‘I’m here anyway, why not?’: My non-surgical facelift has got me thinking about more procedures

‘Trying to look younger,’ my doctor tells me, ‘it never works!’  (iStock)
‘Trying to look younger,’ my doctor tells me, ‘it never works!’ (iStock)

I am sitting in a big, snuggly armchair in a Harley Street waiting room, about to have a cutting-edge non-surgical facelift. I’ve been told it won’t be an instant fix, but in a few months the magic will happen: I will look more youthful, with dewy, plump and taut-looking skin. This is Morpheus8, a non-surgical, collagen-boosting and skin-tightening treatment that’s become the facelift du jour in fashion and celebrity circles.

A whole new world is opening up to me. I just hope I don’t take cosmetic surgery too far. I really don’t want to end up with a trout pout, or with a face that looks caught in a wind tunnel. Or even like someone permanently sucking in their cheeks – that’d be the result of buccal fat removal, a surgical trend currently sweeping the influencer world, in which doctors hollow out your cheeks until your face looks angular and chiselled.

Instead, I just want to look refreshed, and I’ve ruled out any add-ons. My doctor, David Jack, has celebrities and fashionistas queuing up around the block, and believes in the ethos that less is more. He looks reassuringly normal as a result, having personally tried out all of the treatments he now offers his patients – those being the most effective. I ask him to name the biggest mistake women make when they seek surgical intervention. “Trying to look younger,” he replies. “It never works!”

I’ve been told by a handful of friends that Morpheus8 is the new gold standard in non-invasive facelifts. It works by micro-injuring the subdermis layers of the skin, stimulating collagen and in turn tightening and lifting your face. Collagen decreases with age, contributing to skin wrinkling and sagging. So this is a bit like bathing in the fountain of youth, with the recuperation time only a day and the results lasting three years. Dr Jack also tells me, through gleaming white teeth, that it also wards off the need for a surgical facelift, which sits well with me.

The procedure is relatively painless, as I get lathered in powerful numbing cream on arrival. What I do feel is comparable, I imagine, to being pricked across the neck and face by an electronic pin cushion – which isn’t quite as horrifying as it sounds. The only place it feels a tiny bit uncomfortable is on the chin and above the top lip. And right after the 20-minute procedure I look at myself in the mirror and gasp – I am bright red, swollen and covered in tiny marks. It’s as if I’ve put my head in a hot oven and just about survived it. How will I explain what’s happened between dropping my kids off at school earlier in the morning and picking them up later? That I’ve fallen down the side of a cliff through a thorn bush? Do I tell my five- and seven-year-olds that this is the new normal? That the whole world wants to stave off the ageing process?

There is still so much stigma attached to getting work done to reverse the signs of ageing, regardless that the under-30 Instagram generation seem to view “tweakments” as a status symbol – work that they’re proud to show off across social media. In the month between appointments with Dr Jack – I will need two sessions in total – I begin to experience uncertainty. The 12-hour after-effects of the first facelift was so alarming that by the time I attend the second treatment, I’m secretly thinking: “What the hell am I doing?” What if this time my face never deflates and I forever look like a puffy Teletubby?

There is a limit to what non-surgical treatments can achieve

Dr David Jack

I do tend to catastrophise, but I couldn’t help but see Linda Evangelista flash before my eyes. The Nineties supermodel claimed she was left “brutally disfigured” after undergoing a fat-freezing procedure that went awry in 2016, and she’s now only comfortable being professionally photographed in oversized clothing that completely covers everything but her face. I’ve also somewhat been there myself. I underwent a cosmetic procedure using intense pulsed light a decade ago, something that promised to improve the texture of my skin, but it left me burnt. I still go stripy on my chest when I tan now. So how could I take the risk? But I assure myself that I’m in safe hands.

I do start to see how easy it is to be seduced by it all, though. Despite pledging that I’d never go under the knife, or overdo it with lasers and injections, my eyes light up when Dr Jack mentions “Profhilo” during my second Morpheus8 session. This is an injectable containing hyaluronic acid, which promises to give you a dewy and glowing appearance. It’s commonly performed with Morpheus8, he says, adding that it has “synergistic benefits”.

“Whack it in!” I say. “I’m here anyway – why not?” It’s priced at £450 per syringe, and I need two of them. He warns me my face will look bumpy for 12 hours on top of the red and raw look of the Morpheus8. In the moment, do I care? Not really. He also adds a tiny bit of Botox into my forehead to just ever so slightly raise my brow – but nobody will ever notice. I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not altering my face, just giving it a bit of an energy boost.

Dr David Jack at work with Morpheus8 (Supplied)
Dr David Jack at work with Morpheus8 (Supplied)

Cosmetic surgery in the UK is booming, according to The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). In 2022, 31,057 cosmetic procedures were performed by their members – up 102 per cent from the previous year. In fact, 2022 saw the highest annual rise in procedures since the national audit began in 2004. It speaks to a creeping normalisation of this kind of thing – UK adults increasingly consider non-surgical cosmetic procedures as part of their normal beauty and grooming routine, while the all-party parliamentary groups (APPG) on beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing claimed in 2022 that the non-surgical cosmetic treatment industry was experiencing “rapid growth”. An estimated 900,000 Botox injections are performed in the UK each year.

There are concerns to worry about, too. Despite rising demand for non-surgical cosmetics, the industry remains largely unregulated, with the government delaying a licensing regime on the industry that was announced last year. According to reports, the highest number of cosmetic treatments among young people are mostly taking place in unregulated beauty salons by unqualified practitioners – putting people at risk of botched procedures and exploitation.

Cosmetic surgery can also be addictive, and I leave my Morpheus8 treatments glad that I don’t have body dysmorphia. Curious, though, I ask Dr Jack how much I’d be spending if I went full throttle with the work – injectables, fillers, the lot. He tells me my annual bill would be around £5,650 – which wouldn’t include the Morpheus8 treatments every three years, costing £1,450 for a full face and neck per session. He suggests Botox – three areas for “upper face, to reverse some of the dynamic muscle changes that have happened with time, to lift the brow/open eyes up” – which would cost £550 every three to four months. Dermal fillers – two to three syringes for “midface/jawline, to replace mild lost volume” – would cost £1,100-£1,650 a year. Profhilo – two sessions every six to nine months using two syringes – are priced at £900 per treatment.

He tells me that non-invasive methods of treatment won’t replace plastic surgery, but they are a slightly less gnarly alternative for people who want to feel lightly rejuvenated as opposed to completely transformed. “There is a limit to what non-surgical treatments can achieve,” he explains. And it’s a limit that, for the time being at least, I’m happy with.

After my second session, I feel as if I’ve landed on the right side of cosmetic work. Soon my skin feels softer. My jawline is tighter. My eyes are more open. The dreaded “Insta-Face”, where you start to resemble an overly augmented and heavily filtered version of a human being, has been skilfully avoided. I’m currently six weeks into a process that I’ve been told will improve even further over the next six months, so I think there’s a place for me in the world of non-invasive cosmetic surgery. You just have to be firm about how far you’re willing to take it.

For more information: drdavid.jack.com