I had £10,000 of ‘tweakments’… Was it worth it?
By Anna Pasternak 24 February 2019 • 7:30am
I’ve never felt beautiful, but I’ve always felt attractive enough. Until last December. Suddenly, the decades crashed into me: at 51, I looked in the mirror and felt ugly. Staring back was a worn-out, menopausal, middle-aged woman. Around that time, my 15-year-old daughter took a photograph of me and I was horrified by how frumpy my face looked.
My eyes managed to be both puffy and saggy. Being permanently exhausted had taken its toll. I started to feel that my looks were fading, and something fundamental in me was over. It sounds dramatic but I felt redundant. My husband and daughter dismissed my concerns. They love me regardless, but my daughter did agree that I looked tired in the photo. I now know that much of this was from my hormones being out of whack due to the menopause.
I hadn’t had a blood test for years and, inexplicably, I had let the prescription for the bioidentical hormones I had been taking a few years ago lapse. Over Christmas, I started experiencing night sweats and the resulting constant broken sleep made me feel wretched. For the past decade, I’d also had a high- maintenance anti-ageing weapon up my sleeve: since my late 30s, I’d been seeing Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh, the king of Botox, annually.
My mother used to go to him, so I did too. For years, I never told a soul. Because his Botox is so natural-looking, people told me how well I looked after seeing him. As I got older and Botox became more mainstream, I told all my girlfriends, who were envious that I even managed to get an appointment with him. But due to work and life pressures, I’d kept postponing my booking.
Not long after that fateful picture, I decided that I wanted more than brilliant Botox. While some WAGs and reality-TV stars, with their chipmunk cheeks and trout-pout lips, had made me terrified of bad cosmetic work, I wasn’t against ‘tweakments’ or full-on surgery per se. But I do believe that if you are going to do it, you should go to the best. I told my husband that I would like to have some work done and he worried that I would look too plumped-up. But he didn’t try to dissuade me; he trusts my judgement.
And I never worried about my daughter copying me – she’s sensible enough to realise that some filler may be appropriate at 50, but would be absurd for a teenager or a 20-something. So when a good friend suggested that I call Olivia Falcon, who runs The Editor’s List, a concierge-style service that offers every-thing from skin-maintenance advice to securing appointments with top cosmetic practitioners who have lengthy waiting lists, I leapt at the idea.
A former beauty editor at Tatler for 10 years, and editor of its Cosmetic Surgery Guide, Olivia knows her stuff, and has the little black book to die for. She charges £350 for a Skype consultation, or £800 for a face-to-face, followed by fast-tracked appointments, which she accompanies you to – to literally hold your hand.
My first consultation with Olivia instantly raised my spirits. She looks reassuringly good, all jutting cheekbones and flawless skin. She tries every treatment she recommends and there are no backhanders, so her advice is completely impartial. It was like sitting with a high priestess of beauty as she listened to my woes and goals.
Apparently, my ‘temples of doom’ were my main problem. She recommended having filler injected there and around my eyes. ‘Fillers are like internal scaffolding,’ she explains. ‘They reinforce the youthful architecture of your face.’ Olivia also advised that it was vital to have my hormones tested as they radically affect the skin. She then asked about my skincare regime.
When I confessed that it was more rose oil than retinol, she scoffed: ‘At your age that stuff is for the bath, not your face.’ She immediately prescribes a more hard-hitting skin regime with vitamin C serums, retinol and a moisturiser called Spectacle, which she imports from the US.
An extreme makeover requires serious money, courage, patience and trust. I put my faith in Olivia and agree to everything she suggests: a medi-facial, teeth whitening,
Profhilo (the latest ‘tweakment’, which is essentially moisturiser in an injection), filler and hormone rebalancing.
