London - Few headlines could strike dread into my heart like the one I read recently. Not that chablis brings on Alzheimer’s, nor that carrot cake causes cancer, but that anti-ageing facials ruin your skin.
They were the promised land - a land of milk and honey-dew skin - but now they stand accused of having the absolute opposite effect, of being ageing and damaging. The reason the headline was so shocking is that I’ve been, if not an addict, then certainly a devotee of such procedures for seven years.
Quickly scanning the list of products and treatments deemed damaging, I discovered my regular friend microdermabrasion, my nightly companion glycolic acid and even that old failsafe the chemical peel - all of which essentially slough off the top layers of skin to reveal the smooth, soft skin beneath - were condemned by model Sophie Anderton, and some doctors, for making users look older.
Instead of peeling back the years, they were adding to them, by wrecking our skin. It was more shocking than the moment I realised that Father Christmas didn’t exist.
Sophie, 34, had evidently got hooked on these procedures and instead of making her look more youthful - how damned young does a thirty-something model want to look anyway? - the anti-ageing procedures I’ve been such a fan of left her with broken skin, thread veins, pimples and wrinkles.
According to Sophie, after a series of treatments the magnificent model ended up looking like Emma Thompson in Nanny McPhee, warts and all.
But as with all old friends, my first instinct on hearing this was to defend super-facials. You don’t spend seven years with someone and ditch them at the first attack.
The truth is, since I started having these treatments with Lee Garrett at FreedomHealth in Harley Street back in 2005, my skin has looked better and better. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the make-up lady Brenda, on TV’s Andrew Marr Show, where I appear as a guest.
She’s one of the few people in the entire world who sees my skin free of make-up. She says it’s amazing. I know the caveat is always - for a woman of your age (54) - but there are a lot of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s who want to look as good as we can without going under the knife, something I’d vowed I’d never do.
No knives or needles, I always said - a vow I must confess I recently broke, having dermal fillers in my nose-to-mouth lines. But for women who don’t want, or can’t afford, plastic surgery, these ‘super-facials’ are the most powerful weapon in the anti-ageing arsenal.
When I tried Victoria Beckham’s apricot and avocado mask recently, I went to see Nick Miedzianowski-Sinclair at the 3D Cosmetic Imagining Studios, just off Harley Street. He is an expert in skin analysis and took 3D images of my skin without make-up. The result was that, despite spending the first 25 years of my life under an Australian sun, without suncream, my skin was now 20 percent better than English women of the same age.
I put that entirely down to the anti-ageing treatments I’d had in the past seven years - most of which are now being condemned.
Take glycolic acid, a chemical which peels off the top layers of skin. I use it most nights, albeit in tiny amounts as part of a night cream.
I’ve had four stronger glycolic acid chemical peels over seven years and one Obagi Blue Peel, which uses Trichloroacetic Acid instead of glycolic to slough off imperfections more gently, with a startling bright-blue paste.
I’ve also had ten Broad Band Light treatments, which involved using light to heat up the upper layers of my skin, stimulating new cell growth and eradicating the tiny red veins I was plagued with.
I’ll admit these facials haven’t all been entirely pain-free - my face has been itchy and uncomfortable as the top layers were peeled off, and there have been days after treatments when I’ve been stuck in the house with skin so red no amount of make-up could cover it. Add to this the fact I must have spent close to £2,000 on facials, and many would ask - was it worth it?
Absolutely. My skin looks better now than it did ten years ago, and there aren’t many fifty-something women who can say that.
Where I previously had patches of darker pigmentation and open pores, my skin is now smooth and even. I know this improvement is entirely down to super-facials. When done properly, sparingly and by an expert, there is nothing to beat them.
Indeed, dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe, director of the Cranley Clinic in London, said in Monday’s paper that he was increasingly worried about the long-term damage my favourite treatment, microdermabrasion, may do to your skin if you have it done too often. Microdermabrasion is an exfoliating facial that blasts tiny aluminium crystals on to your face in a high-velocity jet of air. Then a tiny vacuum cleaner sucks up all the dead skin and leaves it glowing.
After the initial results, which I can testify are amazing, women get addicted and start having them once a week or more.
Once a week! I’ve had fewer than 20 microdermabrasions in seven years - less than three a year.
I admit that after the first one, when my skin dropped ten years in a few weeks, I was straight back on the phone to my practitioner Lee Garrett, doing an Oliver. ‘Please, Sir, can I have some more?’ The answer was a resounding No. He explained it took four to six weeks for the skin cells to regenerate and I’d have to wait at least that long before I could think about having another.
On Lee’s advice, I have it done every few months. Sadly, untrained or greedy High-Street beauty salons offer them to clients as often as they have fake tans.
The problem is not with the procedure, when done by a trained practitioner, but the fact that they’re offered by beauticians with little or no training and available on demand. In the wrong hands, they can be incredibly damaging, especially when used too often.
But can’t everything be lethal in excess? Drink two glasses of wine a day and you’re fine, drink two bottles and you’re in trouble.
But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and I know my super-facials have been time and money well spent. Just ask Brenda. - Daily Mail