In this, the fifth and last part of our brilliant series exploring the treatments that can take years off you, ALICE HART-DAVIS reveals the latest ways to turn back the clock in the comfort of your own home…
All week, I’ve been discussing the high-impact treatments offered by cosmetic clinics to roll back the years and improve your looks.
I’m guessing you like the idea — most people do! But perhaps you’d rather do some of it at home. Perhaps you can’t afford to fork out for salon treatments, or you live too far away from the top aesthetic practices, or you’d prefer to experiment with anti-agers privately.
Well, nowadays, the market is heaving with home-use beauty devices offering watered-down versions of the technology in clinics. What sort of technology? Almost anything you care to name.
In the fifth and last part of our brilliant series exploring the treatments that can take years off you, ALICE HART-DAVIS reveals the latest ways to turn back the clock in the comfort of your own home
There are gadgets for stimulating skin regeneration: lasers to smooth and renew, microcurrent devices to hoick sagging facial muscles back into better shape, electrical toners, dermarollers, microneedlers, LED light masks . . .
You could start with a powered cleansing brush (seen below), which if used a couple of times a week will help remove dead skin cells and allow moisturisers to penetrate more evenly and effectively.
There’s been a big boom in home devices. ‘Over the past five years technologies have become significantly more effective, allowing consumers to safely replicate the professional treatments they have experienced in salons and spas,’ says Laurence Newman, of Manchester-based Currentbody, which markets personal health and beauty tech.
WHAT IS IT? Using blue LED light to destroy acne causing bacteria is a well-proven strategy for improving spotty skin.
The Neutrogena Visibly Clear Light Therapy Acne Mask means you can treat yourself.
The mask is a solid plastic face shaped shield, with a slot at eye level so you can still see out. On the inside, there are LED lights which give off blue and red light. The blue light kills the acne-giving bacteria, while the red light
helps stimulate collagen formation. You press ‘start’ on the Activator, the lights flick on and your ten-minute light therapy session begins.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: Surprisingly comfortable and you can see enough not to feel shut off from the world. But read the instructions several times first. I didn’t, and set off the mask by mistake.
When I stopped it, I found I’d used up one of the 30 sessions you get. When those run out, you need to buy a new Activator for £14.99.
VERDICT: Very helpful if used regularly and consistently.
(If you went to a clinic, you would need 20 minutes of blue light twice a week.)
In Neutrogena’s tests, 98 per cent of acne sufferers saw improvements after using the mask every day for 12 weeks.
COST: £39.99 at Superdrug.
‘With many people looking for non-invasive alternatives, particularly in anti-ageing, devices for use at home have provided an ideal solution.’
But the question I’m always asked is: ‘Do home devices really work?’ The answer is invariably: ‘Yes . . . but only if you use them properly, and consistently.’
In the same way that you will only get fit by going to the gym regularly, you won’t get results by using these devices only when you remember. Because they are lower-powered versions of salon devices, results will take longer.
So, even if a device boasts a clinical trial or U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance showing it does what it claims, it will only achieve those results if you follow the instructions scrupulously. Having said that, don’t use them more than is recommended, assuming that it will speed results. These devices may offer lower doses of laser or radio frequency than in-clinic treatments, but your skin will still need time to adjust to them.
Pick your product with care, and use it sensibly. I know I am unlikely to use something that means sitting in front of a mirror for ten minutes three times a week. But a mask I can wear as I tidy the house, I can handle. Here are my pick of the best:
Microneedling is increasingly popular as an at-home treatment to stimulate collagen production.
WHAT IS IT? A sophisticated home-use microneedling device, the GloPro Microstimulation Facial Tool is designed to stimulate the skin’s natural healing response and is said to be particularly useful for ageing skin. It also vibrates and beams soothing, collagen-boosting red LED light at the skin.
The roller is covered in tiny 0.3mm stainless steel spikes.
Passing it across the face creates thousands of tiny holes in the skin. These allow skincare products to get right into the skin so that they will be more effective.
