Barbed wire facelift that banished my Mummy frown: When SARAH VINE caught sight of herself on TV, she was horrified. Now she feels utterly transformed and ready to reveal how she did it… while her family didn’t even notice!
I’ve written about my trials and tribulations with my thinning hair, my struggles to maintain my weight — and have, on more than one occasion, delved into the world of so-called ‘non-surgical’ procedures, from Botox and fillers to fat-freezing
There comes a time in every woman’s life — and I’m sure quite a few men’s, too — when the person on the outside no longer matches the one on the inside.
When the face in the mirror no longer tallies with the somewhat more flattering image in one’s head.
In my case this realisation happened a couple of years ago, after I was invited onto a TV talk show.
Woah-there, I thought as I watched myself back. Who on earth was this jowly, frowny harridan with the turned-down mouth and permanent resting bitch face? Why, dear reader, it was me.
Admittedly I was up against some stiff competition — the delectable Holly Willoughby, if memory serves.
But when Fiona Bruce, the veteran newsreader, observed this week that in her business, women who reject Botox can look awfully ‘rough’ by comparison with the rest, I knew exactly what she meant. I was living proof of that.
Even though I’d had Botox once or twice in the past (mostly for articles), I hadn’t kept it up.
But even if I had, I suspect it wouldn’t have made much of a difference: my problem wasn’t that I had wrinkles, more the fact that my face appeared to be melting.
As luck would have it, a few weeks before my fateful TV appearance, I had been approached by an editor to have a thread lift and write about it.
My initial reaction was no — are you mad? Why would I want to have my face yanked around by the surgical equivalent of barbed wire?
Even if it did produce the promised results, surely no amount of youthful lift and glossy skin was worth that kind of agony.
Plus, you know, only vain celebrities do things like that and I’m supposed to be above all that sort of nonsense.
My initial reaction was no — are you mad? Why would I want to have my face yanked around by the surgical equivalent of barbed wire? Sarah Vine is pictured above before the surgery
But watching the apparition on screen, I realised that, aged 51, maybe the time was right. I went back through my emails and found the number of the clinic I’d been recommended.
Surely there could be no harm in just exploring my options. That said, it was still quite a scary prospect.
A thread lift, aka the lunch-time face lift, is a gentler, semi-permanent alternative to the dreaded, old-fashioned scrubs-and-scalpel procedure.
Instead of using a scalpel, the cosmetic surgeon inserts fine threads interspersed with tiny cones, or barbs, into the face, beneath the subcutaneous layer of fat. Then the threads are pulled tight, gently lifting the skin.
Like many middle-aged, middle-class women I am no stranger to the odd ‘tweakment’, as they are so coyly referred to these days. I used to be a beauty editor in a former life and I’ve always loved the world of make-up and beauty.
Quite frankly what’s not to like — but also because over the years it has brought me into contact with so many remarkable women who, like me, just want to make the most of what nature has — or hasn’t — given them.
As one not naturally blessed, I’ve had plenty to learn.
I’ve written about my trials and tribulations with my thinning hair, my struggles to maintain my weight — and have, on more than one occasion, delved into the world of so-called ‘non-surgical’ procedures, from Botox and fillers to fat-freezing. I tend to be fairly fearless about these things and will try almost anything.
But a thread lift? Now that was way out of my comfort zone. That was grown-up stuff.
Of course, nowhere near as invasive (or risky) as some surgical face lifts. No general anaesthetic or stitches or drinking through straws — but still, in my book at least, quite a leap of faith.
I met Dr Charlotte Woodward, who together with Dr Victoria Manning runs River Aesthetics (with clinics in London, Hampshire and Dorset) in November 2018.
She and her colleagues have devised something they call the ‘River Lift’ — a combination of treatments, including threads, designed not so much to make the patient look noticeably ‘done’, more to simply blur the passage of time. The idea is that you should still look like you, but just a little bit glossier.
Instead of using a scalpel, the cosmetic surgeon inserts fine threads interspersed with tiny cones, or barbs, into the face, beneath the subcutaneous layer of fat. Then the threads are pulled tight, gently lifting the skin
The way to do this, she explained, is not to superficially treat the skin, but to very subtly adjust the shape and contours of the face.
As we age, our muscles and tissues — whether in our face or our behind — begin to lose volume and tone.
It is this shift — imperceptible from day-to-day but clearly noticeable over time — that contributes, in many ways more so than surface wrinkles, to a tired and aged appearance.
This facial geometry is really at the heart of most modern rejuvenation techniques.
When we are young, our faces are, broadly speaking, like an upside-down triangle, with the point at the bottom: wide-spaced eyes, prominent cheekbones, defined jaw.
As we get older, and gravity takes its toll, this shape reverses: we lose volume at the top — in the cheeks and cheekbones — and the emphasis shifts to the jowls.
I was a classic case, as Dr Charlotte explained.
Although I didn’t really have much in the way of wrinkles (apart from the dreaded ‘Mummy frown’ in between my eyes), I had fat loss in my cheeks, too much weight in the bottom half of my face — and was afflicted with what the French rather unflatteringly call ‘les marionettes’, aka two puppet-like vertical lines at either side of my mouth, lending me a permanent air of mild disapproval.
Before undertaking the thread lift, then, Dr Charlotte decided that, rather like an elderly building, I needed some preliminary structural work.
She injected Botox into my forehead to help soften the two deep frown lines between my eyes; then put some in my jaw to stop me from clenching and grinding my teeth — a terrible habit of mine.
