Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Woman goes mad with needles

From the Times. Is there a woman over forty who has not played around in her mind with the idea of a little injection here, a teeny bit of filler there? Twice I have made appointments and cancelled them. This woman went ahead

Things only got weirder after we moved on from playing with needles in NY, to LA, where we flirted with knives and lasers. I was on the rollercoaster, it was a thrilling ride and, my, there was a hell of a lot more of it to go before I was going to get off.

It was pathetic how quickly I went from someone determined to embrace ageing with some grace, to someone who was willing to let a fairly inexperienced doctor remove some fat from my backside, take it to a lab, separate out the stem cells and then inject it back into my ageing, sunken cheeks, up through the inside of my mouth, while also, seeing as he is up there and has got me under a general anaesthetic, getting the knife out and “redraping” the sagging skin under my eyes like a pair of old curtains.

The fat transfer didn't happen. A chance phone call at the last minute, telling me that nobody should work on me following the Sculptra injections, made me call off the procedure that could have left me looking ridiculous. Looking like a freak, I always thought, would keep me away from cosmetic enhancement, but in America, you meet countless women who look weird, yet think they look great. I reckon it's easy to join them. Perhaps I already have.

When you monkey about with what nature intended, things do go wrong. The Restylane in my top lip has slipped - there's a funny lump that shouldn't be there. Since the Fraxel laser therapy on my eyes (performed in LA by Dr Persky), the aforementioned tuna tatare has faded and, certainly, my eyes look less baggy, but, still, seven weeks on, they are a weird brown colour. My forehead is glassy and does not move. A glassy brow is not considered good Botox, but I now like this egg-like badge of self-inflicted paralysis. I may go back for more.

People have commented, constantly, on how well I look, and it started the moment I walked out of Brandt's office, when the sound man told me: “You're a real Manhattan girl now. You look awesome.” Even Anna Davies, the serious, Oxbridge-educated, bluestocking director, liked my lips. My best mate, P, who I had thought would be mildly disgusted, said: “You look great. I haven't seen you like this since the mid-1990s.”

Once you are inside, it's hard to get out. At a certain point, the Botox won't be effective enough, and it will be time for an eye-lift, a neck-lift, a face-lift and so on. If you want to be dramatic about it, you could say that injectables are the weed to surgery's heroin. More pragmatically, if you're going to play the self-improvement game, you had better accept you're in it for life. Boob jobs last only 10 years; eye jobs require volumising materials to be injected regularly into the under-eye area to stop you looking hollow.


greying pixie said...

Linda, whatever you do, don't do it! I've made my decision to go down the route of facial acupunture when the time comes. I sincerely advise you to start your research.

Mary said...

This is horrifying article - gets very difficult to read. I do hope it puts people off such drastic procedure.
What is interesting is the way she shows addictive nature of the treadmill you can get on in such extreme cases - if you have the money, that is.
I am waiting for the backlash. I am sure there will come a time - some day (may be some time off, mind you) - when it will be regarded as not only disgusting but very unfashionable to do such things to yourself.
Well, I can but hope.
Odd that I read this after reading some stuff on Guardian website about Olympics, including this -
Interesting comments on general media portrayal of
women (even in sport) and the contrast with the Olympics, where winners are straight to podium without even chance to brush their hair!

lady coveted said...

i was considering doing botox for a long time. i'm only 33, but i know lots of women my age who are doing 'preventative' treatments. but like you, i've never gone through an appointment.

i did however start using frownies, get a blunt fringe, wear sunglasses every time i left the house, and made a concerted effort to not frown, under any circumstances... and yeah, it's done wonders.

also an egg white mask helps, the natural skin firming remedy.

Anonymous said...

I stare into the mirror and marvel at the transformation achieved by "the poor man's face lift" (palm framing face & thumb at ridge of neck - lifting up the slack).

But, then I think of all the actresses who've had "a little work done" and just ended up looking frozen & strange and all the same.

If only I could remember to keep up my neck exercises. "O - ex - O - ex O..." THAT is a real drag.

Good luck, Linda.

-- desertwind

Anastasia said...

I think the pictures are a classic example of "Before-After" cheatology. The light in the "After" picture is more pleasing, warm and soft and to be honest I can't see too much of a difference.
I've never made an Botox (or else) appointment, despite my biblical age of 37. I'm curious why so many people do it, though, especially since a good surgeon seems so hard to find. Most actresses who "had a little something done" start looking like the Joker sooner or later.

greying pixie said...

desertwind - a tip from my 88 year old French beauty therapist - keep a pencil next to your toothbrush. After cleaning teeth (for 3 minutes) hold pencil sideways between front teeth so that you grimace (like Wallace and Gromit!), then do your 'o ex o ex' for one minute. Do this every time you brush your teeth - problem solved!

greying pixie said...

Just to follow up on Botox and celebrities, the face that really show the horrors of it to me these days is Anna Wintour. I can only assume that no one tells her the truth because they're terrified to look at her!

