The all-over Botox that won't freeze your face

She had sworn off injectables, but newly single at 50, KATE SPICER couldn’t resist an intriguing new tweakment: The all-over Botox that won’t freeze your face

  • Kate Spicer tried new microneedling treatment Aquagold, at Mallucci London
  • The 50-year-old was treated by consultant plastic surgeon Jana Vogt
  • She claims the treatment improved the overall volume under her skin 
  • Kim Kardashian had the ‘zero downtime treatment’ before the Met Gala

Three years ago I swore off Botox and fillers for good. I’m at a time in life when more and more of my friends, both male and female, are having the odd tweak or ten. It was to the surprise of many, not least myself, that I stuck to my self-imposed ban.

So why is a doctor now bent over my face wielding a device with 20 sharp pins and a vial that contains, among other things, the very stuff I’ve given up: Botox and fillers?

Yes, I’ve fallen off the wagon — and in spectacular style — but bear with me, it’s for good reason, and it’s not quite Botox as we know it.

Aquagold is a new microneedling treatment delivered via a ‘medical facial device’ (as the developers describe it). It delivers tiny amounts of Botox a very short way into the intra-dermal layers of the skin.

Kate Spicer, 50, (pictured after) had microneedling treatment Aquagold, at Mallucci London

When I first read about it, I felt a twinge of curiosity that only the word ‘Botox’ can ignite.

The main reason I swore off the stuff in the first place is because Botox creates a false idea of yourself.

When used expertly, injecting the botulinum toxin into the face can lift and lighten it, removing not only wrinkles but that kind of world-weary sag that time gives a person. It can create a more perfectly balanced face, widening or sharpening where once there was a blur.

The problem with this, for me, is that you get used to a temporarily new and more handsome you.

I didn’t want to get hooked on it, so I successfully persuaded myself that the best and most dignified examples of ageing were those women who let it happen naturally: Jane Birkin, Isabella Rossellini, Sigourney Weaver. Work on liking who you are, I told myself, not trying to create a prettier but also fake version.

And then, late last year, I split from my long-term boyfriend. I haven’t yet ‘got back out there’, as they say, but I am aware enough to realise that the old cliche of men not noticing older women is undeniably true; and now more so than the last time I was single ten years ago, aged 40.

Getting old is hard. Weathering wrinkles and sag is a challenge. These recent months have been difficult, and what I wanted was to feel confident again.

Which is how I find myself at Mallucci London, a smart cosmetic clinic in Chelsea, being pricked all over like a pastry case by consultant plastic surgeon Jana Vogt.

Kate (pictured before) who swore off Botox and fillers three years ago, was given the ‘zero downtime treatment’ by consultant plastic surgeon Jana Vogt

Yes, Aquagold really is different to conventional Botox. For a start, the delivery does not require needles. The skin puncturing method instead relies on 20 short, hair-thin, 24 ct gold-plated pins.

They are so short and tiny, they don’t hurt. Honestly. Jana goes right up to my eyes, and it tickles in places, feels a bit like ants in stilettoes jumping on my face, but it isn’t painful.

These sharps are described as ‘micro-channel technology’, and they don’t actually inject anything. Instead, the serum in the vial flows down and around the screw-shaped pins and into the tiny hole punched into the skin.

This technicality aside, they are designed to deliver Botox as well as other medical-grade skincare, including, in my case, a plasma extracted from my blood, and a filler called Volite.

But they don’t go in deeply. The pins are inserted just 0.6 mm into the skin, compared with ten times that depth for a conventional wider Botox needle. Going to this shallow depth is a method referred to as ‘MesoBotox’ or ‘skin Botox’.

The treatment can be delivered by an ‘aesthetic therapist’ with no medical training, I’m told, as long as you have only a ready-made skincare serum with vitamins and hydrating formula.

Jana explained that the micro-injuries the device causes increases collagen production. Pictured: Jana in the process of Kate’s treatment 

But I wanted more. In the end, I opted for a treatment that included 15 units of Botox, which is very little — about as much as would be used to remove one wrinkle usually — 1ml of Juvederm Volite (a hyaluronic acid skin plumper), which is not an insignificant amount, about half a teaspoon; and, the fiddly bit, 2ml of ‘PRP’, platelet-rich plasma, harvested from my own blood, which will encourage regeneration within my dermis.

Oh yes, I want the Full Monty — and that requires a real expert. When I do skincare, I like a white coat.

‘Don’t worry, it’s not about change,’ says Jana as she pulls on the plastic gloves. ‘It’s about re-conditioning.’

The micro-injuries the device causes increase collagen production, she says, and ‘the hyaluronic acid binds to water in your skin, which increases hydration’. As someone more used to and who specialises in removing excess skin from eyelids — Jana’s expertise is blepharoplasty — she is not dismissive of Aquagold.

In fact, she tells me she loves it herself, but she isn’t ludicrously overpromising on results. It’s particularly effective for people with acne and rosacea, she says, but ‘it’s not magic — in cosmetic medicine, big results require big downtime’.