The theory is also that, as the skin races to repair the damage caused by the needles, it produces growth factors and collagen that help strengthen the skin.
The full face light mask
WHAT IS IT? The gold-coloured MZ Skin Golden Facial LED Mask offers several varieties of LED light.
The solid shield of a mask is quite heavy, with eye holes so you can still see out. On the inside, there are LED lights which emit red (collagen boosting, anti-inflammatory), or blue (acne-busting), or clear near infra-red (regenerating and calming) or green light (to reduce pigmentation) or even red and blue light together.
The countdown timer offers a 20-minute session as a default, but you can change this as you prefer.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: The mask is quite heavy, and therefore easier to use lying down than sitting up. Also, if I use it while upright, I get swimming-goggle-style indent marks below my eyes which take an hour or two to soften.
Depending on how bright you set the light, it is just about possible to watch TV while wearing it, as long as you are close enough to be able to plug it into an electrical socket. Apart from these quibbles, it is fab.
VERDICT: Impressive but heavy. People with any skin type can use this and will see benefits if they use it regularly enough.
COST: £385 (mzskin.com).
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: Very easy and only lightly prickly rather than painful. When I tried it out, I rolled it enthusiastically around my face for the recommended minute, then carried on a bit until I could see my poor face was going pink — but there’s no harm done. It just means the needles are doing their job.
Then I slapped on my retinol-based night cream and retired for the night.
VERDICT: Fabulous. I have found myself using this with dedication and also experimenting with the larger body-roller head with its 0.5mm spikes, which is meant to be brilliant for stretch marks and cellulite — though I appreciate that you could get all the same benefits of the microneedling, minus the LED light and vibration, with a £10 dermaroller bought on the internet.
Bear in mind, though, not all dermatologists are keen on it.
Some say that it may cause unnecessary trauma to the skin and that few of the products people apply after needling are designed to go as deep into the skin as they will through the needled holes. I love it, though.
COST: £199 (Beautybioscience.co.uk).
The NuFace Trinity Facial Trainer Kit runs low-level microcurrents through the face to improve circulation and help reduce fine lines. By tweaking and toning facial muscles, it helps give a lifted appearance.
WHAT IS IT? This nifty device, hugely popular in the U.S., is the only one of its kind to have FDA approval. All of which suggests it does what it claims, including improving facial contours.
Because it tones muscles, you would think it would work against Botox. But it actually complements Botox because it plumps up muscle fibre — even if those muscles are temporarily inactivated by Botox.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: Easy. You just switch it on and, having first applied conductive gel to the skin, slide the smooth bobbles of the device slowly upwards and outwards across the cheeks, nine times on each side. Then slowly upwards from the eyebrows, nine times each side. This takes less than five minutes.
Having seen a demonstration where a middle-aged model’s eyebrow was hoisted by at least a centimetre in just five minutes, I have been experimenting at home and can just about do it.
That hoisted brow will last just one evening, but I know daily use would hold it for longer.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: It tingles a bit, but it’s not remotely painful. Some people use it while watching TV. That’s only possible if you’re alone as the beep from the device telling you to move to a new spot will annoy others. Trust me.
VERDICT: Terrific, portable and slightly addictive. I love the way that, when I have worked over my forehead and tweaked up my eyebrows, I feel much more awake. This is because my forehead is lifted and so my eyes are that little bit more open.
What I haven’t managed to do is use it consistently enough to get lasting results, but I know it is proven to make a significant difference if you keep at it.
COST: Original size, £315. Mini version, £167 (currentbody.com).
THE LIP PLUMPER
Any non-surgical method of making your lips look bigger, even temporarily, is worth a closer look and PMD Kiss promises just that.
WHAT IS IT? A compact device which uses a pulsating vacuum to apply suction to your lips, which makes them swell. It’s like a kinder, electronic version of the shot-glass trick. (I wouldn’t recommend trying this, but it involves pushing your lips into an empty shot glass, then sucking out the air to create a vacuum, which causes lips to swell.)
