilt appears poised and confident. The 92-year-old also looks as though she could easily pass for a woman 30 or even 40 years her junior.
Vanderbilt, who told "The Telegraph" in 2004 that she had plastic surgery, is one of countless people taking advantage of cosmetic procedures to hide the signs of aging. From coloring hair to going under the knife, there are plenty of options for every budget.
Here's a look at the most common age-defying procedures and the average price you could pay.
Hair. The easiest way to take years off could be to color grey hair. Ricky Pennisi, owner of Atelier Salon and Spa in New Jersey, says there are differing opinions on grey hair, but it does age a person.
Instead of going straight to a permanent hair color, blending in a semi-permanent color or highlights can help mask the appearance of grey. "It'll give the illusion of a different color," Pennisi says. "That usually buys some time."
For those who decide to embrace grey hair, Pennisi says it's wise to avoid wiry, uncontrolled long grey hair. He suggests using a shaped style and perhaps a clear glaze to add shine. "If you're going to go grey, make sure you have an incredible cut to go with it."
- Coloring: $40-$75 every 5-8 weeks (varies by salon and region)
Skin. Anti-aging creams, lotions and serums promise dramatic results, but some may include ingredients with questionable credentials. However, that doesn't mean all skin products should be dismissed. "Retinol is a very tried and true ingredient," says Samantha Estrella, sales and education director for LifeCell skincare. The ingredient can smooth wrinkles and improve skin texture, but users should be aware it can make skin sensitive to sunlight and may be best used at night.
Vitamins C and E have also been shown to be beneficial in treating damaged skin. Since most skin damage is related to sun exposure, wearing sunblock every day is another key to maintaining a youthful appearance. Some skincare ingredients may cause allergic reactions or aggravate conditions such as rosacea, so it may be best to get the opinion of a dermatologist or allergist to avoid unpleasant side effects.
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As for when to begin using them, Estella says you're never too young to start. "Everyone – even as young as 20 – should be working to prevent damage in the skin," she says.
- Anti-aging skin care regimen: $50-$150 a month
[Read: 10 Financial Perks of Growing Older.]
Teeth. As teeth age, they tend to darken, says Bruce Seidner, founder of Seidner Dentistry and Associates in Randolph, New Jersey, and a fellow at the Academy of General Dentistry. Whitening is the cheapest and easiest way to make a smile look younger. However, not everyone can have their teeth successfully whitened. Sometimes a person's enamel or damage to the teeth make it difficult to achieve lasting results. In those cases, a veneer covering the tooth may be a better option.
Veneers are said to have a 10-year lifespan, but Seidner has found they can last much longer. "I had some [patient veneers] I put in 30 years ago, and they are still in," he says.
When damage, and not darkness, is the issue, dentists may be able to add crowns to teeth to improve their look. However, in severe cases, implants may be the only option. For those who want to avoid dentures, dental implants have become a popular choice. While pricey, their price can be half to a quarter of the cost of the implant method used a decade ago. "It's not really a cosmetic procedure, but the cosmetic result is unbelievable," Seidner says.
- Whitening: $6.50-$100 for over-the-counter products, $500-$600 for in-office whitening, although sale pricing is common
- Veneers: $1,000-$1,500
- Dental implants: $25,000-$30,000
Body. Cosmetic surgery and invasive treatments are the most extreme ways to stop the natural aging process. Procedures range from Botox injections to plump lips and fill in saggy skin by the eyes and forehead to major surgeries such as breast augmentation and tummy tucks.
You will likely need to pay for these treatments out of pocket. "Insurance doesn't pay for anything cosmetic," says Daniel Maman, a board-certified plastic surgeon at 740 Park Plastic Surgery in New York city.
Given the serious financial, physical and emotional implications of cosmetic surgery, people should take their time considering why they want the change and which surgeon to use. "Make sure you want the procedure," says Norman Rowe, a board-certified plastic surgeon at New York City-based Rowe Plastic Surgery. "Once you have had the [surgery], it's nearly impossible to reverse."
To find a surgeon, look for someone certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and beware of other cosmetic surgery associations that are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. In addition, don't shop by price alone. "When you go to low-end facilities – we call them chop shops – they just want your money," says Maman, who won't operate on smokers or those with unrealistic expectations. More expensive clinics may provide lifetime follow-up services and be more candid about whether you're a good candidate for surgery.
- Botox: $1,000
- Eyelid surgery: $6,000-$15,000
- Face/neck lift: $10,000-$15,000
- Breast enhancement: $10,000-$20,000
- Tummy tuck: $10,000-$20,000
[See: 12 Great Things About Retirement.]
Chasing the fountain of youth is not cheap, or even particularly easy. However, there is no denying cosmetic procedures can have a dramatic effect on appearance. Before spending the time and money, it may be best to ask yourself how important is it to look like you're 30 when you're 50, 60, or 90.
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report