I watched a heartwarming programme on Channel 5 last night: '10 Years Younger in Ten Days', which is another of those quick turnaround makeover shows in the tradition of 'The Swan', 'What Not to Wear', and 'Changing Rooms' (for houses!). Both the women featured had touching stories, and I particularly sympathised with the one who had had some horrible - only adumbrated - things happen to her in the past, compounded by 43 years of heavy smoking. As a result she was heavily lined, careworn and sad, and a straw poll of straight-shooting passersby guessed she was on average 8 years older than her actual age. The presenter made the point that chronic stress floods the body with cortisol, which in turn 'eats' collagen, a dismal truth of which I was already aware. Within ten days, however, the makeover candidate had had a complete new set of teeth, botox, fillers, a sassy wardrobe and a leonine cascade of toffee-coloured hair. Whilst I don't agree with the post-makeover poll that said she now looked 52 rather than 64, she was certainly much revivified by this comprehensive overhaul. I am especially envious of her teeth.
I concede that nothing in my own past comes close to whatever troubles this woman had experienced, but the point about cortisol eating collagen struck a chord with me. The lockdown has been a stressor for all of us to varying degrees, and I have found it much harder than I expected, despite being someone who is normally fine on their own. Over the course of the year I acquired tinnitus and have had protracted spells of insomnia, itself a source of stress, as well as robbing you of what is rightly termed 'beauty sleep', for it is at night that the body repairs itself. Long story short, I fear I may have been awash in cortisol for quite a bit of the past year, and come November, my gaunt and sunken face was starting to bug me. The line of my jaw, once smooth and slightly rounded, now had a distinct and saggy triangle in it half way along, like a miniature map of Tasmania. The brown spots on my cheeks, caused by a mix of long term use of antibiotics and sun exposure, and which once took the form of separate little patches, have managed to coalesce into archipelagos stretching from ear to mouth nearly, making my face look permanently dirty. The 'peach fuzz' on my cheeks also seemed more luxuriant, but it is blonde at least, so have bought a de-fuzzer by Revlon and will get round to tackling that one day, when I can pluck up the courage. As for estimating my age, the best approach is the dendrochronological one of counting the concentric rings on my neck. ;)
Baseline photo - me in March 2019. NB My blog avatar photo (to the right) is from 2014. ;)
November is a depressing month at the best of times, never mind in a lockdown scenario, but the local private hospital was still open for business, and one dark rainy night I had a consultation with a rather dashing plastic surgeon from Minneapolis. I had no intention of actually having any cosmetic surgery - it was more of a fact finding mission. I am delighted to say he didn't charge me for the session, because he felt that the radical work I needed(!) was not his speciality. 'I could sort your eyes out, though.' The session was not quite as dispiriting as you might be forgiven for thinking. He added that my eyes (even in their hooded and crepey state) 'had a spark about them', and that I had good skin, 'just too much of it'. He explained that the main reason for people's skin becoming looser as they age is in fact the shrinkage of the underlying bone structure, like the facial equivalent of coastal erosion.
This instantly explained the disconcerting amount of 'travel' in my cheek when I applied moisturiser. It seemed almost as though it would slide past my ear, given half a chance. I did lob in a tentative question about fillers, thinking that might be a more affordable and less scary route if I ever did bite the bullet and have anything done, but he wasn't a fan. 'I mostly work in a hospital in Liverpool, and walking around the city centre I see far too many cases of unnatural looking fillers.' (My thoughts immediately flew to those preposterous trout pouts that sometimes accompany the infamous Scouse brow.)
And then I asked him about oral collagen, a bargain bottle of which from Amazon I had in fact just started taking from a company called SuperSelf - probably not long enough for it to have made a difference, if it was ever going to. His hesitation before replying struck me as significant, and though I can't remember his exact answer, it was far from an outright no, as though he were leaving the door ajar to its possible efficacy.
Picture from last August - if you look closely, you can see Tasmania is just starting to get her droop on.
So I came away thinking there was no way I could afford or ever face a face lift, given my phobia of blood and knives, and if this chap was anti-fillers, that just left me with my collagen experiment. I decided to pursue it for now, to rule it in or out, and when the SuperSelf bottle ran out, I took out a subscription to Absolute Collagen, which is one of the leading brands, with (to my mind) the most convincing 'before' and 'after' pictures from users. AC's founder, Maxine Laceby, has won a number of beauty industry awards, which served as further reassurance of there being 'something in it'. Accordingly, after a month of taking the other brand, I switched to Absolute Collagen on 8/12, and every fortnight receive a cheery yellow box containing a clutch of lemon flavoured sachets which I dissolve in hot water and drink first thing.
[Oh look, they use the dreaded word 'journey'! But as I like the product I will cut them some slack, no dermatological pun intended.]
|I am part way through this box!|
One week later, in mid-December, I met up with a friend, whom I had not told I was taking anything, but who immediately noticed a difference to my face - a sort of blurring round the edges, as it were. Here is our email exchange shortly afterwards: