Rise Of The Bespoke Face

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Jenny was 28 years old the first time she had Botox. She lay, head back, in an unfamiliar room while the botulinum toxin was injected between the tiny lines that ran like train tracks between her eyebrows. She wasn’t sure she looked younger exactly, but it left her with a brow as smooth as gossamer and inspired a clutch of compliments from friends and colleagues.

When other little rivulets started to make their way across the landscape of her face, she reclined in her doctor’s chair and submitted the signs of age to the needle prick of Botox once more. And so it went on… again and again and again. ‘By the time I was 38, I was having Botox five times a year, across my whole upper face,’ she says. ‘One day I looked in the mirror and realised that my face had two ages.‘

And so Jenny, like many other women, did what she never thought she would: she turned her back on the medical procedures that had been a part of her life for over 14 years. Where once ice-skating-rink smoothness and big, juicy features were the aesthetic goal, now true beauty comes in the form of a face that wears the patina of age with elegance and pride. ‘Finally, at 42, I want to look natural,’ she says.

Gabriele Colangelo - Backstage - Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019

Rosdiana Ciaravolo

Wrinkles are the new vogue. That’s certainly the case if one looks across the fashion tundra, where real, aged faces – all delicate lines and skin peppered with sun spots – peer back at us. This season’s catwalks were filled not with faces flushed and plumped by the bellows of youth, but those gently weathered and artfully moulded by decades of experience. Fortysomething supermodels of yesteryear Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow and Stella Tennant and 50-year-old Helena Christensen all now front major fashion campaigns, while a bare-faced Lauren Hutton has never looked as beautiful as she did walking the Valentino autumn/winter 2019 Couture runway in Paris. A 54-year-old Keanu Reeves made the world gasp in lascivious unison when he emerged as the new face of Saint Laurent, looking not unlike the Atlas Mountains: rugged, but an undeniably beautiful sight. And actors such as Brooke Shields and Nicole Kidman have turned their backs on the needle, too.

‘Actors have turned their backs on the needle’

Fifteen years ago, things were very different. Beauty culture found itself in the grip of an anti-ageing epidemic, with phrases such as ‘stop the clock’ and ‘wrinkle-busting’ standard parlance for anyone over 25. Botox was rhapsodised about on the cover of TIME magazine, while filler sprinkled its magic upon the caverns and hollows of half of Hollywood’s faces. One of the most popular programmes on British TV was 1O Years Younger – a show that promised to scrub the last vestiges of age from its contestants through a combination of style advice, non-invasive beauty treatments and, in some cases, cosmetic surgery. While culture has always genuflected at the altar of youth, the messaging back then was clear: everyone can – and should – want to stay young forever.

So the advent of McSurgery was upon us. Clinics were inundated with 22-year-olds who wanted ‘preventative Botox’, while fortysomethings clamoured to conceal any lines through cheek-inflating, jowl-lifting plumpers. Lunchtime Botox, ’Baby’ Botox and lip fillers for less than the cost of a train ticket meant that everyone aged 21 to 81 could stay wrinkle-free. It also meant something else… An eerie new aesthetic spread across our streets – a sea of faces that bore toddler-round cheeks, tumescent pouts and immobile foreheads. In our desire to run from the tides of time, everybody ended up looking not younger exactly, but… the same. As is often the way with cultural trends, a kickback began brewing in 2017, with brands waging an anti-ageing campaign – one that hailed the best sort of beauty as a face not curated by doctors, but by the life you had lived.

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Matteo Scarpellini

At the Medicetics clinic on London’s Harley Street, Dr Vicky Dondos is one of those doctors. She has steadily made a name for herself as one of the go-to ‘face whisperers’ for those wanting ‘zero-detection work’. For the past 10 years, Dr Dondas has offered everything from light Botox to restructuring fillers, and her clientele has willingly taken it. Until now. For Dr Dondos has not only seen a surge in the number of women wanting their old faces back – she herself is leading the charge.

In fact, it was Dr Dondos who worked with Jenny to claw back her original face. But, she explains, it’s not a simple task. Years of fillers can stretch the skin, meaning you’ll need an experienced doctor to rebalance and soften without leaving things slack. Jenny embarked on a ‘Botox diet’: nine months cold turkey to let the face return to a more natural state, a focus on ‘skin health’ to improve texture and firmness through non-invasive care, and a reintroduction of much-reduced amounts of Botox to shift the deepest of lines. And Jenny is not the first.

‘You’ll need an experienced doctor to rebalance and soften without leaving things slack’

‘More women are embracing technologies [such as facials and lasers] that allow them to look their best at different ages,’ says Dr Dondos. ‘It’s no longer about escapism or vanity, but self-care, liking your face, and not being held back by concerns that you look “too old”.’

Requests for trout pouts and taut foreheads have given way to clients seeking to ‘reclaim’ their faces. ‘I regularly receive enquiries about undoing fillers,’ says beauty editor favourite Dr Sophie Shotter ‘[These women] are proud of their age, but just want to look like the best versions of themselves. Very few now ask me to take 10 years off.’ Dr Nima Mahmoodi, who works across a number of clinics in the UK, agrees that the philosophy around ‘having work’ is changing. While the trend in Essex (where he has a clinic) ‘is still for that bigger-is-better aesthetic… and [with] certain nationalities, their approach is: the more work you have done, it shows how much money you have’, in London, his clients now prefer ‘the natural approach’.

Albus Lumen - Backstage - Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2018

Saverio Marfia

This notion of relaxing your stance on wrinkles doesn’t just end in clinics. In the world of make-up, a new look has emerged that goes further than ‘natural beauty’ to… barely any at all. Last year, make-up sales only saw 3% growth, compared to that of skincare at 16%,* while sales of contouring products are in decline,** as consumers ditch the coverage.

‘A new look has emerged that goes further than ‘natural beauty’ to… barely any at all’

There is also evidence to suggest that allowing lines to reappear in their rightful place might change the way other people view you. In a recent study that focused on the ‘Duchenne smile’ (essentially, how genuine your smile is), participants were shown photographs of people with more wrinkles around the eyes and perceived them to not only be happier than those without, but also more sincere.*** According to psychology professor Daniel Messinger, who led the research, ‘It suggests facial actions have simple meanings, and that the key to this language is constriction of the eyes.’ ‘In other words, a given facial action could shape your social interactions,’ says Nour Malek, another author on the paper.

With new technologies (plumping HydraFacials, tightening lasers, glow-boosting microneedling) enabling you to sport beautiful skin without making a mask of youth out of it, looking good while still looking like you is easily achievable. As age-embracing Jenny so brilliantly puts it, ‘Botox and fillers are just the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.’

*NPD, August 2O18. **NPD, May 2O18. ***PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2O19 APA.



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