They say that after a certain age, a girl has to pick between her face or her figure. Essentially, higher body fat means a plumper, more youthful face, but it also means… well…more body fat. Talk about a tough choice.
In a bid to get healthier I started going to the gym regularly this year. I’m sure my facial fat loss was a very gradual thing, but I distinctly remember waking up one morning a few months ago and wondering when I had turned the proverbial corner. Where had these lines around my mouth suddenly come from? Why did I look so tired? When did I start looking this old?
It sounds silly that I could be in the best shape of my life and still find some aspect of my appearance to be insecure over, but that’s just the honest truth. The lines around my mouth especially bothered me, and even though I tried for months to ignore them, my eyes went right to them every time I looked in the mirror.
One day, after a particularly long session of bathroom scrutiny, it dawned on me that this had become an unhealthy fixation. So what if it was driven by vanity? There was no reason for me to let my unhappiness take up even an iota of headspace when I could simply fix the problem, feel better about myself, and move on. I reached for my phone.
I met Dr. David Loh some ten years ago, when I assisting with writing some of his press releases. His integrity as a doctor and honest, candid nature as a person stuck with me, and when I met him again for my consultation I was happy that my memory of him had been accurate. Since we’d last met he’d taken on a partner, Dr. Phoon Yi Shan, and opened a second clinic at Novena Medical Center.
For my concerns, I was referred to Dr. Phoon who graciously spent an hour answering my many, many questions. With my marionette and naso-labial lines identified as my primary concern, Dr. Phoon explained that it wasn’t just a matter of injecting filler into those depressions; the fullness of my cheeks themselves needed to be built back up to lift the drooping skin upwards.
By comparison, my secondary concern – frown lines between my brows – seemed like a quick fix, but Dr. Phoon was equally patient in her explanation of this process. She assured me her intention wasn’t to freeze my face but to just relax the overly-tightened muscles that are pulling into a frown. I made an appointment and left her office feeling reassured in a way that I hadn’t expected…but was suddenly grateful for.
I arrive for my 2:00 appointment. I took a weightlifting class in the morning to work off my anxiety (and also because I won’t be able to work out for a day or so afterwards).
I’m shown into the consultation room to see Dr. Phoon, who asks me again what my concerns are and maps out a plan of action, gently indicating where the injection sites will be and priming me for what to expect. I’m nervous, but she is so calm and matter-of-fact that I find myself relaxing.
My makeup is removed and the “before” photos are taken. The clinic has a super cool photo rotation tool, that you straddle with your feet to ensure the angles in the before/after shots match up.
Lots of numbing cream gets applied all over my face, and then I’m wrapped up in cling wrap like leftovers. Adam, who is here for moral support, is very amused.
I’m shown into the treatment room. Dr Phoon goes through another round of gentle explanation, then I’m asked to make expressions – “angry!” she says, “no, angrier!” – and battle lines are drawn with a special pencil.
The injections begin. They’re not as bad as I thought. An injection of filler is honestly about as painful as a stubborn blackhead extraction at a facial. The cannula parts felt strange, like rubber bands being tugged under my skin, and there were some weird clicking and popping noises that in the end are more disconcerting than the pain. I barely feel the Botox, which is injected with a much thinner needle. The first two shots actually don’t even register, and the rest feel like tiny ant bites. Maybe even less painful.
I keep my eyes closed throughout and only look in the mirror when directed. Dr Phoon is both very gentle and very quick – I manage to see the results on my right side before the major swelling kicks in. She warns me before each prick and talks me though the process to keep my mind from fixating on the needles.
All done. I’m very swollen and can already make out the beginnings of a bruise next to my left eye. We take after photos but I’m sure they look terrible. I feel kind of tight all over, like my skin is stretching over something alien underneath it (which I suppose it is). Otherwise, I’m totally fine. I take the train and walk home from the station, keeping my hair down to hide the bruise and the puffiness in my cheeks. My cheekbones are definitely swollen and I feel a little self-conscious. Now I get why people wear sunglasses to these things.
