Not so long ago, anti-ageing was very much part of the vernacular. Ageing was feared and youth was the goal. We chased a younger version of ourselves with major facelifts and arguably far too much botulinum toxin and filler. But instead of getting our fresh, 20-year-old face back, what stared back in the mirror was an overtightened, over-filled face that only barely resembled its owner. Lately, though, there has been a shift.
Women are still seeking out surgeons and cosmetic physicians, but rather than major facelifts often they are opting for non-or minimally invasive treatments to refresh rather than alter how they look. Why the paradigm change? Experts theorise that some women could be looking to their mothers or grandmothers, whose quest for youth has resulted in less-than natural results. Or it could be the pictures on our social feeds showing certain celebrities, once the epitome of beauty, now looking tight and painfully over-filled. This aesthetic backflip where women’s primary goal is not youth at all costs but a better version of themselves also comes from an increased supply of options.
A new wave of technology – including buzz treatments such as InMode’s Morpheus8, IPL, Matrix PDO and HIFU – promises real results without surgery. And we’re booking in droves. Dr Joseph Hkeik, a high-profile cosmetic doctor in Sydney, says that women are keen for a more natural result and are increasingly looking to tech and injectables to get it. “As most women are starting the rejuvenation journey earlier, less is required as they face the ageing process,” says Hkeik. We are at the stage where results are arguably so good that women can choose to bypass surgery.
“These new technologies offer not the surgical equivalent but pretty darn close,” explains leading Canadian plastic surgeon Dr Stephen Mulholland. “More and more women are saying, ‘You know what? I’m OK with good results’. They think to themselves, ‘I can do it under a local [anesthetic] and I don’t mind a little redness, swelling and downtime. But I don’t want the scars, stigma, the cost and the recovery of excisional work.’ That’s what resonates.” But keep expectations of what tech can do in check. “[A surgical] facelift and a tummy tuck still gets the best results,” explains Mulholland.
So, yes, you may have a few more wrinkles and less tautness than you would from surgery, but experts say you can still realistically shave about 10 years off your appearance. “A lot of people are wanting the less-is more approach,” says Dr Van Park, a sought after cosmetic doctor in Sydney, known for her precision injecting work. “Making no change at all is almost our goal,” she explains. “If we took a photo of someone today and a photo of them 10 years down the track, they should look exactly the same.”
For those who want natural-looking results without even a skerrick of downtime, there are device-based treatments that promise results in your lunchbreak. Sheryl Perez, managing director of Beauty Hub Sydney, says, “The main goal for our clients at Beauty Hub Sydney is to achieve a natural, youthful look. They want to feel tight without going under the knife.” At this point, there is no technology that does everything all at once, so combining therapies is the way to get results. Mulholland recommends a combination of filler (but less filler than we have seen previously), photo rejuvenation (such as IPL) to correct red and brown discolouration in skin and Morpheus8, a new tech that Mulholland has been instrumental in developing, which aims to tighten skin and avoid the need for over-lifting with filler. “That means you can dial back on the Botox and you don’t need so much filler because you’re not trying to lift with too much volume,” explains Mulholland. For the past few years, Perez has been offering her clients High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU). This tech has seen many of her clients ditching injectables altogether.
“They’ve seen dramatic improvements in their facial features,” she enthuses. “They look youthful and have indicated they feel that time has turned back for them naturally.” But that is not to say that facelifts are no longer necessary or on the wane. If sagging skin, volume loss and muscle wasting are your issues, the experts agree that tech and injectables can only go so far.
“With ageing, there is usually a loss of facial volume combined with true stretch and sag in skin and deeper tissues,” says Dr Chris Moss, a Melbourne plastic surgeon who looks after many high-profile faces. “If skin laxity and facial sagging is more advanced, injecting fillers to smooth folds and wrinkles usually just makes the face look odd and unnatural.” Moss says “filler burnout” is a common reason women come to his office. And it could be the reason why, despite greater choice of high-tech treatments, the rate of facelifts has actually increased. Between 2020 and 2021, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that the number of facelifts increased by 54 per cent, while neck-lifts rose by 74 per cent.
And there are younger women booking in. Not prepared to wait for the signs of ageing to appear before they commit, Moss says women in their thirties and forties are asking for what he calls “maintenance facelifts”, which offer a “completely natural look and virtually imperceptible scars”. “Women want maintenance surgery to address the early signs of ageing before it is detectable to others,” he explains. “Therefore their surgery also goes undetected.”
There have also been advancements in injectables that can help with more deliberate ageing. “Patients regularly tell us that they want to avoid fillers for fear of unnatural looks such as the dreaded trout pout, chipmunk cheeks and pillow face,” says Moss. He adds that women (and men) are opting for advancements such as a new-to-market injectable that stimulates, remodels and hydrates without changing the features of the face. So where once there was nothing between facelift and no facelift, there is now a vast (and growing) choice of treatments that can realistically fill the gap without causing us to lose sight of our own faces.
