Facelifts and How to Avoid Them

By , Columnist

One of my girls went to a recent exhibition at the upmarket Mayfair art gallery owned by Timothy Taylor. He is married to Lady Helen Windsor, daughter of the Duke of Kent, who is the Queen’s cousin.

I was told that it was packed with extremely thin women and the majority of them had faces that screamed ‘facelift’! They didn’t look young — just that they had something done to them. (I hasten to add that Lady Helen just looked her natural self — a true English rose with blonde hair.)


I occasionally glance at a great website called New York Social Diary, which chronicles the activities of New York’s elite, with occasional visits to other swanky places like Palm Beach. The party pictures are a delight. It is so easy to spot the facelifts and other surgery — the over-stretched skin, the wind tunnel nostrils, the pinched nose bridges, the flying buttress eyebrows…

The results are so obvious; you wonder why these ladies put themselves through so much pain and danger for such results. Let us not forget that surgery under a general anaesthetic always carries a risk. The writer Olivia Goldsmith, author of The First Wives Club, is one of the women who have died while undergoing the surgeon’s knife.

There are good and bad facelifts. The worst example is reckoned to be Jocelyn Wildenstein, whom the British press have nicknamed the Bride of Frankenstein. You can see her and lots of other surgically challenged faces on Awful Plastic Surgery.

The best example wasn’t Sharon Osbourne’s first facelift (sorry, Sharon) but that of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman, who was President Clinton’s Ambassador to France. (You can read about her amazing life in Christopher Ogden’s splendid biography Life of the Party.)

Despite all the risks, medical and visual, there is said to be hardly a face, bust or buttock in Hollywood that has escaped the knife. When Dr Frank Ryan, "plastic surgeon to the stars," died in a car crash last year, there was understandably a great deal of weeping of doe-like eyes and gnashing of perfectly veneered teeth.

But if you don’t want to take the risks of a facelift, how can you avoid it and stay looking, well, relatively young? You can try Botox and fillers, but beware: a young lady doctor tells me that you should never let anyone without medical qualifications inject anything into your face. You should only use someone such as a doctor with additional training, or a dentist, as they really understand all about facial nerves.

You can try various methods of facial stimulation such as CACI, but you have to keep on using them as they lose their effect — as the Duchess of Cornwall discovered after her wedding to Prince Charles.

There are only three ways of preserving your face, so start young:

Rule 1: Never smoke. If you do, you’ve just stubbed out your last cigarette. Smoking increases wrinkles, alters facial muscles round the mouth and eyes, and gives you an unhealthy pallor (that’s apart from anything else).

Rule 2. Protect the face from the sun. Women who have always worn foundation will look younger at 50 than those who didn’t. You should wear a high factor sunscreen in countries with strong sun. Most modern sunscreens can be used as a moisturiser under make-up, or on their own, although cosmetic counter staff will never tell you that.

Rule 3. Look after your teeth and gums. Start using an electric toothbrush in your teens. Floss, use mouthwash, and use those funny little inter-dental brushes to get rid of plaque. If your gums go, so do your teeth and with them the scaffolding that supports the face. That’s why those toothless old crones look so old — they may actually be younger than you think!

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Margaret Holder has been writing about the Royal Family in newspapers and magazines for thirty years. She also broadcasts frequently on the BBC, both radio and television. She reckons she has now written more royal documentaries than anyone else in the world. Some are still being shown on channels in…

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