Just 25 and beautiful… So why did a cosmetic surgeon tell India she needs Botox
23:52 GMT, 3 June 2012
Ready for my close up! India Sturgis
Dr Daniel Sister, a renowned anti-ageing specialist, has a firm grip on my cheeks. I am perched on a black leather chair in his office — an airy loft conversion down an immaculate cobbled street in London’s affluent Notting Hill.
He twists my face gently towards light streaming in from a nearby window and peers at my complexion solemnly. ‘Some microdermabrasion is needed definitely,’ he says. His finger brushes my chin. ‘Some scars there. You played with them’
He’s talking about marks left from a couple of spots I suffered in my teenage years and I find myself cringing like a cornered schoolgirl. The ‘scars’ aren’t visible to the naked eye, no one has ever commented on them — but nothing, it seems, escapes Dr Sister’s gimlet eye. He asks me to frown, before dropping his bombshell.
‘I would start with Botox and have it here, here and here,’ he says, pointing to my forehead, the corners of my eyes and between my eyebrows. (Botox is a drug made from botulinum toxin, which is injected to paralyse muscles and temporarily alleviate the wrinkles and lines associated with ageing.)
‘After that, the Dracula therapy, and then a chemical peel,’ Dr Sister adds. Dracula therapy is a procedure pioneered by Dr Sister in which blood is taken from your arm, then separated into red blood cells, clear serum and platelets. Vitamins and amino acids are then added to the serum, which is injected into your ‘problem’ area.
Dracula therapy is designed to rejuvenate skin and heal scars. The chemical peel, which Dr Sister says should be done a few months down the line, involves an acid-based solution being applied to the top layer of my skin that causes it to peel off, revealing the smooth, scar and freckle-free skin beneath. Patients often require a week at home to recover.
At this point I should probably mention I’ve recently turned 25. I’ve never thought about having Botox, fillers or chemical peels — let alone cosmetic surgery — and, until now, I didn’t think I needed them. However, I visited London’s Beauty Works West clinic to investigate the growing trend for young women — some barely into their 20s — seeking expensive anti-ageing treatments. Many are also following ‘anti-ageing
plans’ — a bespoke menu of procedures designed to keep them looking
younger than their birth certificate (even if they were only born in
1990). Aficionados cite Cindy Crawford as inspiration — the supermodel
visited a cosmetic surgeon at the age of 26 to plan how she would age.
Kerry Campbell, 34, from
Birmingham, caused outrage after she injected her eight-year-old daughter with Botox so she’d do better in beauty pageants
I’d sought out Dr Sister, as he’s renowned for not only his pioneering new techniques, such as the Dracula therapy, but his ability to seemingly roll back the years for a host of high-profile women — model Lily Cole and fashion designer Alice Temperley are among his clients. I visited Dr Sister explaining I was concerned about ageing and wanted advice on how to stop the years taking their toll on my face. I’d expected my consultation to involve skin tests, a discussion about the right moisturisers for my skin type and the dangers of smoking and too much sun — the last two issues he mentioned briefly.
At worst, I thought microdermabrasion may be raised (it’s an intense form of exfoliation, but much less drastic than a chemical peel). Instead, I was advised by a professional at the top of his field to undergo three invasive procedures. It was shocking and upsetting. Usually, I’m happy with my appearance — and would certainly never think of having Botox — but after 20 minutes with Dr Sister I was questioning myself. What if he was right Do I look wrinkly Do I look old If I felt like this, how would someone with low self-esteem deal with such a harsh appraisal of her looks
Three-quarters of women aged 18 to 24 admit to saving up for procedures such as Botox and fillers
Image conscious: After 20 minutes with Dr Sister India started questioning her appearnace
The issue is not just about over-pampered princesses visiting a cosmetic doctor in their 20s. Just last week the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Body Image published a damming report claiming half of Britons are unhappy with the way they look.
According to the report, these feelings can start in some girls as young as five. The study — backed by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) — has called for more regulation for cosmetic surgery advertising and an outright ban of ads in some public places in order to limit the unrealistic images that we are exposed to. BAAPS president Fazel Fatah said: ‘The public inquiry found that . . . the “ideal” image portrayed is simply not achievable by the vast majority.’
The report comes at a time when three-quarters of women aged 18 to 24 admit to saving up for non- surgical anti-ageing procedures such as Botox and fillers. Almost a third of 25 to 34-year-old women would consider expensive non-surgical procedures to delay the effects of ageing, according to recent search by Sovereign Healthcare.
COST OF BEAUTY
The side-effects of Botox include eyelid droop, respiratory infection, flu and nausea
And while the average age for people starting to use Botox is 40, an increasing number of women in their early 20s are using the face-freezing procedure. Cosmetic dermatologist and skincare expert Dr Darren McKeown has seen a year-on-year increase in young people coming to his clinic.