I think it's a human failing that has never changed, that man (woman) never ceases to have faith in modern technology. And another thought I've had is that the widespread use of Botox these days amongst the young reminds me of the use of tight corsetting in the Victorian era - it just becomes the norm, so that to opt out is considered improper and too natural.

And one last thing I've heard regarding Botox - a paralysed muscle ceases the work, therefore looses its tone, resulting in slack muscles which sag more, resulting in collagen to plump them up ... plastic surgeons are laughing all the way to the bank!

Mary said...

Sorry! - in earlier comment the website I mentioned has got cut off (wasn't originally - honest!) It is -

Mary said...

Still not working! I've tried again but when broken into 2 lines and copied - extra bits can get put in the middle of address/url.
Above is correct but may not copy correctly - if you see what I mean.
Hope you get there. Think it's worth it.

Deja Pseu said...

Ugh. I suppose my squeamishness both of the procedures involved and of ending up looking like one of those freakish 65 year olds in Beverly Hills with the alien face and the blonde hair extensions and the frighteningly thin body in designer jeans keeps me from being tempted by anything more involving than a thrice yearly glycolic peel by a wonderful facialist. The first time he suggested it I winced, and he laughed and said "don't worry, you won't look like Samantha did" and he was right. It makes my skin glow and there's no risk of dying on the operating table.

lagatta said...

Imagine - she is only 37...

Doesn't look "old" at all, but does look a bit tired and stressed. Wouldn't a holiday and some gentle physical activity be the best medicine?

Elaine said...

72 injections! There is nothing in the world I want badly enough to get 72 injections in my face. I do get a series of microdermabrasion with a lactic application every year. I don't think it makes me look younger but it does make me look better.

Greying Pixie is absolutely correct about sagging being caused by paralyzed muscles. A friend of my mother never fully recovered from Bell's Palsy. One side of her face is paralyzed. She gets botox on the non-paralyzed side and a filler (I'm not sure if it's collagen) on the paralyzed side. I wonder if all the 20 somethings and 30 somethings who get "preventative botox" realize that they're paying to trade one problem for another.

Now, what's this "o ex o ex" thing that you're all talking about?

adele said...

I can truthfully say that never in my whole life have I ever considered any kind of cosmetic surgery. I would rather look like a prune than have anyone come near my face with needle or knife...I can't even bring myself to read this article!

greying pixie said...

elaine, regarding 'o ex o ex' - it's a little exercise to tighten a sagging neck that really really works. Follow the instructions I mentioned earlier with the pencil, and say the letters 'O X' repeatedly for one minute with the pencil between your teeth. Like all worthwhile exercise it does get easier and needs to be done regularly, but I've been doing it fairly regularly for the past three years and have no sagging neck problems yet. It's a bit of a family joke in my house, my children think it's hilarious!

Geraldine said...

I'm with adele. Too squeamish to even read the article. I can't even consider contact lenses!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I think this poor woman had too many cooks in her (face) kitchen and way too many procedures. I'm surprised she got so caught up in the hope of looking younger, and, frankly, surprised her doctors weren't more responsible. I guess that's a sign of how pervasive the hope of looking younger has become in society, which is sad.

And for all that, she doesn't look all that different.

rb said...

I get Botox between the brows. No shame. I'm 43. It seems to stave off the afternoon headaches I get too. I started when I noticed people asking "What's wrong" or "Why are you frowning?" when I wasn't actually frowning.

I haven't had any other procedures and have no plans to.

I go to a much-written-up top guy in San Francisco, and he has never, ever pushed another procedure or treatment on me.

Anonymous said...

In mid 1990s, a friend worked as a counselor for people who'd made their first appointment with a top Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. She discussed personal issues with them; taught exercises (facial, body posture, relaxation/meditation); created a special aromatherapy perfume for each one, etc. After that, she and the patient met with the doctor. Frequently, the patient ended up not getting surgery or having a less-invasive procedure.

It's a shame there aren't more responsible doctors. And, that many offering botox, etc haven't been trained. So much money involved.

Trying to defy age is nothing new, but the weird combo we've got nowadays of high-resolution cruel photography and its counterpart Photoshop adds extra pressure, doesn't it?

-- desertwind

PS -- My husband laughs at my ex-o exercises, but he can afford to laugh! His neck is covered by a goatee.

PPS -- Getting reading glasses & better lighting in my office took away a lot of my between-brow frown and afternoon headaches.

Rosaria said...

Greying Pixie: I'd like to know a lot more about your 88-year-old beauty therapist and her tips. Her knowledge and skills long pre-date modern trickery.

I'm 53, and have a slight frown line, but otherwise a smooth forehead and no eye bags, despite my fair share of life's misfortunes. I thank my paternal genes and the few drops of Spanish blood contained therein.

greying pixie said...

rosaria, my beauty therpist is indeed an inspiring woman and her skin is that of a well groomed 40 year old. Her facials last two hours and the reason I make the effort to go to her once or twice a year is that she massages the face really well with tiny gentle strokes for at least thirty minutes. This seems to smooth the skin and of course stimulate circulation. Whenever I've asked other therapists to do the same they've just tickled me a bit with nowhere near the same result.

