Laser peels promise dewy, youthful skin but the price is red-raw agony… so would YOU flay your face to look like Jennifer Aniston
23:01 GMT, 23 May 2012
Lying on a couch staring up at a fake chandelier, I’m trying not to scream as my therapist, Cheri, chats away about plush holidays in the sun.
It’s not envy that’s making me want to shriek. It’s the fact my face feels as though it’s on fire. As she enthuses about snorkelling in Belize, Cheri is expertly removing the top layer of my skin. Thankfully, I can’t see it, but I can imagine it all too vividly. And boy does it hurt! I feel as though I’ve stuck my face into a beehive.
Only a few minutes into my ‘treatment,’ at Dr Michael Prager’s jaw-droppingly pricey London clinic and I’m already beginning to question my sanity in signing myself up for a skin peel. Despite Dr Prager’s impressive credentials (he’s one of Europe’s leading cosmetic doctors) I am terrified. Suppose I’m scarred for life
No pain, no gain: Frances was red and battered after treatment, left, but was delighted with how good her skin looked a fortnight later, right
Right now, I’m bitterly regretting my inability to grow old gracefully and I blame it all on Jennifer Aniston. Idly flicking through a glossy mag at the hairdressers last month, I came across an interview with the eternally youthful Jen.
She is 43 years old — the same age as me. Glancing up, I catch sight of my own tired, furrowed face. Oh dear. Jen has the skin of a teenager. I look as though I’m old enough to be her mother. How does she do it
The answer lies further down the page. The actress airily confesses to being a ‘laser facial’ addict. They are, she confides, what give her that trademark glowing complexion.
Somehow, I manage to mentally edit out the bit where she says ‘you look like a battered burns victim’ for a week afterwards. Instead, I gaze wistfully at Jen’s flawless visage and wonder if I might possibly with just a little help become if not as radiant as Jen, then perhaps a bit less like a wrinkled old flannel.
And so here I am in Dr Prager’s clinic having the works: a laser peel followed by Dermaroller Micro-Mesotherapy treatment, which is basically a small ball covered in hundreds of tiny needles, being raked across your face, followed by lotions and potions.
Eternal youth: Jennifer Aniston admits her beauty secret is laser skin peels
The three-in-one ‘facial’ is designed to make me look gloriously youthful, with a smooth unlined face. The effects should last a year.
Before we start, however, I must undergo the humiliation of seeing my aged features in glorious 3D close-up, on a computer in Dr Prager’s office. Eek!
Once she’s got rid of the top layer of my skin, Cheri slathers anaesthetic cream on my face and then carefully wraps it up in clingfilm. Now I look like something I might put in my daughter’s lunchbox. Then Dr Prager appears wielding his needle-spiked ball.
The idea of the Dermaroller is that it will puncture my epidermis in hundreds of places. The theory is that, in healing itself, the skin will produce loads of fresh new cells leading to a youthfully radiant complexion.
The needles are 1.5mm long — and although Dr Prager rolls them all over my face this bit doesn’t actually hurt, thanks to the anaesthetic cream. It feels like a small hedgehog is meandering around my face, unpleasant but not painful.
No, the pain starts when Cheri re-appears to administer the Mesotherapy, a combination of minerals vitamins and hyaluronic acid, which is designed to plump up my skin. She drops the liquid on to my face with a syringe and then massages it in with a small electronic device.
My eyebrows jerk involuntarily and my neck spasms. I feel as though I’ve landed a part in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and am undergoing electric-shock treatment. An hour-and-a-half later, it’s all over, thank God. Staggering off the couch I beat a hasty retreat, laden down with 400 of hydrating skincare products.
Having had the top layer of my face lasered off I don’t feel in a position to insist that I’ll be fine with my normal supermarket own-brand moisturiser.
Walking home, I inadvertently catch sight of my reflection. Oh my God! I look hideous. Not so much sunkissed or even sunburnt, just battered. I want to cry but don’t. Sobbing will only make me look more swollen and hideous.
I’m dreading stepping through the front door. My fears are justified when my six-year-old daughter takes one horrified look at me and asks: ‘Mummy, what have you done to your face’
What have I done, I wonder.
DAY TWO: My face resembles an over-cooked beef tomato. It’s red and swollen with dark bruises under the eyes. For the first time in my life I’m in full make-up — including vast amounts of foundation — before breakfast.
My daughter looks at me quizzically. ‘Is your face better Mummy’ she asks. I grit my teeth and nod.
I have to keep reminding myself that this ‘facial’, at an eye-watering 1,080, was a huge treat. But I wish I’d stuck to my usual treats: marshmallow teacakes and the odd pair of shoes.
I’m dreading facing the other mums on the school run. Thankfully, good old British weather comes to the rescue.
Looks like torture: Frances' face is raked with a needle-covered roller, left, and treated with hyaluronic acid
Although it’s mid-May, it’s cold enough for me to don a big black hooded coat. Cowering under my disguise I dispatch my daughter at the school gate and scurry home before anyone can talk to me.
DAY THREE: I feel wretched. I’ve got a face like Frankenstein’s monster and I’m knackered.
Trowelling on another bucketload of foundation, I meet my friend Amanda for coffee. She considers my face then announces that I look as though I’ve been in an accident — ‘a while ago,’ she adds, as though that’s a comfort.
DAY FOUR: It’s my school reunion. I had been eagerly anticipating this event for months, for the totally unedifying reason that when I was at school I was very fat and now I’m slim.
Thanks to Dr Prager’s needle ball, however, I’m not going to be making the triumphant entrance I envisaged.
I’m still bruised under the eyes and the rest of my face is an unappealing shade of salmon pink. My new best friend, foundation, hides the worst of it. Thankfully, the reunion is being held in a darkened wine bar — and no one remembers me anyway.
DAY FIVE: The first sunny day for weeks so as well as everything else, I’ve got to worry about sun damage on my fragile face. I’m terrified of damaging my raw skin — after all, burning off the top layer destroys most of your natural sun protection.
At a family birthday party, I refuse to set foot outside the house, despite the fact I’ve slathered my face in factor 50.
Sandwiches and cake are brought to me on a tray, which I share with my 96-year-old grandfather. I’m acutely aware that as well as the tray we both share a somewhat reddened and blotchy complexion. But Gramps is nearly 100 and crippled by arthritis, whereas I am 43, and crippled by my own vanity.
DAY SIX: Staring at my reflection I start to see a definite improvement. My lines are still visible but overall I’m sure my complexion is clearer. The redness has gone and so has the puffiness.
DAY SEVEN: More squinting in the mirror and I’m sure my face looks younger. My complexion is smoother and I’ve got a sort of youthful Jen-type glow.
I meet an old pal, James, for lunch. ‘You look amazing,’ he says. I admit to my facial peel. ‘Well, it’s worked. You look ten years younger. You looked really tired and drawn before.’
DAY TEN: My lines have reduced, my skin is smooth. I feel confident and attractive. I’m tempted to ask strangers how old they think I am but some innate sense of self-preservation holds me back.
DAY 14: I love my new face. I look like me, but better. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I was terrified my face was about to fall off. But yes, it was definitely worth it.
I can see why Jen describes herself as a ‘laser porn addict’ — I’ve already started squirreling money away for next year’s laser treatment. At my age, it’s not a treat, it’s essential.