‘I see more people in their 20s, and sometimes even their teens, requesting anti-ageing procedures. It seems to have become fashionable to have cosmetic procedures. For some, it’s become a status symbol — a bit like having the latest designer handbag — and young girls want it as soon as possible.’
As a general rule, he won’t treat anyone under 30 with Botox. And like the latest offering from Hermes, these procedures don’t come cheap. There was a two-week waiting list for my 30-minute consultation with Dr Sister, and it cost 120. Our meeting lasted just 20 minutes, meaning he was raking in the equivalent of 6 a minute.
The Botox I was advised to have would cost 420. The two sessions of Dracula therapy would be 900 and a chemical peel 380. That’s 1,700 notched up in the blink of an, apparently wrinkled, eye. Botox wears off after four months and the Dracula therapy can be administered again after six. If I followed this ‘age plan’ to the letter, I’d wind up with a bill of 3,440 for the first year alone.
‘I can’t say there won’t be new, magical treatments in the next five years but, for you, this is a good way to start,’ said Dr Sister.
Beauty trend: Model Lily Cole and fashion designer Alice
Temperley have both sought anti-ageing treatments
Of course, it’s not news that these procedures are expensive, but it does make the surge in young people seeking out these treatments seem even more surprising. At just 25, I was interested whether I was one of the youngest patients the doctor has treated. ‘You are not the youngest person I’ve seen,’ he tells me. ‘I turn people away if they are too young. I wouldn’t hesitate to do that.’
As there’s no legal age restriction for Botox, judgments are made by the patient and doctor.
To have dermal fillers, patients must be 18, and the same applies for most laser treatments, but there’s no age restriction for chemical peels. Legalities aside, surely it’s neither responsible or healthy to encourage vulnerable young people to spend large sums altering their natural appearance Research has shown these treatments can be addictive, the psychological effects are rarely considered by patients and excessive procedures promote a warped sense of what it is to look normal.
Dr Darren McKeown agrees: ‘A lot of people who treat young patients when they don’t really need it use the excuse: “If I don’t do it, someone else will.” But it is part of our job as cosmetic doctors to educate our patients and help them to make the right decisions at the right times.’ Rebecca, 22, from Croydon, South London, has just had Botox for the first time. ‘I know I probably shouldn’t have had it, but it makes me feel better and more normal,’ she says. ‘Before, when I smiled I noticed small wrinkles around my eyes. Now my face doesn’t crinkle so much. I’ll definitely have it again.’
The financial pressure alone of starting these anti-ageing procedures so young is enough to give you stress lines…
Worryingly, Rebecca sees this as just the beginning in her quest to improve her appearance — next on her list is lip filler ‘to get a pout like Lana Del Rey’ and the only thing stopping her from building her own ‘ageing plan’ is the cost. ‘These things are expensive,’ she says. ‘I just save for one at a time with wages from my job at a hotel.’
Health and beauty expert Jo Glanville-Blackburn puts the blame closer to home. ‘Young people are impressionable, up for trying something new — and vulnerable. Who is guiding them and telling them: “Wait! Think about why you are having this treatment.” As a parent, I put that responsibility on the mother.’
Jennifer Kyte, 25, from London, had a 245 microdermabrasion and transderm treatment (a skin-improving treatment using electrical pulses) because she was ‘terrified’ of looking older. ‘I don’t have wrinkles yet, but I’m determined to keep them away for as long as possible.’ She hasn’t ruled out Botox. ‘If a young woman, so full of energy, vitality and youth, feels she has to turn to cosmetic procedures to “fix” something, there has to be an emotional reason,’ says Jo. Society needs to address what’s causing the neurosis — whether it’s personal or born of the pressure girls feel to look like celebrities.
The financial pressure alone of starting these anti-ageing procedures so young is enough to give you stress lines. If I stuck to Dr Sister’s ageing plan of Botox and the Dracula therapy — let alone the one-off chemical peel — I would have spent 15,300 on my face by the time I’m 30 and most likely have wound up looking virtually the same. Worryingly, Dr McKeown suggests using excess Botox over a long time can cause the muscles to waste away and ‘the face [to] appear inadvertently aged’.
Not to mention that your perspective of what it is to look naturally beautiful will, over time, become completely unrealistic.
Leaving the cool air conditioning of Dr Sister’s office, I pass stacked boxes of creams with ‘youth’ written on them in capitals. It feels as though I’ve made a lucky escape. So what if I have a few lines when I smile, a couple of rogue freckles or occasionally wake up to a porridgey complexion I’d rather that than be plumped, peeled and pushed into an impossible ideal I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to keep up with.