The Body Beautiful

A dermatologist can zap away cherry spots, wherever they are on the body, with the pulsed dye laser (PDL). It zeros in on blood vessels to knock out redness. Although you'll shell out $100 to $300 a PDL session (two or three are recommended), the results are worth it: In a 2001 study, cherry spots improved in 97 percent of those treated, and 14 percent saw their spots vanish entirely. Expect some slight stinging and minimal bruising that lasts a few days.

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Stretch Marks

Like a rubber band that eventually snaps when pulled too far, stretch marks occur when the skin is extended to the breaking point. Usually the result of a pregnancy or dramatic increase in weight, the unsightly streaks appear when collagen (which supports the skin) and elastin fibers (which provide elasticity) break apart. Technically considered scars, stretch marks, which most frequently appear on the abdomen, hips, and breasts, initially look pink or purplish and may be slightly raised. With time, they usually assume a thin, sunken appearance and fade to white.

At Home

If you're already using a prescription retinoid cream like Renova to reduce wrinkles, it may help ever so slightly to dab some on your stretch marks as well, especially if they're less than 6 months old. "Retinoids help form new collagen and elastin, which can make stretch marks more similar in appearance to your normal skin," Southern California's Duffy says.

According to a University of Michigan Medical Center study, 80 percent of patients with fairly new stretch marks treated with a retinoid cream for 6 months saw the length of their marks decrease by an average of 14 percent and the width by 8 percent. You can also try retinol, the less-potent retinoid available in over-the-counter cream. "It's definitely worth a try, but the best results are seen on newer stretch marks," Duffy says.

In Office

Consider a new laser skin care treatment called Fraxel, which stimulates collagen production by heating the lower layer of the skin. In a yet-to-be-published study of 18 patients conducted by NYU's Chapas, five Fraxel treatments at 2- to 3-week intervals were found to fade even old stretch marks by about 50 percent. The laser works by emitting a very thin beam of infrared light that makes thousands of microscopic wounds over only 20 percent of your skin; the surrounding tissue is left untouched.

This "fractional" approach allows the skin to heal much faster than if the entire area were treated at once, says Dr. Roy Geronemus, a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center. It also means that side effects, including pain, are minimal; mild swelling and redness subside in a few days. The drawbacks: Each treatment costs about $500, and up to five sessions are necessary to see optimal results.

For more health tips, check out the latest issue of Prevention, on shelves now!

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