Admittedly I was up against some stiff competition — the delectable Holly Willoughby, if memory serves. But when Fiona Bruce, the veteran newsreader, above, observed this week that in her business, women who reject Botox can look awfully ‘rough’ by comparison with the rest, I knew exactly what she meant. I was living proof of that
This would also have the effect of reducing the size of my jaw muscles, thus helping with the general jowliness. Neither was especially painful. In any case, having had this before, it didn’t worry me.
Then I had a new collagen-stimulating filler called Ellanse injected into my cheeks. This works on two levels: by providing instant volume but also, over a period of months, stimulating the body’s own systems to produce more of the skin’s natural supporting protein, collagen.
This felt a little more uncomfortable than the Botox, mainly because it needed to go in slightly deeper, but if you’ve ever had a dental anaesthetic you’ll have endured worse.
Although the Botox would kick in after a few days, it would take three months for the fillers to take full effect. My next appointment, in three months’ time, would be the thread lift.
Christmas came and went and I felt rather happy with my new face. So happy, in fact, that I wasn’t even sure I needed the thread lift itself. But I was committed, and so, in March 2019 I trotted along to their clinic in Harley Street for phase two.
I knew what to expect but I didn’t really know what to expect, if you know what I mean.
I had a basic idea of the process, but I had deliberately decided to avoid Googling it or watching too many videos on YouTube in case I scared myself. I decided instead to simply trust Dr Charlotte — and hope for the best.
In retrospect, I think this was absolutely the right decision. It really doesn’t pay to overthink these things.
Certainly if I had known how weird it was going to feel, I might have not gone through with it. A bit like childbirth, the process is not exactly pleasant, and probably best not dwelt on too much. But the results are great.
There are basically two types of thread lift available: Silhouette Soft and PDO.
The first type, explained Dr Charlotte, is for fine, more delicate skins and are inserted nearer the surface.
I was going to have the other type, for thicker skin types, inserted more deeply into the tissue (lucky me!).
Having marked out the trajectory of the threads (seven on either side), she then injected a small amount of anaesthetic into the entry points, once again via a large needle.
The threads themselves really do look like tiny fishhooks: microscopically fine wires, with little barbs at regular intervals, and made from a biocompatible material designed for safe re-absorption into the body.
Once they’re all in, the doctor simply pulls the ends, and they latch on to the internal tissues, lifting everything into place like an open umbrella. And there they stay while they slowly dissolve — over roughly a three-month period.
In the meantime, the body rushes to repair the damage caused by the threads, and in so doing goes into collagen overdrive in the affected areas. This has the very pleasing effect not only of holding the lift in place — but also improving the texture of the skin from within.
Dr Charlotte worked fast and with purpose.
The first few threads were completely painless. But when we got to the third or fourth, the one that had to traverse my jaw muscles, the discomfort was, I will not lie, acute.
I tend to be fairly fearless about these things and will try almost anything. But a thread lift? Now that was way out of my comfort zone. That was grown-up stuff. Of course, nowhere near as invasive (or risky) as some surgical face lifts. A stock image is used above [File photo]
It wasn’t so much painful — the anaesthetic saw to that; it was more the invasive nature of having something alien in one’s head. If you’ve ever had root canal treatment or a dental implant you’ll know what I mean.
Still, with the help of an ice-pack and Dr Charlotte’s calm demeanour, it was all over within an hour. The immediate impact was striking: although a bit swollen and chipmunk-like, there was no mistaking the lift.
But otherwise I felt — and looked — pretty normal.
So much so that I trotted off to a lunch with some lovely ladies from an animal charity in Somerset I help out with and, for the most part, felt remarkably unscathed.
I even managed to pose for a selfie with them. I look a little pained, but all things considered not bad. It was only later on, in the afternoon, that I felt a bit tired.
It wasn’t until the following morning, when I woke up, that I truly appreciated the extent of what I had done.
Even though I was still sore from the procedure, and even though I hadn’t had the best night’s sleep, I looked like I had just returned from a three-month holiday in the Caribbean.
The only downside was that, over the course of the following few days, I did develop a bruise on the side that had been uncomfortable — but it was easy enough to cover, and faded relatively quickly.
The other, slightly more disconcerting thing, was the fact that every now and again when I moved my face, one of the tiny barbs would nibble at my cheek. Weird.
But it soon stopped.
Almost immediately, people started commenting on how well I looked. As the weeks wore on, and the swelling disappeared (it took about a week to ten days), my skin just kept improving.
Several girlfriends cornered me, wanting to know what I had done. Was it a facial? A new face-cream? A boyfriend? I kept them guessing. My family, as is always the case, didn’t notice a thing.
So why, you might ask, have I decided to come clean now, a whole year after the event?
Well, quite simply I wanted to see if it was worth it. Whether the effects would last, and whether it would survive the test of time.
One year on, and my lift is still going strong. I haven’t had any more Botox or fillers, and apart from the odd facial when I’m feeling self-indulgent, my skincare routine consists of nothing more time-consuming than a bit of facial oil or cream.
Best of all, I feel confident enough to leave the house with minimal or no make-up, something I haven’t really done since I was in my early 40s.
Is it worth it? That depends on how much you care.
Ten years ago the thought of having £2,000 worth of surgical barbed wire inserted into my face would have seemed completely bonkers.
Now it seems like a perfectly reasonable, not to mention sensible, long- term investment.
For more information, visit: riveraesthetics.com
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