First published on 24 Apr 2013. Updated on 12 May 2013.
“You realise that if it goes wrong I’m going to sit here and laugh at you all year,” warns food and drink editor Gemima when I tell her I’m about to visit Vitruvius Divine Cosmetic Clinic and return with cheeks like ripe peaches.
This thought, combined with the consent form I have to sign at the clinic, means I almost chicken out of the dermal filler injections. However, I’m put at ease by cosmetic nurse Sandy Pearce, who loves her job and thinks that fillers like Restylane are nothing short of magical. They’re not derived from animals or weird bacteria; rather they're made from a natural complex sugar – hyaluronic acid – that is found within the tissues of living cells, including your own skin. HA attracts water from your body and binds with your collagen and elastin to plump the skin.
Sandy patiently answers every question I can think of and advises me to go away and think about it if I’m not one hundred percent sure. By strange way of compromise, I choose 1ml of restylane instead of two (or indeed six, which tends to be the maximum dose) – since just this week the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the latest trend is ‘beauty lite’, with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman scaling back their treatments to avoid the ‘wind tunnel’ look.
One mil costs $650, but there are packages available that include Dysport (similar to Botox) and skin lotions thrown in, or you can opt for top-up packages – letting the filler settle for a month and then adding the odd jab to perfect the look.
Sandy shows me the gel in the needle, then advises me to close my eyes so that I don’t see it looming. I receive four injections on each cheek, which takes about five minutes – hence Vitruvius marketing the treatment as a sort of lunchtime refresher. I’ve been given stress balls to squeeze in each hand, which makes me anticipate the sort of olden-days pain you’d have when getting your leg sawn off without anaesthetic. As it stands, I barely feel anything on one side of my face and only a slight pain on the other (this anomaly is normal, Sandy assures me). The balls remain unsqueezed.
The effect is immediate: since gel is literally being injected into my cheeks, I can see the distribution, which is subtle. You might return a month later if you feel you need more, and then that effect should last you 18 months.
“You do get people with body dysmorphia coming in,” says Sandy, “and in those circumstances you almost have to act the psychologist and ask them if they really need more than they already have.”
And what happens afterwards? Well, Restylane has mild anaesthetic in it, so my cheeks feel a bit numb and appear a little reddened – but no more than if I was wearing blush. Make-up must be avoided for a day or two, as must sleeping face down, because the gel takes a few days to “find its place” and settle. Avoid balls flying at your face, etc, etc. “It can’t really move around though,” says Sandy. “It’s not going to end up in the wrong part of your face.”
It’s possible to have bruising or bumps afterwards, but I’ve gotten away scot free, despite having the sort of skin that has a kneejerk reaction to the slightest provocation. The only swelling is the desired effect – which is too natural to draw any mockery from my colleagues. Bad luck, ladies. You’ll have to think of something else.