One realization that hits you in the face come summer's end is the harsh reality that the ozone layer, taken oh so for granted, is a thing of the past. Beyond mere pampering and hiding out in the shade, today's skin needs all the extra help it can get. As we wiped our sweaty brows and headed into July's AC, could we anticipate just how dry and lifeless our skin would be by December? Thanks to my cable TV cancellation, PBS introduced Dr. Nicholas Perricone into my life, in the nick of time. Chock full of tried and trued tid-bits about anti-aging anti-oxidants, his best selling book, "The Wrinkle Cure", guides the reader to brand new skin and youth inducing supplement choices, all for $16.95. The lead singers in the skin-care band are Alpha-Lipoic acid and DMAE, powerful anti-oxidants that can whoop your skin into youthful shape both inside and out. Other beauty enhancements come naturally from eating boatloads of salmon and lemon - and by avoiding sugar and alcohol. Read it. Live it. It works.

Deep within the castle-like facade of Mt. Sinai's dermatology department lives the little known clinic where the effervescent Dr. Hadi holds court every Friday - for less than half the price of surrounding cosmetically driven derm centers. Tried and trued as the best Botox bargain in town, at 200 bucks a pop, the clinic offers a variety of outpatient treatments from peels to collagen. Administered by residents with a department head hands-on and nearby, all treatments are done by pros of tomorrow. In December (This year the 14th - 15th), the department hosts their annual dermatology seminar featuring the likes of renowned Patricia Wexler (Donna Karan, supermodels, celebs) and Dr. David Goldberg where they show and tell their brand new stuff. Madison Avenue at 96th Street. Super secret direct line: 212.241.1508.

On the trail of subtle, yet necessary, cosmetic enhancement - the bright flashing smile can be had at a fraction of the market cost at the NYU School of Dentistry. The "students" here are often practicing dentists from other countries like England, so they know what they're doing, they just need to cut the red tape of stateside credentials. The perk here is that the honorable man who developed porcelain laminate veneers in the first place (cover your own teeth - better than caps) Dr. Calamia, heads the department and is usually as involved with your procedure as you'd like him to be. After an initial registration investment of 85.00 which includes X-rays, you're home free to pursue your cosmetic desires. Laminates run 300 bucks a tooth (compared to 600 + everywhere but Chinatown) and can last well beyond 10 years. A new non-laser bleaching process from the UK called "boost" will set you back another 300 - takes only 15 minutes - and is a good way to whiten the rest of your teeth to meet the laminate shade you aspire towards. The only draw-back we experienced was a one time encounter with a student reeking of a recent weed-smoking break. (Hey, it happens.) We politely declined his assignment to us, and our replacement student was highly competent and drug-free. NYU Dental School Clinic, 1st Avenue @24th Street.