I still feel the swelling in my face, but the walk home must have done me good because a lot of swelling has gone down quite a bit. It’s stiff when I do things like smile or laugh, and I am hyper aware that there is something under the skin of my face. I lie back and take a selfie…um, for science…and do a double take. All the hollows that I usually have to angle here and there and take a dozen shots to hide are miraculously gone. The single shot I took looks great. What is going on? Is this my life now? Single shot selfies?
I decide to take my mind off the stiffness and cook dinner. The last of numbness is wearing off and my whole face feels tingly. I keep bracing for pain or soreness but it doesn’t come. There’s just bit of pressure like I’m hanging upside down. Chewing feels a little strange, but not unpleasant, and even after dinner there’s still no actual pain.
I shower and wash my hair per normal, but when it comes to washing my face it feels weird. My face is a little sore to the touch in some areas, and there’s a disconnect between my face and what my fingers are feeling. Is this residual numbness, or is it because my fingers aren’t used to this new shape?
The pressure is wearing off. I put on light makeup (mostly concealer) to see my girlfriends. Adam sees me to the door and takes a long look at me under the harsh fluorescent lights of our lift lobby. “It’s not like you didn’t look great before,” he says slowly, “but I suppose you do look a bit younger.”
The swelling has come down a lot, and I look a lot more like myself. My face has loosened back up now, like my skin has accepted that it needs to accommodate the new volume, and I can smile and talk without feeling too much stiffness in my cheeks. There is a bit of soreness if I move my face dramatically, but thankfully we’re not talking about anything particularly scandalous.
Taking off my makeup with an oil cleanser and washing my face still feels weird. My face is still a bit sore to the touch and I try to be gentle, but overall it’s no big deal.
Bedtime. At rest, much all the soreness and stiffness is gone. I thought for sure I’d need a painkiller at some point but the soreness never got that bad! I debate whether or not to sleep propped up slightly, and I decide to do it to be safe.
I made a conscious effort to sleep on my back last night, and it seems to have helped. My face feels so normal that I forget and instinctively rub my nose as I’m shuffling to the bathroom – not smart. It’s still the teensiest but sore right under the injection site.
Right under my eyes feels a little tight when I scrunch up my face, but I don’t feel anything when I yawn. My face still feels a little tender when I apply pressure, so I’m particularly gentle when washing my face and applying makeup. The bruises are definitely making themselves known, and it takes some careful concealer work to hide the biggest one at the corner of my left eye. Once that’s done however, there’s no indication at all of the adjustments made yesterday. I think there’s probably still the slightest touch of swelling (like 2%?) because I look a tad puffier than normal, but in a I-had-too-much-sodium way, not an I’ve-had-work-done way.
I confidently go to a press event where lots of photos are taken, and although I spend the afternoon face-to-face with lots of people I know, no one seems to be any the wiser.
I wake up on my side. Darn! I wonder if that aggravated my bruises because they’re more noticeable today, or if that’s just bruises running their course. Probably the latter.
My face looks completely settled now, and there’s no soreness unless I’m pressing on the bruised areas directly – though there is a bit of stiffness around my mouth. I can’t stop marvelling at the reflection staring back at me in the mirror. That’s the me I remember. That’s what I look like in my head.
At yoga class, my best friend studies my face. “You look more awake,” she declares, “like you just came back from a vacation where you got a lot of sleep”. I can’t think of a better outcome or compliment.
Here are the comparison photos I took before and after to show how immediate the results are.
Before my appointment:
After my appointment:
(In the side-profile shots, you can definitely see the indentations next to my nose and mouth in the are significantly lessened, and overall the lower half of my face looks less droopy.)
The Nitty Gritty:
For my treatment, Dr Phoon used 4.5ml of Radiesse which, as a filler, has the benefit of skin brightening as well as providing good lift. Fillers tend to last about 1 year, and this treatment typically costs $4500. I was also given 50 units of Botox to treat mainly my frown lines but also some developing crows feet. Botox lasts 4-5 months, and this treatment typically costs $800.
This post features a service that was provided for free in exchange for my review, however all opinions and observations are my own and not influenced by the company or its PR team.