As you guys know, I’ve been reporting on – and trying out – tweakments for 20 years. I’ve had most procedures that you’d care to name, and you know what I look like as a result – my face is all over this site. But what would I look like if I hadn’t had tweakments?
How would I have aged, naturally?
What if I’d never started on this path, if I’d aged as nature intended? What if I had never had my frown lines relaxed, or had dermal fillers, or blepharoplasty? I thought this would remain a ‘what if?’ until I discovered the work of Auriole Prince, who trained as a forensic artist with the FBI, so is highly skilled at adapting images of, say, missing persons, to what they might look like now.
Could a forensic artist ‘de-tweak’ me?
Would she be able to take a current photo and ‘de-tweak’ me, by subtracting the improvements that tweakments have made to my face over the years, to reveal what I ought to look like as I approach my 60th birthday?
Certainly, said Auriole. She runs a company called changemyface.com which uses AI-powered technology to show how your lifestyle can affect your face in years to come: carry on eating junk, or drinking alcohol, or sunbathing, and this is what you’ll look like in 10 years’ time, The idea is to nudge people towards making lifestyle changes that will benefit their future health – and their looks. She’s also very curious about tweakments, and is currently developing new algorithms addressing skin age and health.
This could be my Dorian Gray moment
If you know the Oscar Wilde novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, you’ll know that young Dorian sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth – but a portrait of him, which he locks away in the attic, keeps a record of how he should be ageing.
This, I thought, could be my ‘picture in the attic’. I sent Auriole a list of procedures I’ve had over the years (see below for the list), and she set to work, and up there is the image.
Is this the real me?
Wow, I thought, when I first saw the picture. Is that the real me? I can’t say that I like it much. Maybe that’s what I ought to look like, but the mad thing is – as any older person will tell you – that whatever they look like on the outside, whether they’re 48 or 87, they don’t feel like that on the inside. They feel… well, it depends.
Apart from the first half hour when I get out of bed in the mornings, when my back is like a board and all my muscles complain after stiffening up overnight, I feel about 32, full of energy and enthusiasm, both mentally and physically. My mind feels as if it’s working quickly, I can stride out and push weights and cycle to meetings like I’ve always done. I am still the same clothes size.
Thanks to years of yoga, I have better balance and am more flexible than I was 30 years ago, and the chronic back pain that has plagued me for decades is more under control than at any time since it set in in 1992. Do I want to look 32? No, that would be ridiculous. But do I want that older face? No! Nothing wrong with it, but I’d prefer something that fits better with how I feel, that reflects the energy and optimism I feel on the inside. The face I have will do me just fine for now.
What about genes and lifestyle?
As Auriole points out, our lifestyle has an enormous effect on how we age. It’s (roughly) 80 per cent of the equation, overriding the 20 per cent that is down to our genes, and it is entirely within our control. What makes the difference? Not smoking. Wearing sunscreen. Using well-formulated skincare with active ingredients. Eating healthily (lots of vegetables). Minimising your intake of sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates. Daily exercise, and not being sedentary. Getting enough sleep. Reducing stress. Even micro-changes can have a huge impact on your future self. It’s a familiar list, and it is well worth trying to stick to it for general health as well as our looks.
What have I learned from this image?
- That I’ve been extremely lucky, to have the opportunity to try so many tweakments over the years with so many great practitioners in the course of my work.
- That I need to pay attention to lifestyle factors.
- And that I’m going to keep up the tweakments. That picture can stay in the attic for the time being.
How was the image created?
I provided Auriole with a list of the procedures that I’ve had over the years. We’d be here all day if I listed every single one, but from a cautious start with the odd bit of filler 20 years ago, I’ve progressed to being a heavier tweakments ‘user’ as I’ve become older, so that now I have wrinkle-relaxing toxin three or four times a year, fillers as and when my face seems to need them (since having an MRI of my face at the end of 2021, I know there is a great deal more filler under my skin than I had expected to find, but it’s doing a great job, so I’m leaving it be); laser or IPL or broadband light occasionally to improve my skin tone and pigmentation; energy-based devices to tighten the skin almost every year, injectable moisturiser treatments to improve skin condition. I had an upper blepharoplasty in 2012, and an upper eyelid ptosis correction, plus blepharoplasty, in 2021. I use great skincare and am scrupulous about sunscreen.
In order to age me, Auriole added in:
- Frown lines between my eyebrows
- Forehead lines
- More wrinkles around my eyes
- Eye bags
- Pigment spots on cheeks and forehead
- Sagging of jawline
- Less-defined chin shape
- Nasolabial folds, sagging and deeper
- Sagging eyelids
- Enhanced upper lip lines
- Thinner upper lip
I conferred with Dr Sophie Shotter, who has treated my face with toxin, filler and a skin-tightening energy device in the past year, and asked Auriole to:
- Give more droop to the corners of my mouth (I have a natural tendency to pull them down)
- Increase skin crepiness and dull my complexion
- Reduce volume in my cheeks and mid-face, to detract the effects of recent filler treatment.
Comment from Auriole Prince on how she created this image.
There is intrinsic ageing (the ageing that happens to all of us) and extrinsic ageing (ageing that is affected by external lifestyle choices). I looked at all the tweakments Alice had done over the past few years and tried to reverse-engineer the signs of ageing that would have occurred otherwise. I introduced more age spots and uneven skin tone. At Alice’s chronological age, she would have more natural sagging around the jawline and less volume in the cheeks where fatty pads can drop and decrease in volume. The collagen we have that keeps our skin plump when we’re younger decreases with age. Her eyelids would have shown more signs of sagging and she would naturally have more lines of expression from frowning and smiling. Alice’s neck should now be showing signs of ageing (but can often show even more due to lack of skincare or SPF in that area). There would be both horizontal neck lines, but also some vertical sagging or ‘turkey’ neck.
The Tweakments Guide Takeaway
Tweakments may not have the impact of cosmetic surgery, but the small changes they make to the face – to its contours, skin tone and quality – can add up to a powerful way to manage how we look as we age. But we can't just tweak – we need to stay on point with the skincare and good lifestyle habits, too.
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