Chin up, there’s an alternative facelift in town
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If the screenwriter and essayist Nora Ephron felt bad about her neck, then let me tell you I feel pretty damn wretched about mine – and most of what happens north and south of it as well. Ageing is horrible, and watching the elasticity of my skin wither like an ancient rubber band is no fun whatsoever. But, like Ephron, I have accepted that there is little point in trying to stem the speed of inevitable decline by resorting to the surgeon’s knife. Neither can I countenance the thought of anti-ageing injections. Even though I’ve seen some pretty decent surgical enhancement among my circle, there’s something about filler that just makes people look a little off. And I’m not sure whether Botox really helps take the years off or simply lends people the look of a replicant.
Nevertheless, as someone who would still like to “maintain” what’s fast going out of the window, I am drawn to treatments aimed to stimulate collagen production and improve that all-important elasticity. These procedures are often erroneously described as laser treatments but are more likely using ultrasound or radiofrequency waves to stimulate the muscles beneath the skin.
Essentially, these treatments provoke an “inflammation” that triggers collagen production and – with any luck – encourages the appearance of plumper-looking skin. There are a number of options on the market. None requires any downtime or recovery; the difference depends mainly on your pain threshold and ability to withstand so much heat applied directly to the skin.
Dr Costas Papageorgiou, an oculofacial plastic surgeon, offers several treatments from his consultation suites at the Harrods Wellness Clinic and the New York Dermatology Group in New York. His Ultherapy (£3,400) treatment uses ultrasound to penetrate up to 4.5mm beneath the skin’s surface, “the same layer that a surgeon will go to with a facelift”, he explains. But it can also be quite uncomfortable, he cautions, so while the results are “probably about as good as you will get before getting a facelift”, you may want to opt for the more popular Trilogy Energy Lift, a three-step “energy-based facial” that uses “hydro exfoliation, laser genesis and radiofrequency waves to address skin laxity on the eyelid, face and neck”.
I have been seeing Papageorgiou periodically for a few years now. And while I have continued to resist his encouragement that I should do something radical about the two intense furrows, or “11”, that decorate my brow, I’ve become quite addicted to the Energy Lift. Although the words “laser” and “exfoliation” sound incredibly intrusive, today’s technology is a world away from the peels and flaky-faced recovery we used to associate with skin resurfacing. The treatment is so mild that it feels like someone rolling a hot marble across my face – it’s really quite restful. After the course of a few sessions I notice a marked improvement in the scrag around my jawline, and my neck looks more youthful and, dare I say, more taut.
It doesn’t last forever. Papageorgiou suggests that having had the initial course of treatments the results should last for up to 18 months, but I can think of few other treatments in which the pain/gain pay-off is so far in favour of the patient and I like the way it feels. Yes, the treatment is quite distressing on the pocket (a course of sessions costs from £3,200), but it’s a great deal less expensive and invasive than a facelift, which requires substantial recovery time and, you know, means asking someone to cut your face open with a knife.
There are further reasons to look at radiofrequency treatments as opposed to other popular procedures. “Where Botox and fillers provide apparently instant cosmetic results, they will not only dissolve over time but may also lead to complications such as lumps or hardened tissue at injected sites, muscle atrophy and unnatural contours,” says Adeela Crown, the self-styled “Skin Engineer”, who left a career in financial services 10 years ago to pursue cosmetic chemistry. “Laser technology, on the other hand, offers more effective and long-lasting results, thanks to the accelerated natural cellular turnover and collagen production, which is triggered deep within your own skin. And radiofrequency gives your skin a good kick up the backside to boost cellular repair.”
Radiofrequency and acoustic wave therapy are just some of the tools Crown uses during her extraordinary facials (from £450), which also feature “contour-engineering” massage, nano-needling and a quick spell in her custom-built hyperbaric oxygen dome. She, too, won’t promise ever-lasting luminosity, but views such procedures “as a turbo booster, to be considered as part of your regular skin MOT”. For home use, Crown recommends the LYMA laser (£2,000) and NEWA Beauty (£249) gadgets, which are designed for collagen synthesis and skin rejuvenation and which, usefully, “have an in-built intensity cut-off, meaning it lowers the risk of causing self-induced laser burns”.
Personally, I would prefer a professional to be wielding the hot stuff, mostly because they can safely operate a higher and more effective charge. Is it worth it? Vanity is far too hard to quantify but, for what it’s worth, with occasional blasts of radiofrequency, I feel less bad about my neck.