A visit with an esteemed French cosmetic surgeon reveals a eye-opening distinction.
By Lesa Hannah
Date March 31, 2017
“You have good bone structure, very good bone structure.”
“Have you lost weight?”
“I’m sure in pictures of you 10 years younger you had more volume here.”
Dr. Jean-Louis Sebagh glides the back of his hand across my cheeks and forehead. “Your Skin is perfect,” says the French cosmetic surgeon. “You need to carry on feeding it because you obviously have a good skin regimen.” Coming from Sebagh—whose clientele ranges from socialites to models including Cindy Crawford—this is probably the most validating verbal high-five I’ve ever received with regard to my skincare habits.
Sebagh, who has practices in both London and Paris, is in Toronto to promote his skincare line at Gee Beauty, but I’ve been lucky enough to snag a one-on-one interview, and I am taking full advantage of the moment. I had read in The Telegraph that just like looking into a crystal ball, he can predict what will droop or sag, so I’ve asked him to evaluate my face and suggest a course of action. I’m not bracing myself for what he says about my skin. I’m ready. I want to know.
About three years ago, I started to notice subtle changes in my face. The deep creases (a.k.a. “11s”) between my eyebrows were taking a deeper hold. The fine lines around my eyes were increasing in number. But the most shocking (as well as horrifying) observations were the additional wrinkles next to my nasolabial folds and what seemed like extra skin collecting along the lower corners of my jawline: the blooming buds of baby jowls. It was like my face was slowly sliding away. I would periodically find myself filling my cheeks with air, as if that would somehow re-inflate what had disappeared.
“You lost a bit of volume here,” Sebagh says, pointing to the area my husband used to affectionately call “apple cheeks” because of its roundness. “And your muscles have started sagging within here, so there is a bit of jowling here, and the fat that was there has started sweeping downward. So you need to work on the muscle layer and the fat-pad layer.” He recommends filler to plump up my cheeks, Ultherapy (high-frequency ultrasound) to shorten and tighten the muscles in my jawline and Botox to smooth the lines between my eyebrows and around my eyes. It is an eye-opening amount of information to process, but I actually feel enlightened. I am now armed with solid intel should I decide to venture down this path that, if I’m being honest, I’ve always been hesitant about due to a mix of conflicted feelings but mostly because I just can’t fathom the cost.
Sebagh makes it clear that he is in favour of restoration, not augmentation: reinstating what you’re missing rather than adding more than what was originally there. “All of this has to be harmonious,” he says. “It’s not about looking like someone else.” But just for argument’s sake, I ask “What if I don’t want to do any of it?” “Then I’m sorry. What can I do? Nothing!” he scoffs, throwing his hands up in the air. And then he makes a distinction that I’ve never heard, much less contemplated, before: There is a huge difference between aging skin and an aging face. “An aging face is a combination of bone, muscle, fat and skin,” he says. “Skin is only one layer, the most visible layer. And skincare isn’t going to tighten your muscles or restore your fat pads.”
This is basically my beauty come-to-Jesus moment. It doesn’t matter how meticulous and devoted I am to my skincare routine; it won’t have any impact on the issues Sebagh has outlined. There is actually something freeing in this understanding. I won’t pin any false hopes on anything I apply—or look for any marked signs of improvement afterwards. I am simply maintaining basic skin health and perhaps slowing the brakes on physio-logical changes, but for anything beyond that, I will have to submit to lasers, lights and needles.
Still, I wonder if Sebagh has a visceral response to an aging face and is put off by it. Does he see any beauty in a woman whose face is no longer plump and defined? “Aging has nothing to do with beauty,” he says. “My mother was beautiful. She never had one treatment with me. Don’t mix beauty and main-tenance. They’re different.”