- Professional cosmetic procedures are most effective but can be very expensive.
- Home appliances can be cheaper but require commitment and a long-term approach.
- When considering buying a device, make sure it has clinical trials to back up all the claims, and that the return policy is simple.
- Some household items are dangerous, costing you more than your investment.
- Consult a board-certified plastic surgeon for free professional advice.
If you want to improve your appearance, there are many options. You can go to a med spa or a plastic surgeon for professional services. Depending on what you want done, the procedures can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
The 2023 RealSelf Culture Report found that 24% of people in the United States had at least one cosmetic procedure, and 12% had two or more.
Instead of using a professional for cosmetic procedures, you can buy many tools and do the work in the privacy of your own home. They can also be expensive, however, and in some cases not as effective.
Here’s when you want to grow for a professional and when DIY is enough, depending on your goals.
Goal: Lift Sagging Skin
To reverse the effects of gravity, you may want a facelift performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon. According to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a facelift is $9,281.
At such a high price point, you may want to consider purchasing devices designed to lift and tighten the skin using microcurrent technology. Top sellers include NuFace, which starts at around $200 and FaceGym, which retails for $580.
Dr. Akis Ntonos, founder and owner of Manhattan-based Aion Aesthetics says to keep your expectations low for the devices.
“There’s nothing you can do at home that will tighten your skin enough to make you happy,” says Ntonos. “Microcurrent devices can temporarily activate muscles but have no lasting effect. They are harmless, but always a waste of money.”
However, Trina Albus, a Los Angeles-based at-home beauty tool expert for Beauty Beyond 40, says some work.
“The device must be Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared and clinically proven and you must use it regularly and consistently. Be patient. There will be immediate results,” he said.
Goal: Soften Wrinkles
Are you always angry because you have deep hollows between your eyes? Or maybe you have stubborn horizontal lines on your forehead.
All can be smoothed out in three to six months using injectables such as Botox, Dysport and Xeomin, available at med spas and doctors’ offices. Prices vary based on location and type, but Botox is always $15 per unit. An area like the forehead may require 10 to 20 units, so expect to pay from $150 to $300.
If that’s too much, especially for something that only lasts a few months, you can try a home device that you use every day, like a laser. There are many to choose from, including the NIRA Pro Anti Aging, which retails for around $550 and the LYMA Laser for $2,695.
“NIRA is the easiest to incorporate into a routine because it’s fast, there’s no mess and it’s cheap compared to Botox,” Albus said. Since you own the device, you don’t have to keep coming back for multiple injections, so it’s cheaper over time.
Just lower your expectations for dramatic results, says Ntonos. “Neuromodulators like Botox block signals from the brain to the muscles,” he says, explaining that even the best and most expensive home remedies can’t do that.
Purpose: Brightening Dull, Discolored Skin
If your skin has lost its youthful glow or has color changes, you can travel to a med spa or an esthetician to get microneedling done. The procedure involves using thin needles to pierce the skin and make small holes. As your skin heals, it produces more collagen and elastin, giving you a brighter, smoother complexion.
More advanced types of microneedling, such as Morpheus8, penetrate deep into the tissue and include radio frequency technology for maximum results.
RealSelf reports that the average price ranges from $500 for a single treatment session in a small area to $4,000 for a series of treatments.
You probably won’t be able to achieve the same results yourself, but the products you can buy on the open market are very affordable and can create the look you want.
“Home treatments like dermarollers, when combined with exfoliants, can work,” says Ntono. They can range from $200 for an electric GLOPRO to a handheld ORA Facial Microneedle Roller System for $38, to Karuna Microneedling Patches for just $12 a pack.
If you don’t like needles, you’re not alone.
“I chose not to put holes in my skin so I used LED light therapy instead,” Albus said. “My favorite is the Dr. Dennis Gross LED face mask for around $450. It gives a more even skin tone.”
Goal: Create High Cheekbones, Young Eyes and Luscious Lips
Age also takes a toll on the areas you want to fill in, says Dr. Derek Steinbacher, of West River Surgical Center in Guilford, Connecticut.
“The fat rooms of the face, which are usually restrained by retaining ligaments, begin to push and migrate to the lower areas,” he said.
“For example, cheek fat descends and collects under the nose and above the lips, forming deep ‘nasolabial’ folds, and making the cheekbones less defined,” he added.
Injected fillers can provide a short-term solution. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost for hyaluronic acid dermal fillers (such as Juvederm and Restylane) is $794 and the average cost for non-hyaluronic acid fillers (such as Sculptra and Radiesse) is $1,039.
A more long-term solution, Steinbacher says, is fat grafting, which is when fat is taken from one part of your body and distributed elsewhere. Results can last for years, but the average cost, per RealSelf data, is about $5,000.
Some home alternatives can be dangerous to even try. For example, a hyaluronic acid delivery system that you can buy and use at home may be tempting, but it is not recommended.
“We’ve seen adverse reactions with this device, where the filler ends up in an artery,” Ntonos said.
Objective: Remove Unwanted Hair
If you want a hairless face or body, electrolysis can be very attractive. It destroys the hair follicle, and is currently the only permanent hair removal process approved by the FDA.
Electrolysis is not cheap, however. This in-office procedure usually requires a series of sessions.
According to AEDIT, an information platform for unbiased beauty and cosmetic procedures, electrolysis for the upper lip ranges from $150 to $300, the bikini area is $900 to $2,000, and the legs are $4,500. to $10,000.
Personal hair removal tools can save. While the results don’t last as long as electrolysis, they are effective.
“The new lasers in the house are incredible,” Albus said. “My favorite is the Smooth Skin IPL device (currently selling for $359). I use it on my face, underarms, bikini and legs. It works really well. It’s easy, fast and powerful. And it doesn’t hurt.”
Office Procedures vs. Home Beauty Devices
Almost all home-based products require constant use for several months to achieve any measurable effect, so if you are impatient, you will get nothing but the bill.
“In my experience, most of the time these devices end up sitting in your closet, so it’s going to be money down the drain,” Ntonos said. “It might be wiser to save your money for a more effective service. Find someone to do a free consultation.”
If you want to opt for a beauty tool, avoid the company’s marketing promises and conduct your own research before buying. Look for FDA clearance, clinical trials, reputable reviews, money-back guarantees and a long and easy return policy.
“Don’t be afraid to try things and see how they work for you,” Albus said. “Take a selfie on the road to track results. If it doesn’t work, just send it back for a refund.”