My face never gave me grief. My skin was always smooth (even in the throes of puberty), my face shape sort of symmetrical and my features round, in a way that signposts youth and a sort of disarming guilelessness. It is a face that has always opened the doors I wanted to get through: into auditions at MTV, access to the coveted ‘beauty’ world, Prince’s BMW. Although utterly eclipsed by the truly beautiful people I’ve worked with throughout my career as a beauty editor, my face has chugged along nicely and served me well.
But mine is not a ‘handsome’ face that gets better with age. I never had a chin ‘to grow into’ or a pair of slightly wonky eyes that add intrigue and character later on in life. Instead, I was always pretty: as a child, as a teenager and, later, as a young woman. Which is to say all my features were average-sized and in vaguely the right place and proportion to one another. But while pretty blooms in youth, it sort of blands out with age. Pretty doesn’t change into something more interesting...
It simply weathers and fades, like a negative image of what once was. I could see this slow transformation begin in my late thirties and so, knowing what lay ahead after the bump of my mid-forties (I am a beauty editor after all) I sent in the big guns around the time of my 42nd birthday.
I have never, ever believed in using Botox and fillers ‘preventatively’. But I do know there are needles and lasers that can attenuate the loss of elasticity and volume that turbo-wrecks skin as menopause approaches. So, over the past seven years, leading up to my 50th birthday this year, I have had a lot of skin-tone-evening-out laser facials. I’ve also had filler – in my temples, my under eyes, my forehead lines and even all over my face as part of an ‘eight-point facelift’. I’ve embraced (with abandon) ‘injectable moisturiser’: Profhilo, Teosyal Redensity 1, Restylane Skinboosters, Volite – I don’t care, shoot me up. I’ve also had Botox in my neck and frown crevices, vitamins injected into my face using what I can only describe as a staple gun, radio frequency face tightening, and I’ve even had under my eyes frozen (as well as burnt), all in the name of boosting collagen production in the area.
So what do all those zaps and jabs amount to? The idea was for each and every one of them to slow the inevitable march of dehydrated slackness that would, over the next decade or so, make its way over the juicy, plump skin I feel is my birthright(after all, I’m 23 in my head). And yes, they did just that. But for all the positives, most tweaks have a way of making you pay a price – at some point. Which means the foray into ‘tweakments’ (as we now affectionately call this rag bag of youth-chasing procedures) can be a bit like walking a tightrope. Take too big a step in the wrong direction and the whole world will gasp. Forehead Botox, for example: all good in theory. But too much can lower your brow, making your eyes look smaller. Fillers, too, can throw your face out of proportion, necessitating, you guessed it, further filler to correct the damage. (Have you noticed how big certain celebrity faces suddenly look? That’s the end result.)
Despite my concerted efforts to let all this stuff take over neither my face nor my mind, repeated ‘adjustments’ – however minor – have added up.
Only for their sum total to disappear entirely over the many months of lockdown that happened this past spring. Turns out I’m 50 after all: there are tractor tyre marks allover my forehead, I can actually scowl and even see jowls. (Jowls!)
But, here’s the thing: my skin tone and texture are both still good, which just proves that all the clinical interventions in the world can’t substitute for the benefits a great skincare regime and a common-sense approach to healthy eating and exercise. The hyper-mobility that allows me 50 facial expressions a minute is back in full effect, making me, frankly, feel more like myself. And best of all: the residual Botox that always, always gives me half-size eyes and an unpleasantly blank expression is gone, granting me back the round eyes that make me look friendly and more like my 23-year-old self.
I may look older but, bizarrely, I look more like the young me than the ‘clinically rejuvenated’ me did. When I contemplated (and dreaded) the potential consequences of the Covid-19 cosmetic ban, the one thing I didn’t expect it to do was to re-familiarise me with the face I am most comfortable with.
Ingeborg van Lotringen is the author of Great Skin: Secrets The Beauty Industry Doesn’t Tell You, which is available to pre-order now.
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