Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cosmetic surgery: A close encounter with injectables of the face-plumping kind

Unless she is telling a most unusual lie, cosmetic nurse Susi Garrett is a walking testimony to her art.

Unusual, because most people lying about their age would shave off a few years. But Garrett has just told me she's nine years older than me when, honestly, she looks a decade and a half younger.

Under the bright light bouncing off the white walls of the injectables room here at Face Plus Medispa in Sydney's Bondi Beach, her skin is dewy perfection, not a wrinkle or age spot to be seen under her barely there make-up. Nor does she look like someone who's had cosmetic work. She looks fabulous – calm, relaxed and glowing, as if time's wearying strains have simply passed her by.

She hands me a mirror to look at my own face. "Tell me what you don't like," she says. Where do I start? With the bags under my eyes, exacerbated by a head cold? My frown line? The sun damage caused by years of blithely baking myself under an African sun?

It's a confronting business looking at yourself in the bright light of a place staffed by beautiful women whose promise is that you could be more beautiful too should you be prepared to spend the money. Certainly there's no shortage of treatments to splash out on at Face Plus and other clinics of its ilk, from smoothing facials and soothing massages to enzyme peels, laser treatments and LED light therapy.

Holistic clinic

Here in the injectables room are "anti-wrinkle relaxants" (starting at $150) and "dermal fillers" to replace lost skin volume ($390-$790 for a 1ml syringe of hyaluronic acid gel). On the wall in front of me is a before-and-after chart of faces and lips in various stages of ravagement and rescue.

Women's lips lose volume and colour as they age, Garrett tells me, but she also sees a lot of "virgin lips". "Girls as young as 18 come to me twice a year because there's pressure to look like Kylie Jenner." Lots of men come, "particularly gay men in their 20s and 30s", but older men too.

Garrett started out as a nurse assisting in plastic and facial reconstruction surgery. She moved on to injectables because "I'm quite artistic", she says. "I love design, drawing and architecture, and to sculpt someone's face with filler is very rewarding."

Her first recommendation for me, however, has nothing to do with needles. She advises me never to go outdoors without SPF50 sunscreen, even to hang up the washing, and to drink more fluids.

Because this is a holistic clinic, she recommends I see the naturopath. I can have laser treatments or chemical peels to remove pigment, and a dermal therapist can advise me on a serum to brighten my skin.

As for her, she would draw me up a 12- to 24-month plan. I'll need Botox for that frown line, and a couple of fillers here and there. She touches my temples and below my cheek bones. My jawline, thank goodness, is fine.

As I leave she gives my arm a kindly pat. "Come back and I'll look after you," she promises.

Charis Perkins

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