The Future Perfect

Like the exaggerations of an online dater, plenty of skin products aren't as rich, successful, or sensitive as they claim. And still, many of us never lose faith that the next one to come along will be more than just empty promises in a handsome package.

But there's a little good news for hopeless dreamers: A handful of treatments are being developed and tested, and already they look as if they'll fulfill some of our wildest expectations.

One is a wrinkle smoother that may well achieve the same results as Botox, but without needles. Another cream, this one for eyes, actually repairs sagging skin on the cellular level rather than just moisturizing it.

And, as the knight in shining armor, there's a new machine that, like liposuction, removes fat -- but unlike liposuction, does it without so much as scratching the skin.

Compared with traditional doctor's-office treatments, some of these advances are less painful and less invasive, so they carry less risk; some are faster; some last longer; and some are simply more effective. Although a few are available now, others are still being studied or refined in the laboratory, known to only a select group of doctors.

While no one can promise that they will replace scalpels, needles, and suction entirely, they're the result of impressive research, offering hope that despite the disillusionments and disappointments of the past, it's possible to find true loveliness after all.

Wrinkle-Reduction Treatments

A LINE-SMOOTHING GEL

What it is: In the foreseeable future, doctors may be able to wipe out wrinkles -- literally. When rubbed on the skin, a novel gel that contains botulinum toxin is designed to temporarily smooth frown lines and crow's-feet just like Botox does. But since no injections are involved, there's no pain and no bruising.

How it works: The gel, which hasn't been named yet, permeates the skin with the help of technology patented by researchers at Revance Therapeutics in Mountain View, California. Unlike the multitude of over-the-counter muscle-relaxing creams on the market today that last only 24 hours at most, one application of this gel is being engineered to last at least as long as Botox -- three to five months.

When available: Clinical studies were started in November 2006, and Dan Browne, president and chief executive officer of Revance Therapeutics, says the FDA could approve the product "in the next several years."

THE 70-SECOND WRINKLE ELIMINATOR

What it is: Lasers can burn, Intense Pulsed Light can redden skin, but GentleWaves Select has neither of these drawbacks. This device is a smaller, more portable version of GentleWaves, the light-emitting diode (LED) machine cleared by the FDA last year for diminishing the appearance of eye wrinkles. (Some doctors believe it can also reduce pore size and speed wound healing.) This compact model--intended for spas operated by physicians--emits the same strength of pulsing yellow light as the original, and it is just as effective. The only difference is that the larger version treats the whole face in 35 seconds, whereas this one can treat only half the face in that time.

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