Fashion & Beauty

Nuke the Crow’s Feet?

December 3, 2023



My current beauty routine: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Light Revealer mixed 1:1 with Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Moisturizer for a subtle glow; colorescience brush-on powder sunscreen for when I’m out and about. Altreno tretinoin prescription lotion 0.05% and CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM. Also . . . packing tape. Portrait by M, my little granddaughter. Photo on front, IStock..

By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

SOME WEEKS AGO while walking with L, my accidental muse, she said something about a gratitude list. When I mentioned I think of what I’m grateful for every morning before I slide out of bed, she seemed surprised.

“Really?” she said. “You do a list?”

Though I seem to be grateful for the same things every day, I don’t think of it as a list, exactly, because rather than simply counting the ways I’m grateful, I try to feel what I’m grateful for—to grok it at the deepest level.

For example, when I think of my granddaughter, M, for whom I am wildly and inexpressibly grateful, I wonder at how she appeared in my life: Suddenly a new person, carrying my DNA, with her own character and fascinating ideas . . . and she lives—where?—in Tokyo! And speaks Japanese! (English, too, but whatever.) I never could’ve imagined such a thing.

Or when I think of you readers as among the reasons I’m grateful, simply because you’ve given me the opportunity to try to help in some small way? The meaningfulness of that opportunity is not small; you can read more about gratitude’s effect on happiness here.

I was also grateful to get a clean bill of skin health at my annual skin cancer check this year. But I asked the doctor to look at a little thing on my forehead that keeps returning even though I’ve had it burned off. Turns out it’s a wart. And the prescription for eliminating it? An unlikely accessory: I’ve been advised to cover the wart with a piece of packing tape to starve the skin the wart feasts on of oxygen, which theoretically will end its freeloading life (or something like that). If you happen to be aware of another—and this is important—less humbling way to remove a wart, please share it. Your unglamorous correspondent awaits your suggestions.

Q: My doctor recommended a periorbital phenol peel to reduce sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles around my eyes. I’ve never been happy with my skin, so I’m ready. Have you written about this? Is there a lot of pain and downtime?A: I’ve heard of various kinds of peels and I’ve even had some of them myself (alpha- and beta-hydroxy). But I’ve never been offered a phenol peel. When I emailed dermatologist Jessica Weiser about it, I found out why.“The phenol peel is quite controversial,” she said. “It’s one of the strongest chemical peels available on the aesthetic market, as it penetrates into the dermis (the inner layer of the skin) and can be so painful that it requires sedation for the patient to be able to tolerate it.”Weiser points out that the phenol peel also requires monitoring of vital signs because the chemical can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, the liver, and the kidneys.Where’re you going? There’s more!

Because of the systemic effect, a phenol peel is applied to one segment of the face at a time to allow the liver enough time to process the phenol and the kidneys enough time to excrete the chemical before more is applied in the next segment (the forehead, each cheek, the area around the mouth, and the area around the eyes each considered a segment).

I think you’ll agree Weiser addressed the pain issue. About the downtime: It can require multiple weeks or months to recover from the deep wounding, with significant crusting, oozing, and redness, she said.

And it can be expensive, up to around $6,000, depending on the areas you’re hoping to treat.

Weiser also advised that a phenol peel is appropriate only for lighter skin tones due to the risk of pigmentation issues. And it should also be used with caution when there’s rosacea or another inflammatory skin condition involved.

Now that I know the nitty-gritty, there’s one word that comes to mind when I think of a phenol peel: Punishing. And I wonder whether the lines around your eyes—IMHO, the least un-beautiful wrinkles—merit the heavy artillery. I’d ask a doctor if there are less-invasive treatments that might satisfy your desire to feel happier with your skin. You can find a few considered suggestions here and here.


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