THE SATURDAY TIMES
24 SEPTEMBER 2017
HOW I LOST MY LIP FILLER VIRGINITY AT 57
Our writer has always hated her ‘mean’ lips, but feared the needle. What happens when you have your first filler at 57?
Photo: FENTY BEAUTY/SLICK WOODS
If you could change one bit of your face, what would it be? For me, it’s my lips. My thin lips which, with age, just keep getting thinner and thinner. To make it worse, I have an unconscious habit of pursing them — darn, I’m doing it now as I write this — a little like Garth in Wayne’s World. (Remember? The one who does that Foxy Lady skit with his shirt sleeves? Him.) And the older I get, the more Garth-ish they become.
But what to do? No lip filler in the history of mankind has ever looked right on anyone, and the idea of having an implant (yes, they exist for lips) or a philtrum lift (where an incision is made under your nostrils to shorten the space between your nose and upper lip) is just … well, a bridge too far. Lips have become the latest body-part fixation, thanks in no small part to Kylie Jenner whose “confession” about using fillers two years ago led to many clinics reporting a spike in inquiries for the procedure. The Private Clinic of Harley Street has seen a 30% increase in lip fillers over the past three months alone.
And so it is that I continue to slap on the Eve Lom Kiss Mix (something about the menthol in it makes it feel as if it might have plumping qualities) and wonder, not so idly, what life would have been like had I been born with a mouth like, say, Lindsay Wixson’s or Montana’s from Love Island.
Until I was pointed in the direction of Dr Suha Kersh, whose speciality, would you believe, is the mouths of middle-aged women such as myself. Aged 49 and a mother of three, she is a fantastically non-pouty, age-appropriate advert for what she offers, which is, in her words, a “holistic” approach to the problem. “Women come in and say they want bigger lips, but unless they are in their early twenties, I say no,” she says firmly when I meet her in her Chelsea office. “The lips are the icing on the cake, the last thing I will do — it’s the area around them we have to tackle first.
“As you get older you lose bone, fat and collagen,” she says. “When you start losing volume, your facial ‘scaffolding’ begins to sag. We need to address that lack of support before we even go near your mouth, never mind the volume of your lips. And you will find, once the facial structure is restored and harmonised, the lips may self-correct anyway.”
Predictably, she waves away my reservations about filler. As long as it is administered judiciously and never in the nasolabial folds (the lines between the outer nostril and the edge of the mouth), she promises, it can work wonders. Especially for someone like me.
To show me what she means, Kersh takes some pictures and, well, isn’t it funny what overhead fluorescent light and a medical setting (as opposed to your own cosy bathroom) can do to spell it out for real. I’m 57, and half my chin has almost completely disappeared into my neck, while the hollowing under my eyes looks almost spectral. Forget my wrinkles, it’s the “pebbly” jawline and the way all the skin seems to have “fallen” from the top half of my face. It’s actually the perfect canvas for a mean old lady’s mouth.
And so it is I get on her table, not without a heavy heart: a) because I’m losing my filler virginity, and b) because my mouth is probably the least of my problems. Never mind. If the crowded waiting room is anything to go by, I’m in good hands. Not a trout pout or pillow face in sight.
The first area Kersh tackles with her syringe of Volumna filler is, weirdly, my temples. Next up is above my eyebrows, my jawline, my “pebbly” chin and my impressive “barcode” as those tell-tale vertical lines above and below the mouth are called. Six vials of the stuff, which sounds an awful lot, but as Kersh tells me, my poor, dehydrated, collagen-depleted face is literally eating it up. Does it hurt? Oh my God, I need shackles to stop me grabbing hold of her to stop, but we plough on.
Finally, after moulding my face back into its younger shape, it is time for “the icing on the cake”. If I thought the other stuff hurt, the sensation of a needle burrowing its way round the outlines of my upper and lower lips (this filler is called Volbella) … To be honest, it’s all I can do not to hit her. But at last, after about 45 minutes on the table, it is finished. I sit up and look in the mirror. I cannot immediately tell what she has done, but something is different about my mouth. No hint of a pout or protrusion, just less pinched- looking, less downward-turning, less … disapproving. I feel more symmetrical, too, less like the tip of my nose is going one way and my mouth the other, as is the sensation sometimes when I’m talking. Despite the pain, I’m almost thinking, because that’s the compulsive sort of person I am, if it’s this good, could we do a bit more?
“I could do,” she says, “but I’m not going to. Believe me, you need someone to say, fine, no more. You weren’t born with big lips” — I had shown her a pic of me 10 years ago for guidance — “so there is no point in forcing them onto your face. That is not what you want. All I’m looking to do here is to stop you feeling like you’ve been badly treated by time.” Which, on reflection, is exactly what you want to hear from your cosmetic doctor, isn’t it?