I’m a firm believer in ageing gracefully… but I don’t mind giving Mother Nature a little leg up every now and again.
So, when I was offered a treatment with esteemed Dr Chia Tan, founder of Harley Street Medical Doctors, I accepted without hesitation.
I was 47, and my skin was no longer forgiving as it once was. Throw in six months of coronavirus worry, and the stress of homeschooling and lockdown, and I was feeling overwhelmingly ‘meh’.
This would give me a much-needed confidence boost.
I arrived by train at London Marylebone, and it took me just 15 minutes to reach Dr Tan’s conveniently located clinic, on world-renowned Harley Street.
The street was named after Mr Edward Harley and his wife, Henrietta Cavendish Holles, who had inherited the land from her father, the Duke of Newcastle.
Back then, Marylebone was a small village on the banks of the river Tyburn (which still runs underneath the bustling streets, but is channelled through the sewer system), bu the Harleys dreamed of developing the land into an upmarket city neighbourhood. When completed, one street of elegant Georgian townhouses (then, later, joined by Victorian and Edwardian styles too), proudly bore their name.
It was immediately popular with professionals, and by the mid 1800s had become known for its high number of doctor’s clinics.
Since then, Harley Street has been the epicentre for some of the UK’s finest private medical practices. At its heart is a gorgeous Grade II listed building that stands on the former site of Florence Nightingale’s Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen.
Today, it’s the London office of Dr Tan’s Harley Street MD.
Dr Tan qualified as a UK-trained medical doctor in 2003; five years later he chose to specialise in aesthetic and cosmetic medicine. He prides himself on keeping abreast of the very latest treatments and bringing those cutting edge techniques back to his clients.
As well as anti-ageing treatments, such as Botox, fillers and peels, he provides a full range of non-surgical procedures, including facial sculpting, non-surgical nose jobs, lip fillers and PRP facial rejuvenation (also known as the vampire facial).
As I was buzzed inside, I was pleased to see they were complying completely with coronavirus regulations – all the staff were wearing face masks, and sanitiser bottles were readily available.
Greeting me with a friendly hello (but no handshake, for obvious reasons!), Dr Tan invited me into his office, and offered me a seat.
‘What is it you’re thinking of having done today?’ he asked.
I explained that the thing that bothered me the most was the ‘Mum frown’ (or the glabella, to be anatomically correct), the vertical frown lines between your eyebrows that appear when you’re squinting, annoyed or even just concentrating intently.
The older you get the more pronounced those lines become, until they’re a permanent fixture. I didn’t want to get rid of them completely, as I wanted a natural result, I just wanted to soften them up so it didn’t look like I was constantly scowling.
Dr Tan assured me this was one of the simplest issues to correct with Botox, as the results are dramatic and the frozen muscles don’t affect the natural movement of your eyes.
I was also conscious of the wrinkles around my eyes. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good set of laughter lines, and love those ‘smiley eyes’ that prettily crinkle up. Mine, however, were more collapsed that crinkly, with eyelids that drooped down and made me look permanently worn out.
‘By using Botox here and here,’ Dr Tan told me, gesturing to the corners of my eyes and along the hairline of my forehead, ‘we get a subtle lifting effect that will soften the frown lines between your eyebrows as well as the lines around your eyes.’
It sounded great to me!
Before the treatment could begin Dr Tan had me fill out the patient questionnaire, noting down my medical history and any allergies, and going through all the possible side effects.
Next, it was time for the numbing cream to take the sting out of the injections – literally.
I’m not particularly fazed about needles, so didn’t mind the Botox injections, but not everyone is so relaxed, Dr Tan admitted. For nervous clients his suggestion was to steel yourself up before arriving, so you’re already in the right frame of mind.
It’s a three or four slightly uncomfortable minutes for three or four wrinkle-free months – that’s a pretty good ROI, if you ask me.
As soon as he’d finished, Dr Tan handed me a mirror. I expected to see my a bunch of ugly welts, but, aside from some a few tiny red dots my face was clear. There was no swelling, no bruising – nothing.
‘You’ll start to feel the Botox working in a couple of days, but it will be a a few weeks before you see the full effects,’ Dr Tan told me.
The first thing I noticed was a heaviness in my brow as the muscles began to freeze. It was a strange sensation – similar to how it feels when you pull your eyebrows together in a scowl – but it wasn’t unpleasant, just a bit weird.
I also found I had a teensy bit of tension headache for a couple of days, which may or may not have been due to the Botox (but it is a recognised side effect), but it was mild and didn’t slow me down.
Within a couple of weeks I noticed the glabella (the frown lines between your eyebrows) had begun to soften up. I had to really scowl to make them appear now, whereas before they’d been constantly etched on my face.
The quickest and more dramatic change, however, was around my eyes. When I smiled the skin stayed smooth, and no longer concertinaed up into wrinkly folds.
But I was still able to move my face in a natural way, which I’d told Dr Tan was important to me. I didn’t want the infamous Botox ‘Frozen Face’ where nothing moves; I wanted to keep my full range of expressions, but just take the edges off.
The wrinkles in my forehead completely disappeared in two weeks, but – as requested – I could still move my eyebrows. The stubborn frown lines between my eyebrows took a few weeks longer, presumably because they were the most deep set .
Now, when I try to draw my eyebrows together to deliberately try to create the lines they move enough to allow natural expression, but not so far that it adds years to my face.
I’m thrilled with the results. It wasn’t my goal to turn back time – I feel very grateful to have reached the age of 47, and intend to grow much older still – but Dr Tan has helped me look fresher and more rested, and (without the permascowl) I look happier too.
A better version of myself.