Testers tried the most promising line erasers high-tech, in-office lasers and Botox. Here are some of the amazing results:
The problem • "My crow's feet, forehead lines and the lip lines that ruin my lipstick over the course of the day," said Penelope Kulko, 53. "At 50, I began enjoying life more than ever, and I embrace my white shock of hair. But I notice my wrinkles more now, and others probably do, too. I've used serums, but I've never really sensed that any of them were doing much."
The fix • Fractional laser, specifically Fraxel Dual, for three sessions (about $1,000 each). The laser heats skin deep down in a pixelated pattern, stimulating collagen synthesis. Side effects are minimal: a sunburn-like redness for few days, flaking for up to a week.
Her experience • New York City dermatologist Anne Chapas treated Kulko's skin. After numbing the area with a lidocaine gel, Dr. Chapas ran the handheld laser device over Kulko's face, targeting spots and lines. Kulko's skin was a bit red afterward, but not bad enough to prevent her from attending her daughter's trumpet recital that night. Dark spots flaked off within a few days (building up collagen to minimize wrinkles takes at least four weeks). A month after Kulko's second treatment, many of her spots had returned, although she diligently used sunscreen and wore a hat. "She came to the office for her third treatment, and she was tan," said Dr. Chapas. "The sun's a no-no. I decided to postpone her last treatment until after summer was over."
Testing time • 16 weeks
Results • "Kulko had the most dramatic improvements," said Mary Clarke, senior product analyst at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. "Her forehead lines are practically gone."
The problem • "My furrow. I'm a very happy person, but it makes me look angry," said Maria Morningstar, 51. "I can be smiling from ear to ear, and people will ask me if I'm upset. The only thing upsetting me is this furrow."
The fix • Botulinum toxin A, or Botox (about $400) is injected into muscles to block nerve impulses and impede contractions. Results typically last three to four months.
Her experience • Dr. Chapas treated the "elevens" between Morningstar's eyebrows with five injections. "They felt like small pinches," said Morningstar. Bruising is possible, but she had none. Botox takes a week to kick in, with a one- to two-week follow-up to check results. At Morningstar's second appointment, Dr. Chapas injected Morningstar's forehead twice to soften those lines as well - an extra youth-restoring boost.
Testing time • One week results: "I like the subtlety," said Morningstar. "I even fooled my 15-year-old daughter's dermatologist, who treats her acne. My daughter told the doc she suspected I'd had Botox. The doc studied me and said, 'Your mom has too much facial expression to have had Botox.'"
Results • When Morningstar's face is at rest, the furrow is gone, but she can still frown if she wants to. "I think this is the ultimate Botox - not that frozen Hollywood look," said Dr. Chapas.