If there’s one place a girl really doesn’t want to stick her head on a Monday morning, before she’s had a coffee, it’s into a Visia machine – a space-age scanner that assesses the true state of your face.
I’m at the Harley Street Skin Clinic, where skin expert Lesley Reynolds tells me that from the results of my scan, she would guess I was 28 to 30 years old. I am actually 25, but this is why I am here.
Between struggling not to ladder my tights every day and remembering to pluck my eyebrows, worrying about ageing has always come way down on my list of appearance anxieties.
But I’ve come to notice friends my own age starting to fret about lines and wrinkles, censoring Facebook photos not for muffin tops but for crows feet. A recent Superdrug survey suggests 29 is the average age at which women become concerned about trying to look young, with wrinkles, a sagging face and droopy boobs being the top three fears.
Next month, Britain’s first Anti-Ageing Health & Beauty Show will be held at Olympia, west London. It’s officially aimed at the over-35 market but organisers say they’re already registering a lot of interest from much younger women.
‘Cosmedic coach’ Antonia Mariconda, a beauty writer who specialises in anti-ageing advice, will be appearing at the show. She tells me why more women in their twenties might need anti-ageing treatments than ever before.
‘A combination of factors are to blame,’ she says, ‘such as longer working hours, less sleep, stress, partying hard, rigorous diets, alcohol, smoking and environmental factors.’
Although it’s debatable whether my diet could be described as ‘rigorous’ the rest doesn’t sound a million miles away from my life. So I’ve decided to come and find out. Am I sticking a prematurely haggard head in the sand?
The ultimate results of my scan are not that bad, and I’m supposedly better than the average for women of a similar age and ethnicity when it comes to wrinkles, spots and general skin texture.
But it seems I came back from travelling in my early twenties with more than just an ill-advised nose piercing – I have sun damage all over my face.
‘So many more young people go travelling now,’ says Reynolds, ‘and I see masses of sun damage. It really has the biggest aging effect. Even in Britain you should wear sunscreen every single day.’
My daily skincare routine mostly consists of face wipes and water but I happily promise to make some changes. However, many women my age are resorting to more extreme measures.
WORD ON THE STREET
In the US, there was a ten per cent increase in Botox usage among 20 to 29-year-olds in 2012, and there appears to be a similar trend in Britain.
Court House Clinics, for example, has seen a hefty 410 per cent increase in twenty-something female patients having Botox since 2008.
I speak to Lexi Gleeson, a 33-year-old who runs her own event management business. She has been using Botox for almost a decade.
‘I have no problem telling my close friends that I have it,’ she says. ‘It’s become part of my normal beauty routine.
‘However, it’s taken me a while to find the right doctor – and I’ve had some toe-curling results along the way… from McDonald’s-arch eyebrows to a few weeks where one side of my face was lower than the other.’
Kiera Crosby, a 28-year-old who works in fashion design, explains why she tried Botox for the first time this year: ‘I saw a picture of myself with a friend and we both looked older than we are,’ she says.
‘I was recently single and obviously going through something mentally but it actually wasn’t a big deal. If I had the money, I would keep getting it.’
Botox has become much more normalised in recent years through increasing media exposure but there might also be professional concerns at play – a recent survey revealed nearly two-thirds of British women believe their career prospects will be shattered if they don’t look young.
Seeing our pictures plastered over the likes of Facebook and Instagram undoubtedly fuels our insecurities, too.
Reynolds assures me Botox is a much-maligned treatment which can work as a preventative measure but advice on the matter seems to differ.
Rajiv Grover, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, says: ‘I refuse to treat patients under 30 with cosmetic Botox because it’s a total waste of money for them. Avoiding smoking and excessive sun exposure should be the priority.’
Ultimately, although I’m now willing to slap on the SPF daily, I suspect I’d regret it later if I spend the rest of my twenties feeling paranoid about a few encroaching lines.
As Grover says: ‘This is when you and your skin are as good as it gets, so just enjoy it while you can. If we could inject self-esteem, then half of cosmetic plastic surgery would be unnecessary.’
The Anti-Ageing Health And Beauty Show comes to London’s Olympia on May 11-12. www.anti-ageingshow.com