She believes in keeping the muscles of the face toned - hence the O X workout - and she can feel how toned your muscles are by massaging. She also starts the whole session with an upper back massage to relax the shoulders ready for the facial.

She has shown me how to massage frown lines upwards every night with night cream and also the lines that start to run from edges of mouth up to the nose. They also have to be massaged upwards with cream every night. Cream for under eyes should be applied inwards towards the nose.

She makes up her own products and swears by her collagen cream and caviar serum which is excellent, although I have found a good substitute in Pierre Ricaud Collagen cream and serums. Most of her products are plant based and she has also advised me to wash hands before starting on my face and use a fresh flannel and towel every day.

She has even given me diet advice which involves loads of green vegetables and light protein steamed lightly with a dribble of olive oil added after cooking.

I can't think of anything else at the moment. She is a truly wonderful woman, widowed at 45 with four children to raise; she set up her salon and worked with a scientist to determine the formulae of her products. I don't know how much longer she will continue to work. Every time I see her I think it may be the last. But her advice has really influenced me and in turn my daughter.

Having read through this it all sounds a bit fussy, but once it becomes a habit you hardly notice what you're doing. Anyway, five minutes at the mirror every night is, for me, a sort of oasis of peace and tranquility after hectic days rushing round London with barely five minutes to sit down for lunch!

But I also think these positive efforts also work psychologically to make me feel positive about myself. I don't care how old I look as long as I look soignee.

Linda Grant said...

Name and phone number, please.

greying pixie said...

I'm afraid she sold her salon at age 65 and just does a few clients now at home. Luckily one of my best friends is an longterm client of hers, which is how I manage to get an appointment twice a year. So I don't feel I can give out her contact details.

However, living realistically, I'm constantly on the lookout for a replacement in the UK. I'm due to try out a lady in Brighton in September who uses Pier Auge products, which the french lady approves. I'll let you know if she meets the standards.

rosaria said...

Greying Pixie: Thank you very much. Great tips, and very manageable in a daily routine. She sounds like an absolute legend.

Her approach feels more organic and a whole lot more self-empowering than submitting to scalpel-wielding surgeons.

StyleSpy said...

I don't care, I'm doing it. By the end of the year I intend to have gotten some filler in my nasolabial folds. I'm 43, have always had a very thin face, and after a 30-pound weight loss, these lines are even more pronounced. There's that old French saying about having to choose between your backside and your face -- but I refuse to choose!

miss cavendish said...

New York Magazine recently did a story on the "old face"--meaning old-style face work a la Meg Ryan--v. the "new Face"--the plumped faces of Madonna and Demi Moore, for instance. I agree that Demi looks positively dewy, but I'd be far to scared to attempt to change anything for fear of losing sight of my self.

greying pixie said...

Well I think Madonna and Demi Moore lost sight of themselves years ago, if indeed they ever saw themselves in the first place.

I still think facial acupuncture is the path for me when the time eventually comes (I'm thinking around 60) as it is holistic and a time tested therapy. In the meantime I'd rather spend my money on a good facial.

Deja Pseu said...

My husband had facial acupuncture after he came down with severe Bell's Palsy a few years ago, and his recovery was remarkably hastened, a few weeks as opposed to months or even years.

greying pixie said...

rosaria, just remembered another tip from french beauty therapist, which I must admit I struggle with. Train yourself to sleep all night flat on your back and support your neck with a tiny pillow, like a lumber roll. I have a 72 year old friend who has done this for at least the last 30 years and her face is proof that it works. She travels everywhere with her little pillow, which I admire, but having shared hotel rooms with her on many occasions, I can tell you that her snoring (provoked by lying on her back) has tested my powers of loyalty to the limit!

greying pixie said...

I must tell you this through the tears of laughter - go to Youtube: how to sculpt and lift your cheeks using face yoga. Just watching it will be a workout enough!

lagatta said...

stylespy, the French saying has nothing to do with choice. It is: les minces gardent leurs fesses; les grosses gardent leur face.

"Les grosses" in the French saying are not the morbidly obese; they are people like me, or Nigella. Fat if we aren't careful, or if dreadfully poor and can't afford the lean protein and green veg. (And les "minces" or "maigres" are no more attractive in such circumstances).

It simply refers how ageing affects different body types.

The more class-conscious saying is: "Les hommes sortent avec les maigres et rentrent avec les grosses"....

Rosaria said...

Greyiing Pixie: I've always wondered about sleeping thus, and actually tried it for a while, but usually woke up comfortably curled on my right side as usual. Is this a Hollywood myth....that sleeping on a satin pillowcase reduces the chance of the skin folding and creasing while we sleep?

Have just watched yoga lady and will post comment in appropriate place. When I've stopped laughing. I could be some time.