Time and tide wait for no man. As for women, heavens, it’s more like a raging tsunami! It seems like only yesterday that I was a fresh faced twenty something and then, in the blink of an eye, my age has gone north while the rest of me is increasingly heading south! Drat! That wasn’t really part of the plan! While there are all sorts of clever tricks to disguise a thickening waist and flabby bingo wings (personally, I recommend chiffon) sadly, there is no super invisible elasticated balaclava that pulls, prods and pushes those under eye bags, the jowls and the general facial droop back to where they belong. Short of a burka, (a chiffon one, perhaps, a la Sheherezade?) there’s only the choice of living with a quietly crumbling face or seeking cosmetic intervention.
You know that feeling when, one morning, you look in the mirror and wonder who that person is looking back at you? When your face looks kind of untidy because its components aren’t quite where they are meant to be? And you pull and you prod and imagine winding back time just a little? A wise woman once told me that it’s best to happily embrace and accept the aging process as the alternative, eternal youth, can only be achieved by dying young. True enough. The same woman also told me to be happy with my face because as sure as eggs is eggs, I will look back at photos in five years time and wish I still had that face. Also true. In fact, too true, don’t we all know it! And yes, accepting how you are and how you look is very liberating, that too, I agree. As my mother always said ‘Every wrinkle reflects an interesting experience along life’s path.’ Still, the transition from young hottie to old bag is a tough one for most women. Men become dignified with age, grey foxes. That little bit of extra weight, those grey temples, often just make them more interesting but for us ladies it’s a different story somehow because, like it or not, invariably we are judged by our looks so much more than men. Superficial this may be but it’s a fact of life.
I’ve played around with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, vitamin injections, fraxel treatment at the famous Dr. Sebagh’s, lymphatic facials at my beauticians, even anti ageing acupuncture treatment. I’ve been good and healthy about my nutrition to gain that extra glow, I’ve spent a fortune on ridiculous face creams because I so wanted to believe the advertising, only to break out in skin rashes because it was all too rich. Twice I’ve had my eyelids cut open and sewn back together, wide awake and under local anaesthetetic, admittedly for a neurological medical condition rather than as a rejuvenation tactic, and once I tried a filler injection which resulted in a humongous abcess right in the middle of my face, not an amazing look! Being married to a doctor, I am wary of the medical implications of messing around with my face, or for that matter, any other part of my body and besides, I have no interest whatsoever in having a face that looks like an overstuffed, immovable cushion, sitting atop a scraggy neck. No siree!
One thing I have learnt from all of these experiences, is that finding a highly qualified practitioner who gives the right individual advice is paramount. We may all want to look like Cameron Diaz or Angelina Jolie but let’s get a reality check here, it’s just not a case of one size fits all and you can only work discreetly with what you’ve got. On top of all of that, there’s also the question of cost. None of these treatments are cheap, so it wouldn’t do to end up with a weird ‘middle aged Barbie’ visage or , conversely, with something that makes no difference at all or doesn’t last. In my view, the trick is to take the ‘less is more path’.
In my quest to wind back the clock just a little, word of mouth and the example of a very well ‘maintained’ acquaintance led me to aesthetic expert Stephanie Green (who has more initials after her name than I can possibly quote) at the Springwell Clinic (www.springwellclinic.co.uk) in Marlow, just an hour from SW London where I live. Now the historic small town of Marlow, situated most prettily on the Thames, is frankly worth going to, even just for a meander and a coffee, it’s that lovely, so a whizz down the M4 is no hardship. Stephanie and her business partner, Lucy O’Neill, are highly qualified nurse specialists in the field of rejuvenation who practice at tranquil and pleasant premises with a seriously professional ethic. Unlike so many other similar practices, they are not hell-bent on selling you some expensive treatment that’s just not right for you, and they look carefully at your objectives, your medical history and the individual nature given realities. Another thing I value about Stephanie’s advice is that she knows how to prioritise. Of course, with so many promising treatments on offer, the temptation to go over the top is huge. Who wouldn’t want to wave a magic wand in the hope of walking out of the clinic looking 20 years younger? This is where she slams on the brakes and makes you focus on what can and what cannot be realistically and successfully achieved. And then you get sent home to have a good think about it all before any action is taken. It’s so much better to proceed in safe little baby steps than to go for drastic changes which only end up making you look like the Bride of Wildenstein! Just like a house or a beautiful painting, it’s all about slow layering up.
After much deliberation, I decide on going for a PDO treatment, also known as a threadlift. This process has come a long way since its early inception. These days the polydioxanone threads are dissolvable, made of the same stuff that normal sutures are made of. Microscopic barbs are attached to them which, apparently, very gently pull facial skin into place and stimulate collagen regeneration. Several threads of varying lengths are inserted subcutaneously into the facial areas that are to be lifted via a super fine cannula, after a mild dental block injection has been given and anaesthetic cream applied. Thankfully, it doesn’t hurt, just a small prick at the entry point and a tightening sensation, perhaps for a brief moment a mild sense of pressure. Then it’s done. The effect is instant. Bruising can occur but this time I’m lucky and just very minimal swelling is visible. For two nights I’m supposed to sleep with my head higher than my body and I’m to avoid very wide mouth movement for the next four weeks, so I postpone an already arranged dental treatment. Stephanie warns me that for a little while my face may feel slightly tender. The whole lifting effect, I’m told, will last three years.
Two weeks on and I feel fine. Do I look younger? Not exactly but I look very much fresher. My cheekbones seem to have lifted softly, as have my jowls, and some of my annoying small wrinkles look ironed out. I’m really pleased with the overall result. My face shape hasn’t changed and I haven’t gone all puffy. I still look the age I am but better preserved than before, less tired and droopy, and I’m getting lots of compliments. The chiffon burka can stay in the closet for the timebeing.
Springwell Clinic, 10-12 Oxford Road, Marlow, Berks. SL7 2NL . Tel.: (0)1628 308060 www.springwellclinic.co.uk