The pitfalls of the aggressive approach to anti-ageing have become all too apparent in recent years and fall across a spectrum from the slightly over-tugged, to the frankly absurd. Jocelyn Wildenstein, an inhabitant of the outskirts of the spectrum, is perhaps the most shocking of all, but I am often more saddened to see the rubber quality some of the most beautiful famous faces have adopted (recent images of Cameron Diaz, Priscilla Presley and Elle McPherson all attest to a nip and tuck too far). Despite these cautionary tales, the fact still remains that regardless of whether we’re a reputed beauty or plain Jane, none of us are overjoyed at the ageing process.
Fortunately, deeper understanding of ageing has led to the new frontier in treatment of the signs of ageing and spawned clinics that approach from the perspective of wanting to achieve an overall appearance of health, not an eerily wrinkle-free steamrolled face. The Waterhouse Young Clinic in Marylebone is one such exemplary clinic pioneering the way. On a dismal wintery morning, I went to meet the rather extraordinary Dr Mica Engels at the clinic and try their HydraFacial.
The facial itself was closer to a medical experience than anything I’ve experienced: a reclining chair rather than bed and bright lights rather than candles set the scene; this is a facial that lies at the business end of the treatment spectrum. The procedure relied on machinery to give precision of results: the hand piece used to remove dead skin cells and suck up impurities also jets in moisture and antioxidants, and the infrared lights shone on the skin to reduce redness and stimulate collagen. Could machines rival the hand? The plump and clear skin looking back at me in the mirror post-treatment suggested yes.
But could a facial really play a part in keeping wrinkles at bay? ‘The more preventative you are, the less aggressive you need to be later’, explained Dr Engels in answer to my question. The idea at Waterhouse Young is to minimise invasive treatment and look at the individual’s skin (and if you are in any doubt as to the depth analysis reaches here, take a look at their Visia Skin Analysis machine – it will give a reading of your skin’s condition no human eye could achieve). Treatment can then be tailored to address your needs instead of taking a generic, formulaic approach.
Engels was also careful to point out that the ageing process really starts around 25 and that awareness of your own skin’s health is key in avoiding traumatic surgery in later years, likening the process to avoiding illness when older by being sensible in youth. To help you determine the best course of action, I asked her for a rough guide to the salient points of skincare grouped by age:
0-14: Sunblock is key when young, and avoiding any burning will really help the skin.
14-25: Learning how to treat your skin is vital at this point. Routine and discipline are key to nourish and minimise any acne and scarring from spots. Facials can play a role, and gentle ones (such as the HydraFacial) to clean and hydrate skin properly will help with any niggles.
25-35: These years are the most formative in your skin’s trajectory. We still age as we did thousands of years ago so need to trick the body into continuing to produce collagen and turning over the skin at the same rate as during youth. A higher concentration of antioxidants and some vitamin A, retinol and glycolic acid can all play a role in this and help stop the sudden loss of youthful skin.
25-35: Your skin is as unique as a fingerprint and, the older you get, the more you need expert advice to find the products and treatment that will work for you. Don’t ask for a friend’s advice, as what works for them almost certainly won’t for you. Also ensure your lifestyle supports your skin and cut down on alcohol and toxins.
35-50: Waking up dormant collagen cells can really slow ageing at this point. A Dermaroller treatment is a valuable tool to help, as is laser treatment with a good aesthetician. Retinol and peptides are good additions to consider to your skincare regime.
60+: Losing hydration and nourishment is a huge concern for older skin, and these should be the focus through treatment, skincare and lifestyle. Age-spots (clusters of melanocytes), can be broken down with treatment and maintaining a good texture of skin will help to give an appearance of youthfulness.