From squeezing and freezing to peeling and needling, brave editors take the plunge and try something new. Here we tell all: how it feels, what it costs and whether it’s truly worth it
You’ve heard of these innovative beauty treatments, but what do they really feel like? And do they actually work?
THE NEEDLE-LESS LIFT ULTHERAPY COST: FROM $650, DEPENDING ON AREA
❯❯ WHAT IT IS: Ultherapy uses therapeutic ultrasound to inflict thermal injury up to 4.5mm deep in the skin of the face, neck and décolleté to stimulate collagen production, which tapers off as you get older. If your skin is starting to sag, this “resets the clock without surgery – it’s the Holy Grail,” says New York facial rejuvenation expert Dr William Kestin. In three to six months post-treatment, the increased collagen causes the skin to tighten, plump and lift itself back to elasticity levels from some era in your younger past. “You’ll wake up one morning and say, ‘Wow!’” says Kestin. While the A-listers do it yearly, he says the rest of us less financially blessed mortals can get away with waiting 18 months to two years between treatments.
❯❯ WHAT I EXPECTED: Because I trust Kestin – of several doctors I’ve visited for cosmetic dermatology over the years, he’s always done the best work – what I expected was what he told me to expect: put simply, this was going to hurt.
❯❯ WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: Kestin was absolutely right – it hurt like hell when he ran the transducer wand around my jawline and over the jowly parts of my face (my unfortunate family inheritance). The procedure took about an hour, and even though I’d got my hands on a prescription painkiller beforehand... did I mention it really hurt? Alas, last month I decided to go back to Kestin and get Ultherapy around my eyes, forehead and upper lip. And that hurt even more!
GLOW ON CLEAR + BRILLIANT COST: $300 PER TREATMENT
❯❯ WHAT IT IS: Aimed at fighting the early signs of ageing and restoring skin’s natural glow, Clear + Brilliant uses fractional laser technology, delivered through a handpiece. It’s from the makers of Fraxel, but is a less intense treatment (perfect for people in their twenties and thirties).
❯❯ WHAT I EXPECTED: Having never tried laser before, I was unsure of what I was in for (and knowing there was numbing cream involved made me apprehensive about the pain factor). But I was hoping it would improve the texture and radiance of my skin, which had been looking a bit dry and lacklustre lately.
❯❯ WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: Amazing... but not entirely pain-free. After applying the numbing cream, the therapist at Sydney’s Skin Renu (skinrenu.com.au) fired up the Clear + Brilliant laser, working in lines across, then up and down each cheek, followed by the chin, nose, forehead and neck. It felt like tiny pin pricks, with the uncomfortable areas being around my lips and hairline. As the therapist went over each area, my skin also became increasingly hotter, but never unbearably so. Once finished, a series of cold compresses were applied to reduce the heat, before I was treated to 20 minutes of Omnilux (to further calm redness and boost hydration). The final part was an application of moisturiser and sunscreen (a vital step since laser increases sun sensitivity).
GO WITH THE FLOW COLON HYDROTHERAPY COST: $125 PER SESSION
❯❯ WHAT IT IS: Designed to hydrate the colon and clean it of waste and toxins, colon hydrotherapy involves a small tube being inserted into the, ahem, you know where, and the colon being filled with, and then flushed of, warm water. During the flushing, a therapist massages your stomach to help the process. The filtration system is closed so there’s no smell and it’s all super hygienic.
❯❯ WHAT I EXPECTED: I’ve always wanted to have a colonic – I could talk about my digestive system all day. From what others had told me, I thought I’d leave feeling lighter, fresher, more clear-headed. As someone who suffers from bloating, I was also hoping to get some answers as to why, and how I can prevent it.
❯❯ WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: How graphic do you want me to be? For the sake of the squeamish, I’ll be vague – but if you ever run into me on the street, I’m happy to give you the full run-down. I visited Alkaline Spa & Clinic in Sydney (alkaline.com.au) where you lie on a bed, the tube goes in and a therapist is with you the whole time (so don’t be shy now). They watch what passes through the filtration system – which you can also see – and can tell if you’ve got candida or fermentation, or if you eat too fast and have undigested food in there (guilty). It’s only uncomfortable if you have trapped gas bubbles (from eating too quickly or suffering bad digestion) in your colon, but when the water is flushed out, there’s instant relief. The most disturbing part is the end: you’ll be directed to a toilet for one last “movement” before you make the trek home.