As I’ve had the same haircut my entire adult life and have never dyed my hair, I ask for a hairstyle upgrade too. The night before my first appointment at the Chelsea clinic of Dr Suha Kersh, a leading specialist in cosmetic medicine, I have serious ‘filler anxiety’. I send Olivia an email saying I’m worried that I will look like the Bride of Wildenstein. She reassures me that this trepidation is normal.
The next day, Olivia meets me in the waiting area with a reassuring smile and we go in together. Dr Kersh is my age and looks naturally beautiful – a good sign. She hands me a mirror and says, ‘Tell me what you like about what you see?’ It is horrible. ‘Nothing,’ I stammer. ‘Tell me what you don’t like,’ she says, and I burst into tears. All I can see is loss. Loss of my youth, loss of my mother, loss of my looks.
Dr Kersh refuses to do any filler that day as I am too emotional, and I feel relieved. There is no pressure to proceed, and I am impressed by her integrity. I then visit her husband, Dr Martin Galy, a bioidentical hormone expert, who works in the same clinic. I cry again, he does a blood test and predicts that the night sweats are due to low oestrogen levels. Two days later, I return for the results: he was right. Then, gripping Olivia’s hand, I have filler in my temples and my lips.
£10,000 of ‘tweakments’ | The breakdown
- • Skincare concierge: £800
- • Skin-Matters facial: £440
- • Teeth whitening: £450
- • Anti-ageing products: £288
- • Hyaluronic-acid injections: £800
- • Laser treatment: £800
- • Hormone rebalancing: £770
- • Fillers: £5,850
- • Hair colour: £460
- • Cut and blow-dry: £195
For the past two years, I’ve been writing a book about Wallis Simpson, and I think of her as Dr Kersh wields the syringes: the Duchess had four facelifts, so this would have been nothing to her. Dr Kersh tells me that I would hate her for 48 hours, then be back. Sure enough, for the next two days, with my bruised face and swollen lips, I curse my vanity. But a month later, I look like a better, fresher version of myself. I have cheekbones and soft, supple skin.
Thanks to hormone rebalancing my night sweats have stopped and I have my mojo back. I had underestimated the psychological connection between looking and feeling good. My friends are envious, saying I now have the most expensive face in London: the bill is over £10,000, which I realise is an utter luxury. Certain reality stars may have given ‘tweakments’ a bad rap, but with good cosmetic work the enhancements are sophisticated and subtle.
No one would know I’d had anything done if I hadn’t told them. I’ve already decided to do most of it again next year and have started a special fund to pay for it. I slightly worry that this will become an expensive addiction, but the transformation has been more than physical for me.
A week after my treatments finished, after seeing Beautiful Boy, my daughter turns to me and says, ‘Mummy, you look so good, you could be Timothée Chalamet’s mother.’ I’m thrilled. The process was a gamble, but it has been worth it.
- • Skincare concierge Consultation with Olivia Falcon. £800
- • Skin-Matters facial with Joanne Evans: A dermatological facial with LED lights, deep pore cleansing and suctioning. A liver spot is zapped with a laser. My skin is discernibly brighter afterwards, and all in all, it feels relaxing and revitalising. £440 for 2 hours
- • Teeth whitening with Dr Sameer Patel at Elleven Dental: Whitening gels are chosen by Dr Patel to complement my skin tone. Easy and effective, it entails two weeks of applying gel at home, and lasts for a year. I experience no sensitivity, and my teeth are much brighter. Will definitely repeat annually. £450
- • Spectacle Performance Cream, £84.99, The Editor’s List
- • Profhilo and Laser Genesis with Dr Maryam Zamani at The Cadogan Clinic: Profhilo involves injections of hyaluronic acid, which plumps skin. Feels like a bee sting, and small lumps appear at the injection point. Laser Genesis stimulates cell renewal. It feels warm, with a weird burning smell. It’s difficult to discern the benefits of these treatments as you need more than one. £800 each
- • Hormone Rebalancing with Dr Martin Galy at 23MD clinic: Dr Galy explains the tricky topic of hormones and suggests various HRT alternatives. A must for me