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Boomers Seek Fountain Of Youth

Susan Malpiedi watches her diet and exercises five times a week to keep in shape. The 49-year old also has the occasional collagen shot and tried botox injections to keep her face looking fresh.

So when spider veins began spreading across her legs creating a "big blue map," Malpiedi said she opted to have a laser procedure that collapses the offending vessels.

"I don't think anyone else really noticed (the veins)," said Malpiedi, of Floral Park, N.Y. "But I want to maintain me at the best level possible."

Baby boomers have been visiting plastic surgeons and dermatologists to erase lines and wrinkles on their faces. But what good is a flawless face if a sagging neck, veins and spots reveal a person's true age?

Doctors say boomers, who range from 38 to 56 years of age, increasingly ask for procedures to reduce other telltale signs of aging such as spider and varicose veins on the legs, brown spots on the hands and chest and wrinkled necks. As many boomers are surrounded by younger colleagues or find themselves dating again, they want every part of their bodies to project an image of vitality.

"I think boomers have a basic dread of aging. They just want to be young forever," said Dr. Robert Weiss, an assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine.

Weiss said that while a face lift can cost $20,000, many of the procedures to revitalize legs and hands are relatively inexpensive and can be done in a doctor's office. For example, he charges between $200 and $500 to diminish spider veins. A procedure that plumps up thin hands with pronounced veins by using fat from other parts of the body can cost up to $1,500.

"These procedures can really help how people feel about themselves," Weiss said.

Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick said 70 percent of his procedures are still done on patient's faces, but that is down from 80 percent about five years ago. "People are just more interested in all-over rejuvenation now," he said.

Improvements in the procedures themselves have made them more popular. Weiss said that until two or three years ago, it was taboo to use lasers to revitalize the neck because a lack of pores makes it more prone to scarring than the face. Now, there is new generation of lasers that don't hurt the outer layer of the skin.

Varicose and spider vein removal are especially popular among baby boomer women, many of whom have the problem because of pressure on their legs from pregnancy.

Eliminating varicose veins, which are badly swollen, used to require surgery. Now they can be removed in a doctor's office with lasers.

The first line of defense for treating spider veins used to be injecting a saline solution into them so they would collapse. The injection could sting, but now a gentler solution is used.

"The procedure has zero toxicity," said Dr. Mitchel Goldman, medical director of the La Jolla Spa M.D. in La Jolla, Calif.

Patients say they aren't very concerned about the safety of the procedures, but the cost, while relatively moderate, is an issue - the procedures are not covered by insurance.

Malpiedi has two children to put through college, so she shops wisely and doesn't eat out very often so she can afford various procedures.

Beverly Ross, another patient, agrees that the procedures are worth the cost although she might have to skimp on other areas such as vacations. The 50-year-old, who works for the city of San Diego, has two incentives for looking her best - her job requires her to be in and out of meetings, and she's single and dating. She has augmented work done on her face with procedures such as liposuction and spider vein removal on other parts of her body.

Ross says in a perfect world, looks wouldn't matter, but "the real world doesn't work that way." She adds, "You have to be happy in your own skin so it is worth the money I spend."

By Theresa Agovino