FREEZE FRAME BOTOX COST: FROM $230 PER SESSION, DEPENDING ON NUMBER OF AREAS
❯❯ WHAT IT IS: Botulinum toxin type A, more commonly known as Botox, is the popular neurotoxin that, when injected in the face, will reduce muscle movement and improve the appearance of wrinkles.
❯❯ WHAT I EXPECTED: My face and I are expressive. Like, borderline Ace Ventura. Whether or not I’m in an actual gym-going phase, my eyebrows are always getting a workout, with my signature move being a dramatic left brow raise. But wearing my feelings on my face for 31 years has earned me nearly a dozen horizontal lines on my forehead, which make me look several years older than I actually am. A few shots of Botox will chill out the muscles underneath those rows and make me look my age again, I hope... or possibly like a frozen-faced middle-aged circus act. No matter the result, I vow to try it just this once.
❯❯ WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: NYC dermatologist Dr Robert Anolik agreed with my assessment that I’m extremely expressive and that Botox could refresh my look. The forehead lines, however, were not his main concern. “You’re definitely developing some creases at the corners of your eyes, and you’re getting some creases right between the eyebrows,” he said. “The deep lines in those areas will make you look older or more tired or stressed. It’s nice to soften the forehead lines, but you don’t want to freeze those entirely, because then you’ll look completely artificial. I want you to still be able to raise your eyebrows.” I hadn’t realised I was in the early stages of carving out a coin slot between my eyebrows, but I suppose this is the time to go the preventive route. Give me the whole enchilada, please, I told him. I declined the numbing agent, both in the interest of time and because I wanted to know what it feels like to have toxins funnelled into my face via a tiny needle. But the actual injections, of which there seemed to be about two dozen across my target zones, were – gloriously – underwhelming. Each prick felt about as painful as an eyebrow tweeze. As Anolik went to work, he explained the mechanics of Botox: I may have minor bruising; I shouldn’t exercise, bend over or lie down for the next four hours; it will kick in in about a week; and it will last three to four months.
PIN IN PLACE ACUPUNCTURE COST: $140 FOR THE FIRST SESSION
❯❯ WHAT IT IS: Fine, stainlesssteel needles are inserted into the skin at various points all over the body to release blockages in the flow of energy and regulate function. It’s based on traditional Chinese medicine and is a common treatment for loads of ailments, including anxiety.
❯❯ WHAT I EXPECTED: That it would sting when those itty-bitty needles slid into my skin, but that it would work – it wouldn’t have stuck around since ancient times if it didn’t do something. But I expected slowbuild results, rather than a quick-fix.
❯❯ WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: The thing with anxiety is sometimes you don’t realise how stressed you are until you talk it out with a stranger. When I went to Better Balance Chiropractic (betterbalancechiropractic.com.au), Dr Rick Schlederer spent much of the first consultation asking me questions about my life and jotting down notes (which of course I was craning to see). He’s also a chiropractor and kinesiologist, so he then did some diagnosing about what might be ailing me by pushing on an outstretched arm as he asked questions. Somehow my body gave away things I didn’t even say. Then he popped the needles in from head to toe, and was out the door. I was alone with my needles and my thoughts for 15 minutes. I fought the temptation to get up and get my phone for the first 10 minutes. During the last five, I gave into the concept and (almost) enjoyed the serenity.
THE NATURAL FILLER PLATELET-RICH PLASMA COST: $990 FOR A FULL FACE (WITH LED TREATMENT)
❯❯ WHAT IT IS: Platelet-rich plasma – or as any self-respecting Kardashian fan would know, the “Vampire Facial” – uses platelets from the patient’s own blood (injected like a filler or dispersed via micro-needling) to kickstart the body’s regenerative processes and encourage skin repair.
❯❯ WHAT I EXPECTED: To say Kim’s blood-smeared face freaked me out would be an understatement, and I arrived at Sydney’s Privée Clinic
(privee.com.au) slightly terrified, imagining I’d have to stop the therapist multiple times due to the pain. Worried I might also bruise, I declined all weekend plans. But I was keen to give the procedure a go in an attempt to treat my eczema, which wouldn’t clear up despite extreme diet, skincare and lifestyle changes.
