The Most Discreet (and Effective) Facelift EVER, and It's so Quick You Really Can Do It in Your Lunch Hour!
- Threadlifts are the new 'non-surgical' facelifts available
- It takes just half-an-hour and there is no recovery time
- Winner of 2013's The Apprentice, Leah Totton, offers the treatment at her London clinic
- Helen Carroll has put the new treatment to the test
Take a look at these two photos. Can you see any difference between them? A little, but not too much? Good, that is exactly how it should be.
The pictures were taken a week apart — I think you’ll agree that in the second one, I look a little sharper, fresher, more alive.
Nothing too revolutionary or extreme, though. In fact, most people have assumed I’ve just had a really lovely, relaxing Christmas break. Which is precisely what I intended.
Before: Helen, 46, (pictured) went in for the new threadlift treatment at winner of The Apprentice Dr Leah Tottton's clinic in London before the school-run one day
You see, a few weeks ago, before the school-run, I nipped out for a threadlift — known in the cosmetic surgery world as a ‘non-surgical’ or ‘lunchtime’ facelift — at the London clinic of Dr Leah Totton, the 25-year-old winner of 2013’s The Apprentice. It’s said to be the most furtive, discreet and effective facelift of all.
My surgeon, Dr Roberto Pizzamiglio, trained Leah, along with hundreds of other medics, in how to perform the Silhouette Soft lift, in which fine threads with tiny cones along the length of them are sewn into the face, beneath the subcutaneous layer of fat, with a needle, then pulled tight, gently lifting sagging skin.
As it takes just half-an-hour and there is no recovery time, the procedure, which is available at clinics the length and breadth of the country for around £1,200, could be — and frequently is — performed during a lunch break, leaving colleagues none the wiser.
After: Helen, 46, (pictured) underwent the half hour procedure, which has no recovery time, and was thrilled with the results
In fact, if you decided to greet inevitable comments like ‘Gosh, you look well’ and ‘You must tell me which foundation you use’ with a knowing smile, no one need ever know you’d succumbed to a secret moment of vanity.
While I’m all for gilding the lily (I never leave home without a good smearing of make-up and regularly have my grey hair highlighted), I never imagined I would go so far as to have foreign bodies inserted in my face in my quest for eternal youth.
But I became far more receptive to the idea a few months ago when, aged 46, I was shown an alarmingly jowly profile photograph of myself, taken by my ten-year-old daughter Isobel. I’d not seen myself in profile for some time and struggled with the harsh truth: my face, like the rest of me, was heading south.
Dr Roberto Pizzamiglia (left) and Dr Leah Totton (right) performed the threadlift procedure on Helen at The Apprentice winner's clinic in London
Shortly afterwards, while washing up, I caught sight of my reflection in the kitchen window and recoiled in shock, actually believing I’d seen a vision of my mother, who died six years ago aged 82.
A more public low-point followed one evening when, on my way home from work, a woman in her 30s stood up to offer me her seat on the Tube. Not so long ago, that act of kindness would have propelled me on to a crash diet, convinced she thought I looked pregnant. But it was so much worse to have to face up to simply looking old.
Going under the scalpel was out of the question. Apart from the huge expense and weeks of recovery, as the mother of three children — aged 13, ten and six — I couldn’t justify risking a general anaesthetic unless it was absolutely necessary.
Effects of the treatment are meant to last around 18 months, at which point the threads and cones biodegrade and are absorbed into the body
So, the Silhouette Soft threadlift, done using a local anaesthetic, sounded like the perfect solution. Better still, the results promised to be subtle and discreet, so there was no danger of me looking like Jocelyn Wildenstein — infamous as the Bride of Wildenstein after extreme plastic surgery wrecked her face.
While threadlifts have for years been the beauty treatment of choice for the rich and famous — Madonna is understood to be among them — who want to rejuvenate without looking like they’ve been through a wind tunnel, what’s new about the Silhouette Soft technique are its ‘bi-directional cones’.