Aquagold is advertised as a ‘zero downtime treatment’, meaning you could walk out of the clinic and on to the red carpet (or out to take the dog for a walk in my case) and no one would know.

Aquagold (pictured) was made by an American company in conjunctions with South Korean skincare experts 

Kim Kardashian had it done just before fashion’s annual big night at the Met Gala.

However, the results don’t really kick in for about a week.

Made by an American company in conjunction with South Korean skincare boffins, it is sold under licence here by Venn Medical, whose marketing director tells me they sell only to doctor-led clinics.

This is with good reason, says cosmetic doctor Dr Tijion Esho.

‘In the past five years or so, there’s been a lot of buzz about the topical application of fillers and neurotoxins [of which Aquagold is one example].

‘But there are no big clinical trials. It’s all cohort and case studies at this stage.

‘What we do know is that topical use of Botox [i.e. on the skin only] has useful applications outside of the purely cosmetic, including treating scarring, rosacea, acne and hair loss.’

Dr Esho says he loves microneedling for its ability to improve the texture and tone of skin.

‘Doctors often neglect skin laxity when putting together an holistic cosmetic plan,’ he adds.

He also tells me that it can go wrong if an inexperienced practitioner puts the wrong products in the vial.

Jana (pictured) prepared a bespoke cocktail of ingredients for Kate’s skin ahead of her treatment, with the treatment itself lasting no longer than ten minutes

The treatment itself will take no more than ten minutes — but the appointment about as much time again, as beforehand Jana needs to prepare the bespoke cocktail of ingredients for my skin.

‘We aren’t injecting into the muscle,’ she says. ‘The products go intra-dermal, where they reach pores and capillaries.

‘The greatest change you will see is brighter, smoother, what is often described as “glass skin”.’ This is a real goal for beauty nuts, who will follow time-consuming and meticulous regimes to achieve a smooth, dewy, pore-less, refined look to their skin.

Victoria Beckham is a big one for this. Jana and I spend some time talking about the procedures she is likely to have had to arrive at the dewy skin she sports these days. Looking at Jana, I can only assume that she’s a fan, too.

She is 37 years old with exquisite, gleaming skin. Her regimen revolves around rigorous cleansing, and her preferred skincare brand comes from the LA-based surgeon Dr Obagi.

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‘Most products just smell nice and feel nice to use, but don’t do much for the skin,’ she says. And yes, she books in for Aquagold ‘whenever I can’. What is especially appealing about delivering Botox to this depth is that it won’t relax the muscles and give that frozen and slightly pulled look that erases wrinkles.

It will not affect the way you smile, or risk your eyebrows shooting up so you look as if you are permanently surprised. In fact, it won’t inhibit any expression in your face. It means you can’t look overdone.

Kate said there wasn’t a noticeable difference immediately after the treatment, but five days later and she was loving the results. Pictured: Kate during her treatment 

Or, if the practitioner isn’t up to much, it won’t make you look a twit. (Yes, I’ve sat there while my family smirks at me over Sunday lunch, and my sister, struggling to find something kind to say about my badly done face, tells me it’s not so bad because I look like someone from reality show The Only Way Is Essex.)

Jana goes on to describe how the effects of Botox will help to reduce pore size and oil production within the skin, as well as target broken capillaries. (Any broken veins on my face are due to dog walking in cold weather, I should note, and definitely not from excessive wine consumption.)

I’m in and out quickly, and immediately afterwards I look barely perceptibly different. But within two days, my skin is tending towards that glassy goal; it’s even-textured and just a wee bit fuller — and that’s no thanks to my frankly sloppy skincare regimen.

Five days out, and I’m loving it. This is exactly what I want from a beauty treatment: improved overall volume under the skin — that gaunt, ageing mien is gone — and there’s a slight increase in luminosity, but with zero discomfort or facial weirdness.

The only downside is that the ‘glass skin’ comes at a price for someone like me, who has slightly dry skin.

Jana had warned me the Botox should really only be used in people with oily skins because it has a tightening effect as it closes the pores and arrests some sebum production.

Kate (pictured) said she liked the results of the treatment so much that she was willing to post a selfie on Instagram without adding a filter

In fact, she was reluctant to put Botox in my serum at all, but I pushed her like the Botox lush I am.

Now, my skin doesn’t feel taut, but I know there’s less lubrication. I’m aware of that and still I love it.

What I wanted to do was be the best I could without changing who I am — and prickling Botox all over my skin did exactly that.

The most brutal test of all is the dreaded selfie, taken at 7am when my dog comes and lies his head on my shoulder in a cute, Instagrammable way.

I’ll take a picture, I think, then obscure my grisly morning face with a funny emoji and send it to only one person.

In fact, I like it so much I post it to Instagram without even adding a flattering filter. I look like a healthy, happy 50-year-old. And, weirdly, looking like that makes it a lot easier to feel it.

Botox, like alcohol, is a neurotoxin. Clearly I’m off the wagon, but it’s OK because I’m only drinking shandy. For now.

Aquagold at Mallucci London, intense treatment using Botox, fillers and PRP, costs £800, while boost treatments, using only a skin-boosting cocktail delivered by aesthetic therapists, are £600. 

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