Recently, as I was chewing my organic flax muesli mix during a regular post-workout breakfast at KX gym, my blonde friend (BF) popped out with a bit of trivia: “Did you know that Botox is the most common cosmetic operation in the world?”
While I didn’t know, I’m certainly not surprised. I’ve managed so far to keep the Botox needle at bay, thanks largely to my Spa Junkie ways, and a fear that the big Botox freeze would undermine my signature raised eyebrow – a facial expression I regularly use with great effect to convey cynicism non-verbally. But I have recently been thinking about it more and more. My once line-free forehead is no longer, and the laughter lines around my eyes are just not, well, funny.
BF, the new guru on botulinum toxin, has offered to fix me a slot at the new go-to aesthetic clinic, the Waterhouse Young Clinic, where she is going to fix her forehead and I am due to try its HydraFacial. Her toxins will be put in, mine will be taken out: sounds like a perfect pairing to me.
Our tale of two treatments begins on Devonshire Street in the heart of London’s cosmetic grid. We bounce up the stairs to the clinic, where a lovely lady greets us and seats us in the small consulting room adjacent to the reception. She offers us a fresh antioxidant juice and small bowls of almonds and Brazil nuts, which we greedily consume while she introduces us to the world of Waterhouse Young, the latest clinic to open its doors here.
Founded by Norman Waterhouse – one of the most respected cosmetic surgeons in the UK – just a few months ago, it’s already a leader of the pack. Waterhouse’s background is a Spa Junkie’s dream – from leading the plastic and reconstructive surgical units in NHS hospitals to being the former president of both the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and the Royal Society of Medicine, he has published over 50 papers, established a charity to treat children with congenital facial conditions in developing countries, and – to the BF’s (and maybe soon my) enormous benefit – has 15 years’ experience working with Botox. He has a long-established private surgical clinic on neighbouring Harley Street and recently opened the non-surgical clinic (where we are today), offering a wide range of treatments, from dermal fillers to face peels, in order to offer his patients a fully integrated service.
“You,” she says, addressing me, “are having the HydraFacial, which will involve a deep cleanse followed by the removal of impurities using a tube that also applies a serum to restore and plump the skin. Your consultant will follow this with LED therapy to increase collagen and elastin production.
“And you,” she says, turning to address BF, “are booked in for Botox in four places – your forehead, eye area, chin and neck, the latter two of which are known as a Nefertiti neck lift, as they work to tighten the jowls.” We are told that BF will be treated by one Dr Michelle Engel, a renowned Botox and filler expert with 5,000 Botox treatments under her belt. She studied in her native Brazil – the mother country of cosmetic surgery – where she trained with the eminent plastic Surgeon Mauricio De Maio.
“There is zero downtime following both treatments,” she concludes. “The neck lift might leave bruising for a day or two, but it’s easily covered with make-up.” So we’ll both be Mayfair-lunch-ready immediately afterwards. “Are you ladies ready to get started?” We leap out of our seats faster than you can say, “make me a Pharaoh queen”.
BF, with me hot in pursuit, is led to the Botox room, where she is greeted by Dr Michelle – “Call me Mica” – Engel, who invites her into the chair while I hover. It transpires that BH and her ostensibly new penchant for botulinum toxin have a longer history than I’d imagined. Aha – so that’s how she’s managed to look so fresh all these years, I joke. Mica steps to her defence.
“Botox is by far the most popular cosmetic treatment on the market today,” she says, explaining the process: the tiny amounts of botulinum toxin that are injected block signals from the nerves to the muscles so that they no longer contract, which in turn reduces the wrinkles the contractions cause. “I personally don’t like strong usage, as this can result in a waxy, frozen face,” Mica says. “I’m more conservative in my approach; but after a week you’ll notice a gentle lift of the brow, a reduction in lines and a tightening of the jaw line.” She says she’ll want to see BF again in two weeks’ time for a follow-up, to make sure she is happy with the results and to do any top-ups that may be necessary.
Mica then removes BF’s make-up and asks her to perform a range of comically exaggerated frowns and smiles, so she can see the wrinkles in all their glory before she delicately and carefully begins to insert the syringe into the lines across BF’s forehead and around her eyes. I count eight injections in total, and wince at every one; but BF lies serenely in the chair, almost in a state of meditation.
Mica then moves down and inserts the needle under BF’s jaw and along the bands of the neck. “You have very strong neck muscles, which are pulling down on the skin beneath your jaw line, resulting in the loss of definition. Once the Botox relaxes these muscles, the facial ones will pull the skin up, which will help to reduce the sag and tighten your skin.”
After another eight or so injections, she’s finished, and completes the treatment with the application of arnica cream to reduce bruising. There is no blood – just some minor redness and swelling around the injected areas, which Mica explains will be gone within 20 minutes.
I start to wonder if this Botox business isn’t such a big deal after all; it certainly looked effortless and trauma-free. If this little needle, administering its treatment in less time than it takes to have a pedicure, is the BF’s secret to looking as good as she does, then I am sold and ready to book myself in.
Before I go, I ask Mica one last question: “Will I still be able to raise an eyebrow?” Mica smiles and assures me yes. And with that, I head out to have my facial.
Will this new über-facial give Spa Junkie the fix she’s after? Find out in Part Two.