And far from making us strive for perfection, this new era of technology has caused the zeitgeist to pivot and change our goal from unrealistic youth to a fresher version of ourselves. Mulholland, who has performed “3000 facelifts and a couple of thousand tummy tucks”, confirms that in the past decade or so, the sentiment has changed to more women wanting to age with intention. “Now women are saying, ‘I want to look more youthful but I don’t want to feel too odd or pulled at and I would like my skin to look radiant and youthful and natural’,” he says. “More women now don’t mind a couple of wrinkles here and there.”
The Ingredients You Need For Intentional Ageing
We ask Elly Seymour, founder of Saint Louve Skincare, what ingredients we should have in our skincare routine.
“It’s hands down the most effective ingredient in preventing the signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, sun spots, rough texture and loss of collagen and elastin.”
Saint Louve 0.25% Encapsulated Retinol Serum 30ml, $119.95 at Saint Louve
Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum, $149 at Dermalogica
”This very powerful antioxidant protects against environmental damage, evens out skin tone by reducing pigmentation, and has pro collagen properties. The most effective formulations range from 8 per cent to 20 per cent vitamin C, and airless packaging is non-negotiable to ensure your product will not oxidise.”
Dr Dennis Gross 15% Vitamin C Firm & Bright Serum, $141 at Mecca
“This is the way of the future in skincare. Peptides help in supporting collagen production, hydration and even wound healing.”
StriVectin Peptight Tightening & Brightening Face Serum, $154 at Adore Beauty
6 Intentional Aging Treatments To Try
Great for: Tightening
What it is: Using a combination of radio frequency heat waves and tiny needles, which penetrate under the skin to a depth of 0.5 to 7mm, this hugely popular treatment (Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan) can help treat the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars and pore size. It can also help improve the appearance of loose skin and fat. Number of treatments: One, with maintenance follow-ups once a year.
Price: $550 (small area).
Get it here: Pavilion Cosmetic Medicine
Great for: Skin clarity.
What it is: This no-downtime laser gets skin glowing by tackling issues such as acne, scarring and pigmentation. You’ll be in and out after 30 minutes, meaning you can book in during your lunch break or tack it onto other in-clinic treatments to boost collagen, improve textural impurities and smooth out scarring. It’s also safe for all skin types and can be used on any part of the body. Pain level: So enjoyable, you may even fall asleep. Number of treatments: Between two and six, four weeks apart.
Price: $300 per treatment.
Get it here: All Saint Skin
Great for: Definition and contouring.
What it is: A noninvasive, no downtime, hands-free treatment that uses a combination of energy to target the deeper layers of muscle, skin and connective tissues. The needle-free pads attached to the face are intended to tone and lift. Number of treatments: Four, one week apart.
Price: Approximately $1000 per treatment
Get it here: Platinum Dermatology
Great for: Toning and tightening.
What it is: Using High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, this treatment helps to stimulate collagen and energise the deep layers of the skin to lighten, tighten and tone areas such as the forehead, eyebrows cheeks, jowls, neck and décolletage.
Number of treatments: Two sessions, about four to six weeks apart.
Price: $850 for full face and neck.
Get it here: Beauty Hub Sydney
IPL Skin Rejuvenation
Great for: Pigmentation.
What it is: Using intense pulses of light, this treatment will fragment pigmentation on the skin, which is then absorbed by the body within weeks post- treatment. Suitable for fair skin, this treatment can be used on any sun-exposed parts of the body.
Number of treatments: Four to six treatments four weeks apart.
Price: $249 for face, neck and chest.
Get it here: Clear Skincare Clinics
Great for: Firming.
What it is: Teamed with the FaceGym facial workout, this treatment uses radio frequency to help stimulate collagen cascade (aka new collagen) and boost blood flow, for a healthier, firmer complexion.
Number of treatments: A course of six treatments, two weeks apart with maintenance treatments every three to six months.
Get it here: Mecca’s George Street (Sydney store)
DIY Tips For Intentional Ageing
Facial exercises and cardio massage help kickstart collagen production, says Inge Theron, and can easily be done at home.
“This is incredible for toning and tightening your cheek muscles, increasing circulation and bringing oxygen to the skin,” says Theron, who suggests always applying a face oil before facial exercise. “Start by taking your index and middle fingers and then support your skin with the opposite hand, holding your skin tight at the chin. Using your two fingers, with medium pressure, start whipping around the cheek area in an upwards direction covering your whole cheek. Take it slowly at the beginning and find your rhythm. Start with 30 seconds, then work your way up to a minute. Repeat on the opposite side.”
These DIY Gadgets Help Tone And Tighten
Angela Caglia Rosebud Eye Treatment Set, $108 at Mecca
Salt by Hendrix Jade Gua Sha, $29.95 at Adore Beauty
Lonvitalité Platinum Contour Roller, $129 at Adore Beauty
FACEGYM Weighted Face Ball, $45 at Mecca
Edible Beauty Beauty Tool, $40 at Edible Beauty Australia