If you apply the serum supplied, it is meant to help hydrate your lips and boost their volume further. The effect lasts up to three hours.
I can see this being popular with young women who want fuller-looking lips without filler injections, as well as with older women whose lips are thinning.
Daily use is meant to boost collagen production and give plumped up lips for as long as six weeks.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: Easy enough. It vacuums up a chunk of lip at a time, and you move it around until each bit has been treated. It doesn’t hurt, and it takes about three minutes to do.
VERDICT: It certainly boosts lip volume and colour (due to the increased blood flow) for an hour or two, but I found that going too near the lip edge could leave a red ring around the outside of the mouth, which looks odd and which you can’t hide with lipstick.
This is something I can’t really be bothered with. Why have I included it in here if I wouldn’t use it myself? Because it does give a result and you might feel differently about it.
COST: £71.20 (currentbody.com).
FACIAL SHRINK WRAP
Radio frequency energy is a popular in-clinic choice for tightening skin and reducing wrinkles. The Tripollar Stop offers a home-use version of the same technology.
WHAT IS IT? Like a clinic-based radio frequency treatment, the Tripollar Stop creates heat within the skin, with two results. Initially, it has a quick tightening effect as the heat makes collagen in the skin contract; and longer term, the heat prompts the skin to make new collagen. The device can be used on hands and neck, too.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: I apply a thin layer of conductive gel all over my clean, dry face, switch on, and get going. The head of the Tripollar device has four rounded metal pegs and these must be in contact with the skin for it to work.
As instructed, I work on a small area of face, sliding those four pegs around in a slow circle. It feels very warm, and just as it is becoming alarmingly hot, the green indicator light on the device turns orange, which tells me that patch of skin is cooked — or at least, hot enough to stimulate new collagen. Phew.
Then I move on. It takes just over 20 minutes to go over my whole face, which is left a bit red, but this goes within half an hour.
VERDICT: As with all home-use devices, you need patience and commitment to get the best results. And because it takes 20 minutes, you need to set that time aside two or three times a week. What I’m really interested in seeing is what difference it can make to my neck, which is in more need of attention than my face, so I’m motivated to keep going with it.
COST: £249 (currentbody.com).
SKIN TIGHTENING LASER
The Tria Age-Defying Laser uses a lighter version of the same non-ablative (ie removes no skin) laser technology you find in professional salon treatments, and is FDA-cleared, too.
WHAT IS IT? Tria uses targeted laser light to reduce discoloration, improve skin texture, smooth wrinkles and rebuild collagen. It drives tiny pinprick beams of laser light into the skin, and as these micro-channels of damage heal, you begin to see the benefits.
If you worry that a laser could be dangerous to have around at home — this has several safety features. Each zap of laser won’t fire until the gadget’s head is in flat contact with skin.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO USE: Very user-friendly. The little zaps of laser light it delivers feel no worse than gentle pinpricks, even after I have skipped past the first two levels and cranked it up to maximum.
One major attraction is you use it on clean, dry skin and don’t need expensive conduction gel other home devices require. The treatment takes 15 minutes — five minutes on each side of your face and five on the forehead. I was a bit pink for an hour afterwards, but now my skin is used to the treatment, it lasts for ten minutes.
When I was new to the Tria, I had to watch what I was doing in the mirror, but now I relax on the sofa, watch TV or even lie in bed while gliding it over my face.
It’s recommended to use the device for five days a week for 12 weeks and then for another 12 weeks when needed. I don’t manage that, but do use it weekly.
VERDICT: I love a home beauty gadget and I have found I use this regularly just because it is so easy to use. I am very happy with the way it brightens up my skin when it’s a bit dull and smooths the surface. I’m hoping it’s keeping some lines and wrinkles at bay, too.
COST: From £299 (currentbody.co.uk).
Seven secrets to the perfect FACE (So how many have you got?)
Now that we’re at the end of this series, you’re probably still puzzled as to what the perfect face should look like.
Maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that one of the world’s top plastic surgeons, Canadian Dr Arthur Swift, has come up with a formula for the ideal female face — it’s OO7 PHI (as in oh-oh-7 as opposed to zero-zero-seven). Whether you agree with him or not, it is what many practitioners adhere to.
The OO Formula
FIRST, let’s look at the ‘O’s. Key characteristics of the beautiful face are that it is oval in shape (every culture apparently prefers its women to have an oval or heart-shaped face), and that the cheeks show what’s called an ‘ogee curve’.
This is the almost-S-shaped double-bend that sways outwards as you trace the line of the cheekbones, then inwards and down towards the chin.
Oval and ogee — that’s the two ‘O’s.
The ‘magnificent seven’ are the key features that we all take note of when we are assessing the beauty of a face:
1 The triangle of youth (described below).
2 The height of the forehead (not too high, not too low).
3 The shape of the eyebrows (lightly arched).
4 The size and spacing of the eyes (pleasingly large, not too close together).
5 The shape of the nose (appropriate to the height of the face).
6 The width and height of the lips (generous, but again, appropriate to the face that they are in).
7 How clear and smooth the skin is (the clearer the skin, the younger we judge a face to be).
If we find all of these key features pleasing — well, according to Dr Swift, that’s a beautiful face.
Triangle of Youth
The widest point of a beautiful face is the measurement across its well-shaped cheeks, which taper down towards the chin and emphasise what is popularly known as the ‘triangle of youth’.
That means if you were to draw an inverted triangle and superimpose it on the image of a lovely face, two of its points will be at the cheekbones, and the third will be at the chin. As the face gets older, the cheeks lose volume, and the jowls begin to sag, and that triangle of youth disappears.
In fact, it flips position, with the two widest points being the corners of the jaw, and the third point starting at the nose.
When a cosmetic practitioner is assessing a face, he or she is also looking at these features, to assess how that face is ageing and how they might make it look more lovely.
Perhaps they could improve the facial contours, or make the face a little more symmetrical. Most of us have asymmetric faces, and although symmetry is something the human eye finds pleasing, if you analyse most very beautiful faces, it is their slight asymmetry that gives them their real attraction. It also stops them from looking robotically perfect.
A practitioner could help restore the triangle of youth, or help make the skin look fresher and clearer with the treatments at their disposal.
While it might seem that there’s not a lot that can be done about, say, a long face, because that’s just the way it is built, judicious use of facial fillers in the cheeks and chin can alter the way light falls on that face, which can make it look shorter and therefore better proportioned.
The Golden Ratio
There’s also a mathematical element to all this, in the form of the golden ratio or ‘divine proportion’. That’s the ratio of 1 to 1.618; this second number is known as Phi, after the Greek sculptor Phidias, who used this proportion in much of his work.
This ratio sounds baffling until you see how pleasing things that have these proportions appear to the human eye.
I say ‘things’ because this golden ratio crops up everywhere, from the structure of DNA to the proportions in a beautiful face.
Angelina Jolie’s lips, for example, comply to this ratio — if her lips are the 1.618 bit, each side of her face beside those lips is 1. It works for many facial elements in a very beautiful face — the length of the nose, the position of the eyes and the length of the chin will all conform to some aspect of the Golden Ratio.
If you’re a particularly precise sort of cosmetic practitioner, you might even want to try applying the principles of the golden ratio to your clients.
Arthur Swift does, and has even had made a set of gold-coloured callipers that measure out the ratio, which he uses to demonstrate to clients his views on what looks good on a face and how he might use the principles of Phi and divine proportion on their faces.
He does not do this to make patients into some cookie-cutter version of themselves, but to move the proportions of their face closer to the ideals that are known to be pleasing.
Global Beauty Ideal
THere’s yet another strange-but-true observation from the beauty world: good-looking people all over the world look more like each other than ordinary-looking people of their own ethnic group.
That may sound highly unlikely, but if you look closely at, say, top models or film stars from any country, you’ll see that they tick almost all of the boxes on that OO7 list.