How to turn back time like Cher, but without a scalpel
The singer has admitted to facelifts and other cosmetic improvements, but new techniques can take years off your looks without surgery.
Who over a certain age hasn't stared in the mirror and wished to turn back the clock? If only it were possible to lift and tighten the skin on your face — but without resorting to going under the surgeon's knife.
The most modern treatments are much less radical and more subtle.
All the same, some sound pretty scary and most are expensive. So how do you know what to try?
“Ageing in the face is a result of skin damage to the surface, loss of elasticity and skin tone, that causes wrinkles, as well as loss of volume — which causes the face to drop and sag,” says Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic, London and clinical professor of dermatology at the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles.
“All these are accelerated by exposure to sunlight, toxins, smoking, yo-yo dieting and stress. There is lots you can do with modern technology to easily knock 10 years off your face.”
The secret, he says, a little alarmingly, is to start a little younger, in your mid-thirties. “Then the changes to the skin can be anticipated and treated to prevent them.”
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
How does it work? IPL is an extremely strong, pulsed low-density light that passes through the epidermis and then penetrates deeper into the dermis, where the pulsed light energy stimulates cells called fibroblasts to produce fresh collagen.
Results: Over three to four treatments, this new collagen smoothes and softens the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, pores and textural irregularities. Pigmentation abnormalities, spider veins and rosacea — which absorb the light — are damaged until they fade from view. After several sessions the smoothing effects are dramatic.
Scary factor: During the 20-minute treatment it feels like a rubber band is being snapped on your face. Go to a doctor, not a beautician, as this is serious stuff we’re talking about.
Down time: If done properly, you'll have only mild redness. You could have IPL in your lunch break.
Cost: £400 for one session, but more will be needed to get the full effect. On the plus side, the results last for years.
PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma)
How does it work? The new ‘vampire facelift’ or ‘Dracula treatment’ uses your own blood to combat wrinkles on the face and neck. Blood is drawn from a vein and put into a special centrifuge that concentrates and separates platelets.
The platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the areas needing rejuvenation, releasing special growth factors that lead to tissue healing: the production of new cells, remodelling of epidermis and collagen production.
Results: Your skin is shiny, plumper, smooth and glows. “There is a good amount of evidence to suggest it works in 75% of patients,” says Basim Matti — consultant plastic surgeon at the Cromwell Hospital in south London — who is researching the technique. “You have to wait six weeks for results.”
Scary factor: Not for the faint-hearted.
Down time: One day.
Cost: From £800.
How does it work? Microscopic laser columns penetrate deep into the dermis to create tiny wounds, which trigger your body's natural response system to heal. Lighter-duty Fraxel Re:store is a non-ablative laser, so your skin's protective barrier remains intact, but this needs two to four treatments.
Results: Fraxel is the gold standard for revitalising your skin and often used by the Hollywood set. “It is going to stimulate collagen, tighten skin and address sun damage, giving the skin the plump vitality and texture you had in your youth,” says Dr Diana Piana-Mariton at Dr Sebagh.
“Your skin does the work — after three weeks, two months, four months, it will continue to look better.” Lasts two to three years.
Scary factor: High.
Down time: Fraxel Re:store recovery time is two days; there's a mild sunburn effect and some possible swelling. Fraxel CO2 Re:pair renders you housebound for five to seven days. Expect pinpoint bleeding and oozing for 48 hours until the wounds close, as well as swelling and redness.
Cost: Fraxel Re:store from £700; Fraxel Re:pair CO2 from £2,000.
How does it work? A small handheld tool is rolled over the skin to produce thousands of microscopic needle columns in the skin's dermis which stimulate the blood supply to generate new skin cells. Hyaluronic acids, minerals and vitamins are infused into the skin to give an immediate skin-plumping effect.
Results: “All you want is bleeding to make the skin go into repair and produce more collagen — the fine blood vessels are no more than 1.5 millimetres under the skin — so this is more precise than laser, with no associated risks of scarring or pigmentation,” says Dr Michael Prager, who pioneered the combination treatment.
Scary factor: High. This treatment lasts for two hours. Ten minutes is painful as tiny needles prick your skin.
Down time: One to three days. The face is a bit pink with tiny specks of red pinpoints, though that’s really no big deal.
Thermage (one-off facelift)
How does it work? Heralded as “the knife-less facelift”. A handpiece delivers radio-frequency technology to heat the dermis and subcutaneous tissue, where it tightens and stimulates new collagen.
Results: “Thermage works best on moderate sagging of the lower face, especially sagging around the mouth and along the jaw line, but it also helps lift the brow,” says Dr Jeffrey Dover, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine.
“We performed a face Thermage study of 5,700 patients. Some 94% of patients were pleased with the outcome.”
Scary factor: Nothing compared to a real surgical facelift.
Down time: You need only one treatment, with little or no down time.
Fractora (eye lift)
How does it work? A brand new non-surgical eye lift, the treatment takes a couple of minutes. Radio-frequency energy is transmitted through a series of small bipolar needles that heat the skin and result in minuscule pinpricks, which the body then heals naturally.
Results: “It will lift, firm and tighten both the skin of the upper and lower eyelids,” says Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh. “It is especially effective in the treatment of skin that is naturally thin or where eye-lift surgery is not practical as there is not enough skin around the eye to trim.”
Scary factor: Low. One single treatment tightens the skin and can last for up to two years.
Down time: There is an initial recovery time of four to 10 days with initial bruising and swelling expected.
Cost: From £800.