The summer I was fourteen, I went to a camp that specialized in the performing arts. The afternoon of our first show, Jeanne, our designated makeup artist stared at my face while applying baby-blue shadow to my eyelids, and slicking petal pink lip-gloss on my lips.
“You are lucky, Estelle,” she declared. “I can tell you’re going to age well. Most people don’t.”
“Why is that”?
“Well, your eyelid area is small so it won’t get baggy, your forehead is tiny, and your cheekbones are high.” Her brow crinkled. “The only place I think you’ll show your age is in your jawline – since you have a heart-shaped face, there is less bone there to support the structure, so you have a greater chance of sagging in that area. But, don’t worry, you have years before you have to worry about that,” she reassured.
I’ve thought about her words over the years, rather, decades since.
I had always felt my face was too compressed when I was younger, and looked forward to the elongation wrought by age. Then I found new purpose in midlife motherhood and the birth of my beautiful baby daughter. There was just one problem: The seventy-pounds I had accumulated during my pregnancy vacated my face quicker than it left my body.
Eventually, gravity took its toll on the lower part of my face, creating jowls and sagging. I saw it fall down right after my 30-year high school reunion, and in a bizarre mimicry of sympathy pains, so did my psyche.
I knew I needed an intervention – of the cosmetic kind.
I was determined not to go under the knife, as I’d seen too many episodes of television shows where the pulled-to-the-gills actresses looked like they’d gotten caught in a wind tunnel. I had experimented with filler and Botox before, but this time I needed more of a lift than either could provide.
I was interested in non-invasive procedures, with no downtime (after all I have a six-year old to take care of). David E. Bank, MD, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York, a cosmetic dermatologist, suggested that I try Thermage therapy for my lower face.
“Thermage is an FDA-approved, non-invasive skin-tightening technology that uses radio frequency waves to heat up the deeper collage in the skin, which tightens the skin and also produces new collagen,” says Bank.
“We use Botox to relax muscles, Restylane and Juvaderm to fill in lost volume. The third part of the equation is the skin itself- so Thermage – which like the other products needs an expertly trained operator – works synergistically with the other things we do.”
“With you, our goal was to restore what used to be, but not overinflate, so it made sense to chose this treatment.”
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From start to finish the treatment took about one and a half hours. I felt the heat as the device was passed over my face and pulsed for about two to seven seconds with each pass. But with the help of the pain pill, and the cool touch of the tip, it was an easy procedure to handle. I was told that it would take six months to see the final results (hey, building collagen takes time) – it’s been about half that time and I love it.
True, Thermage is no substitute for a facelift, but for now it gives me the physical, psychological and therefore emotional lift I need, and the results should last up to two years. So gravity be damned! I may not look like a teenager taking the stage anymore, but baby I’m back.