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE:
Clinic director Natalie Abouchar began by extracting a vial of blood from my arm (this was probably the most painful part), and the blood was then spun in a centrifuge to separate the plasma. As the blood spun, I got a brief Omnilux treatment – so far, I was very relaxed. Next came the numbing cream, then the microneedling. While I could feel a bit of pressure, there was no pain. My skin was then massaged with the “Liquid Gold” (my plasma), triggering collagen and elastin production, plus cell regeneration. I was out in less than an hour and while my skin was quite red, it cleared up overnight.
ICE, ICE BABY CRYOTHERAPY COST: $90 PER SESSION
WHAT IT IS: A three-minute session in the Cryosauna (which cools down to about -140°C) is said to boost metabolism, fire up endorphins, flush toxins, relieve inflammation and assist muscle recovery.
WHAT I EXPECTED: That it would be colder than an Antarctic blizzard. And since it’s regularly used by athletes and motivational speaker Anthony Robbins, I figured it’s practically an extreme sport – something to be endured only by tough guys (of which I am most definitely not).
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE:
Entering Cryo (cryo.com.au) is a little like walking into an episode of The Jetsons. Automatic sliding doors lock you securely in a booth so you can strip down to knickers and a robe while a video plays describing what you’re about to do. I put on socks, gloves and furry ankle boots (to protect extremities) and then stepped inside the Cryosauna. A therapist was with me during the entire length of the (up to) three-minute treatment. Aside from distracting me from the fact I was progressively getting cold AF, she was monitoring me for any medical signs that would suggest I’d had enough. The cold (and nitrogen mist) came in short bursts, and oxygen was pumped into the room to ensure I was still doing plenty of the whole breathing thing. It was cold, yes, but I never felt like it was too much. I’ve probably been colder on a night out in Melbourne.
STICK TO ME IV THERAPY COST: FROM $249 PER TREATMENT
WHAT IT IS: IV therapy involves administering a vitamin cocktail intravenously, bypassing the digestive system so cells absorb up to 90 per cent of the nutrients, some of which you’d miss out on if taken orally. This particular treatment is paired with skin-brightening Omnilux light therapy, so you get both internal and external benefits.
WHAT I EXPECTED: My colleagues wimped out when they heard the alleged secret to more energy, brighter skin and increased immunity was an intravenous vitamin C-infused drip, but I’m about as willing a therapeutic guinea pig as you can get (although I draw the line at group exercise). I tried to go in with no expectations, instead seeing it as an opportunity to tick a box off my beauty bucket list.
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: I was lying on a treatment table, nervously anticipating the pinch of the needle, when Duquessa (duquessa.com.au) owner and nurse practitioner Katherine Millar-shannon told me I have “shitty veins”. The audacity! No, actually it’s my own fault, because I didn’t eat a big enough lunch or drink enough water beforehand and both are important for getting veins ripe for the pricking. The IV eventually took, as long as I kept really, really still. The treatment lasted about 40 minutes; the liquid felt cold going in and, strangely, there was some shoulder pain on the same side, but a heat pack eased the discomfort. I was told I might feel heaviness in my chest; my asthma kicked in but it was nothing a few puffs of my inhaler couldn’t fix.
WHAT IT IS: The body wave is a chemical treatment that promises to create undone, loose waves. Think of it as a milder, gentler version of the ’80s perm.
WHAT I EXPECTED: I was after a change that could take me mentally where my bank account could not: the Amalfi Coast! The Mediterranean! Anywhere exotic! So I found myself at the hair salon, armed with photos of Grecian-goddess waves – hello, Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia! – and prepping for my first-ever perm. To be clear, I know absolutely nothing about haircare. I’ve never owned a hairdryer, I get the same threeinch trim every time and my stubborn, pin-straight hair has never successfully held a curl. I unloaded my list of questions on New York hairstylist and perm expert Mairead Gallagher. Do I need a different shampoo? Where do I attach the recommended diffuser? Can I bid adieu to flyaways and frizz? Gallagher brought me back to earth, eyeing my head. “It’s still your hair. You’ll have to maintain it like you normally do.”
❯❯ WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE: After wrapping my hair in varying-sized rods and circling my hairline in cotton coils, Gallagher applied the chemicals and a double layer of shower caps, then set me under a heat lamp for 12 minutes. (In the bad old days of “permology”, you’d have to cook for at least an hour.) After a quick rinsing process to remove the perm lotion from the hair and close the hair cuticles, my curls were locked in.