With the procedure’s previous incarnation, the cones only pointed downwards, embedding themselves into the facial tissue to keep the thread in place, and at the same time causing inflammation beneath the skin to stimulate production of collagen, the protein that provides scaffolding for the face.
The needle and thread are pushed upwards beneath the skin to the exit point near the hairline, the thread was pulled taut at both ends, so that the cones nudge the facial tissues northwards
But these new threads (developed in the U.S. and introduced here last year) are dotted with cones pointing up and down. As well as stimulating collagen production, the upward ones push into facial tissue, making skin tauter and giving more of a lift.
Effects are meant to last around 18 months, at which point the threads and cones — which contain polylactic acid, the biologically-compatible substance used in suture threads and orthopaedic pins — biodegrade and are absorbed into the body.
And so I made an appointment with Dr Pizzamiglio at Dr Leah’s clinic, in Moorgate, London. The ten local anaesthetic injections into each side of my face were, I was relieved to discover, the worst part of the whole procedure.
Red dots were drawn to indicate where the threads would go in and out of my face. Then, as I lay on the bed, covered in sterile paper, I could vaguely feel the surgeon, assisted by Dr Leah, injecting a needle — to which the 30cm thread and cones were attached — into the centre of my cheek.
Once both the threads have been place in one side of the face, the doctor turns to the other side to create the same lift in the second cheek - Helen is pictured here during the procedure
It travelled 5mm from the top layer of skin (the epidermis) through the dermis, the subcutaneous tissue, the collagen and stopped just past the fibroblasts (the skin cells that make connective tissues).
The needle and thread were pushed upwards beneath my skin to the exit point near my hairline, which was pricked with another needle to make a hole for the needle and thread to come through.
The thread was pulled taut at both ends, so that the downward-pointing cones embedded into the subcutaneous fat and the upward cones nudged the facial tissues northwards.
A second thread was inserted in the same way, further up my face, close to my cheekbones, and pulled upwards then downwards, until it was taut and embedded.
As with many medical processes there was some blood visible at the end of the process and some had even run into Helen's hair
With both of the threads in place on my right side, the doctor turned to creating the same lift on my left cheek.
The whole process took just 30 minutes, though it felt far longer — despite my efforts not to dwell on what was happening.
Inevitably, there was some blood and, when the surgeon handed me a mirror, I was taken aback to see some had run into my hair.
Back home, the children couldn’t see past the blood, and begged for the gory details. But my husband — a hardened doubter of cosmetic surgery — was astounded.
Helen is pictured here after the procedure, her kids were keen to know the gory details, while her husband was astounded by the results
He even compared my new face to a picture that hangs on our landing, in which I’m holding Isobel as a baby ten years ago. I couldn’t have hoped for a lovelier comment.
In the days afterwards, I was told to keep the incision points clean, dry and infection-free: showers were out, as was make-up. Also banned were saunas, contact sport and dental surgery, while the tissue around the cones healed. I was also ordered to sleep on my back for five nights — the biggest problem of all.
Even without make-up, I could see I looked much better: like a fresher, less exhausted version of myself. And because the reflection staring back at me appeared less tired, I felt like I had more energy.
Helen, pictured after the treatment, was thrilled with the results and can see that even without make-up she looks like a 'fresher, less exhausted version' of herself
The following Saturday, I met up with my friend Rachael, who I’ve known since playgroup. I hadn’t told her about my threadlift and her first reaction on seeing me was: ‘Wow, you look great! Sooo well.’
My sister, Louise, an advanced nurse practitioner who administers Botox and fillers, is also thinking about training to do threadlifts, after seeing my results on Skype.
‘It’s knocked a decade off you!’ she said. ‘Yet your face still looks natural — just plumper and less lined.’ That plumping effect should be even more noticeable over the next few months as more collagen is produced, thanks to stimulation from the cones.
But will I tell anyone what I’ve had done next time they ask? Probably not. This is my little secret.