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While the noninvasive procedures cost less than a face-lift, the effects won’t last as long and repeat treatments might be needed several times a year, Schmid said. He advised patients to calculate carefully which type of procedure makes the most sense for them financially.

Schmid, who is on the board of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, cautioned against any rush to try new procedures that get a burst of publicity.

“There’s a certain vulnerability because everybody’s looking for that quick fix, that fountain of youth,” he said. “Many people will shop emotionally instead of objectively, before something has been tried and tested.”

Some critics of the anti-aging industry are supportive of cosmetic surgery, provided the patient can comfortably afford it.

Professor Robert Binstock, an expert on aging at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, told of a recently widowed friend whose spirits lifted after getting the bags under her eyes removed. “If you feel better looking in the mirror in the morning, fine,” he said. “I have no objection to people being narcissistic.”

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Skin care:

One of the industry’s booming sectors is anti-aging skin care, featuring wrinkle creams and facial serums. By some estimates, the U.S. market for cosmeceutical products _ cosmetics with medicine-based ingredients _ is approaching $20 billion a year.

The FDA, which oversees cosmetic safety and labeling, doesn’t require manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of cosmetic products before they go on sale, and many ads make claims which critics say are exaggerated or unverifiable. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends consulting a dermatologist on what skin care products have been proved safe and effective in human studies.

Consumer Reports has ventured into the realm of anti-aging cosmetics several times recently, using high-tech optical devices and other scientific methods to assess the products.

Last year, the magazine tested nine face serums, available at drug stores for prices ranging from $20 to $65 and all claiming to reduce wrinkles.

“After six weeks of use, the effectiveness of even the best products was limited and varied from subject to subject,” according to the review. “When we did see wrinkle reductions, they were at best slight, and they fell short of the miracles that manufacturers seemed to imply on product labels.”

Earlier, the magazine tested wrinkle creams.

“Even the best performers reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than 10 percent, a magnitude of change that was, alas, barely visible to the naked eye,” it said.

Its top-rated product, Olay Regenerist, cost about $19 at the time of the testing. La Prairie Cellular, the most expensive at $335, was rated among the least effective.

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