12 August 2009

Monica Troughton recalls with a potent mix of embarrassment and black humour the moment she knew she had to have work done on her face. She was in a shop in Primrose Hill that wealthy enclave of North London known for its starry and ultra chic residents when a saleswoman generously offered her a pensioners concession on her purchases.What the beautiful young girl behind the counter actually said to me was: Do you qualify for a discount? It took a second to sink in that what she was really asking was whether I was 60, recalls Monica with a dry laugh. She was actually 56. The casual remark had a galvanising effect on her: it propelled her on her first tentative step towards surgical rejuvenation. As a writer for a stable of glossy magazines, she works among women who are often three decades younger than she is: she had already begun to feel acutely aware of every sag and wrinkle. I thought I looked haggard and stressed, she says. The person I saw in the mirror was not the vibrant, young-in-outlook person I felt I was. And every time I went on a photoshoot I was surrounded by these lovely young things with dewy complexions. I was always the oldest person there. I felt excluded. When I was younger, they used to talk to me but they didnt anymore. Possibly they would defer to me in a way they would ask advice from their grannies. But I certainly didnt feel their equal. These feelings of physical inadequacy had a more pressing corollary: Monica felt that if she failed to do anything about her ageing face, she would be professionally side-lined. In short, she feared that the bright and beautiful twentysomethings who surrounded her would usurp her and she would lose work. Nor is Monica, a grandmother and mother of two grown-up daughters who has forged a successful career as a writer, alone. Shes one of a growing number of 55-plus women who, plagued by fears that they will be replaced by younger colleagues, are investing in procedures such as Botox, chemical peels and plastic surgery. This huge rise in silver surgery has been dubbed the Arlene Effect after Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Philips, 66, who has been replaced on the BBC show by 30-year-old singer Alesha Dixon. It accounts for the fact that the number of inquiries from women over 55 to The Harley Medical Group has risen by nine per cent on last year. Liz Dale, director of the group, says: Its interesting to see that pressure in the workplace is a key driver for women of more advanced years, given the current high level of competition for jobs. Women over 55 have really boosted our non-surgical market, which now accounts for 29 per cent of our total revenue. Increased competition in the workplace was cited as the second most common reason for treatment, after wanting to look as young as they feel. Barbara Craig, 50, a hairdresser and receptionist in a beauty salon, also has a vested interest in preserving her looks for work. She has a younger husband too Alan, an offshore worker, is 43 and the compulsion to shore up her self-belief by eradicating her wrinkles got more acute when she passed the age of 40. From my early 40s, my confidence dipped as my face showed the signs of ageing, confesses Barbara. Ive always looked after my skin, but the sagging of my skin and hollowing of my cheekbones was just natural ageing that no amount of skincare products would rectify. Id always had such defined cheekbones, and Id look in the mirror and think that if only I could find a treatment to lift and restore them, then Id look so much younger and feel so much more confident, both socially and at work. Before working in hair and beauty, I was in the fashion industry, so Ive always felt that theres a standard that you have to maintain when it comes to your looks. Although my employers are great, and never made any comments about my ageing appearance, I just didnt feel happy with it myself. I think its important to really look your best when you work in beauty and to be a good advert for the industry, and the products and treatments you provide to clients. Fired by this, and conscious that she had become less out-going among her younger clientele, she opted for non-invasive fillers. I had Teosyal fillers to add volume and roundness to my face, she says. Teosyal is a synthetic, non-animal hyaluronic acid that plumps up the skin. I also had some Botox on the lines on my mouth and chin. Im thrilled with the results especially as people constantly tell me I look so well but nobody can quite put their finger on why. I didnt want to look as though Id had obvious or drastic work done. Again, she reports a new buoyancy at work. Im so much more confident. My bosss jaw hit the floor when she saw me afterwards. She couldnt believe the difference. Having seen the benefits of non-invasive surgery, Barbara confesses herself a convert. Indeed, she may even consider going under the knife. Now that Ive seen the results, I would consider invasive surgery in the future, too, if I felt I needed it. I think theres increasing pressure on women my age to look good and, actually, we want to as well, now that there are so many treatments available to make that possible. Certainly, the pressure on women to avail themselves of rejuvenating treatments increases as the choice of procedures grows.