WHAT’S the perfect birthday present for a woman turning 40? Looking 30 again has to be up there.
With the big 4-0 fast approaching, journalist CLAIRE DUNWELL wanted to drown her sorrows with a few pina coladas on a family holiday in the sun.
But then Claire – who lives in Wakefield, West Yorks, with husband Ian, 53, a fish shop owner, and sons, Sam, 11, and Louie, eight – had another idea: What if she spent that money on her appearance?
She said: “I wanted to see if I could knock ten years off my looks – without going under the knife. For the cost of a week’s family holiday on a Greek island, I could get my capillaries blasted, wrinkles ironed out, grooves filled and even throw in a fake tan for good measure.”
Here’s how she got on.
Jumping right in, I book in for anti-ageing injections at The Facial Sculpting Clinic in London.I’m nervous — a needle in my face isn’t exactly appealing.
Dr Nina Bal explains that Botox blocks signals from nerves to muscles, meaning muscles cannot contract and wrinkles relax and soften.We start with my forehead and eyelids which have dropped as I’ve aged.I am shaking as I climb on to the bed, but Dr Nina assures me it will be quick — and a few scratches later, we are done.
Over the next few days the Botox works miracles.I have fewer lines and the skin on my forehead feels taut. I panic when I notice a vertical dent in my forehead but realise it’s always been there, hidden beneath the wrinkles.
VERDICT: Quick, easy, and far less painful than waxing. By day 14, my skin is smoother and wrinkle-free.But I’m already concerned I’ll need a top-up in three to six months when it starts to wear off, so I must make sure I don’t get too obsessed.
FROWN LINE FILLER: £350
I’ve got a deep frown line between my eyes and Dr Nina tells me dermal filler — an injection which fills out creases with hyaluronic acid — should sort it out.After a dab of numbing cream is applied, I shut my eyes, cross my fingers and feel Dr Nina mould the filler into place.
VERDICT: This only took two minutes. The line was still visible immediately afterwards but two weeks on it has completely faded.
The area feels tender for a couple of days, but for an instant fix it is fantastic.
CACI LIP PLUMP: £60 for six sessions
My lips have thinned as I’ve aged so I decide to try the Caci lip plump, an alternative to lip fillers, at The Mews Beauty Salon in Wakefield, West Yorks.
The Wrinkle Comb, a device which transmits electrical impulses, is supposed to draw moisture to the surface and plump lips.The ten-minute treatment is pain-free so I go for six sessions, three days apart.
VERDICT: I start to see results after my third treatment. There’s a subtle difference only on my bottom lip. It doesn’t give me the wow factor but may work well on fuller lips.
HYDRAGENESIS FACIAL: £240
Open pores and broken veins around my nose make my skin look older than I’d like so I book in for the HydraGenesis Facial at Aesthetic Health in Leeds.
It’s a two-parter which promises to cleanse, exfoliate and hydrate skin to slow ageing as well as tackling broken veins and reducing redness with a laser treatment.
Before we get going, an impressive machine called a Visia photographs my face and shows I have the skin of a 48-year-old. Brutal. The 60-minute facial is more uncomfortable than painful.
There is no chance of nodding off mid-treatment because the vacuum-tip works by sucking out grime.Then it’s time for the laser, which zaps broken veins around my nose.A course of three to six treatments is recommended but mine vanished instantly.
VERDICT: This is the queen of facials. While it’s far from relaxing, it transforms my dull, tired complexion.My face looks cleaner, less oily, and friends say how well I looked because of my youthful rosy glow.
LOWER FACE FILLERS: £1,680
My face has slimmed out and lost plumpness as I’ve got older.After a lengthy consultation with Dr Julia Sevi at Aesthetic Health in Leeds, she uses a cannula to give me Belotero filler, which is a soft gel with hyaluronic acid. It goes into my chin area and around the downturned corners of my mouth.
She also adds Radiesse filler below my cheeks, which is meant to continue to work over time by stimulating the body’s own collagen. I realise fillers aren’t for a softie with a low pain threshold. There’s lots of tugging and I’m quietly relieved when we’re done.
But I love the instant change in my face. I have cheekbones again and the downward lines at the corners of my mouth are gone. I must remember to smile more.
VERDICT: For instant age-defying results, this ticks every box. Fillers are expensive and more invasive than Botox — I have swelling for about a week — but the effects last longer. Up to two years, in fact.
LASH EXTENSIONS: £35
Mascara is such a faff and it’s rare I manage to do mine before the school run, so I pop to get some Nouveau Individual Express Lashes at Saks Beauty in Leeds.
Each lash is applied separately. I choose the length — twice my usual — and an hour later my eyes are transformed. They’re thicker, fuller, and look completely natural.
I can’t remember what I looked like before and when I ask an acquaintance to guess my age, she says 35. Result.
VERDICT: This was my favourite treatment of all. The lashes really opened my eyes and lasted a good two weeks. I’m planning my next appointment — it’s a bargain.
BROW TINT & SHAPE: £21.50
I’ve neglected my brows for so long they’re both straggly and over-plucked. For a younger look, I’m told thicker, darker brows are best.
At Benefit Brow Bar at Debenhams in Leeds my brows are measured for symmetry and a brown tint is applied. Next, it’s on to the waxing and lastly a brown pencil to even out the arch.
VERDICT: My brows stand out much more than before but I don’t think they made enough of a difference to my overall face for me to keep up with them every few weeks. Pass me the tweezers.
SPRAY TAN: £15
My pasty skin is in serious need of colour. I head to Dream Beauty Salon in Leeds for a Fake Bake spray tan. Once the initial tangerine tone has faded, I look better. It’s the perfect winter pick-me-up.
VERDICT: I leave the salon feeling ten years younger. A great treatment if you’re short of time and want a healthy all-year-round glow.
TOTAL COST: £2,751
OVERALL VERDICT: My 40th birthday makeover has left me feeling a millions dollars. My husband says he’s got a new woman, my kids keep giving me puzzled second glances, and even my hairdresser has remarked on how well I look.
I’m happier and more confident about my appearance.While I used to believe in growing old gracefully, dipping my face into the world of non-surgical treatments has changed my perspective.
But only after a thorough consultation should we even think about getting on the couch.A good place to start is Save Face, a Government-approved register of practitioners who carry out non-surgical treatments. See saveface.co.uk.
I thought Botox and fillers left women expressionless and fake. Now I think if used sensibly, they’re the perfect pick-me-up.