I’ve recently come to the age where the woman looking back at me in the mirror appears to be a poor thing that is perpetually worried and tired. She has a trickery of deep forehead lines, age spots and storied timelines that make her look older than she feels. Most of the time, I don’t recognize her.
It can be hard being a woman. We have so much to live up to—and so much of that centres around our appearance. When you’re a kid, your family constantly tells you, “You’re so cute, you’re going to knock ’em dead when you’re older.” Then, in grade five or six, you start developing and the male attention starts, which is a whole other thing. Like all women, men wouldn’t leave me alone for decades. I got so annoyed that I developed resting bitch face as a protective mechanism, like, “Stop looking at me!”
But when I hit 35 or so, that changed. On the street, men would see me from afar and as they got closer, their face would fall because they realized I was older. I remember reading an interview with Cybill Shepherd in which she talked about that particularly surreal moment when men start looking at your daughters and not at you. I had never liked the attention, but when it stopped, it was confirmation that I was getting older and looking it.
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I noticed that if someone was younger, both men and women would gravitate toward them—whatever they said was the rule. I felt like I was being pushed aside.
That change bothered me most in the workplace. I noticed that if someone was younger, both men and women would gravitate toward them—whatever they said was the rule. I felt like I was being pushed aside. When I turned 45, I started thinking about cosmetic treatments. I thought if I had some work done, it would gloss things over and I’d be accepted again.
After I went through menopause in my early 50s, I decided to go for it. I still had reservations—I didn’t want it to go wrong and I wanted to be a role model for my two daughters. But I decided to think of it as maintenance: I didn’t want a whole new face. I wanted to look in a mirror and feel like myself again.
So I made an appointment at The Clinica, a beauty clinic in north Toronto. Then I cancelled my appointment because I was nervous! But I booked again. Once I was finally in the lobby, with its pink walls and chic lighting fixtures, I felt like I was somewhere that felt like an extension of my life. More importantly, I saw all these women who reminded me of myself. I thought, “These women know who they are, they seem to be in charge of what is happening around them.” They didn’t care if their faces showed they’d been poked or prodded in some way. I decided, “If they can do it, I can.”
In my treatment room, I met with Kate Uy Cruz, a senior skin specialist, who did six scans to thoroughly analyze my skin. The scans show what your skin looks like on the top layer versus the “true UV,” the deepest layer of the skin, which is what your skin will eventually look like—and mine wasn’t pretty. Kate prescribed four treatments to be administered over the next few months: The Clinica’s signature Miracle Cocktail, a regimen of Botox and fillers, a Power Peel and the clinic’s SkinDiamond treatment. The promise was that together, they would help smooth, resurface and plump up my skin. A refreshed and rejuvenated me? I took a deep breath and agreed.
Over the next few months, I made my way up to the clinic every couple of weeks. (The appointments are staggered as a safety measure, to ensure that everything has healed before the next procedure.) Each time I went, I felt more comfortable, more like I belonged. My cosmetic treatment regimen was just a part of my day, nothing I had to apologize for. The way my skin looked was changing and how people looked at me was changing, but the biggest change was in how I looked at myself.
The way my skin looked was changing and how people looked at me was changing, but the biggest change was in how I looked at myself.
It’s funny, before I got the treatments, I was really critical of my appearance, but now, when I look back at photos from that time, I think that I actually looked okay. Still, I do prefer what I look like now. I look like myself, just a lot more refreshed. Altogether, the treatments gave me what people are asking for by name these days: “the French touch.” Nothing major, just a few tweaks here and there.
I’d say about half the people in my life commented on how great I was looking lately. But it wasn’t actually the positive comments that increased my confidence—it was the experience of taking charge. I finally realized that the confident woman was there all along with or without “the French touch.” I think of Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth in The Crown: “Age is rarely kind to anyone. Nothing one can do about it. One just has to get on with it.” I gave that aphorism a few tweaks, nothing major: I chose to do something about it and then got on with it.
Here’s the full list of treatments I had at The Clinica, in order—what each one promised, and how it delivered.
Miracle Cocktail, from $499
This is The Clinica’s signature amped-up and elevated facial. A tube with tiny needles lightly stamps your skin delivering a customized serum (including hydrating hyaluronic acid); the punctures encourage your skin to produce collagen as it heals.
Verdict: Immediately after the procedure, my skin was quite red, but within half an hour, the “sunburn” was gone. The next day my skin looked and felt glowy and radiant. The effects lasted for several weeks.
Botox injections, $10 per unit*
Botox injections use a special toxin to prevent muscles from moving; this helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Verdict: I was so worried that I’d look frozen, manufactured and foolish, but I was reassured by a FaceTime session with a cosmetic surgeon and Sotheara San, a nurse injector at The Clinica. The cosmetic surgeon asked me to contort my face in a myriad of facial expressions to ensure that my expressions would still look natural. I did 53 units. Sotheara has a very gentle hand, so the procedure itself felt like a bunch of mosquito bites—super easy. It took up to two weeks before you see the full effects of the Botox, which I actually liked because it let me get used to the gradual changes in the softening of my forehead and laugh lines.
*until September 30, The Clinica is offering 1,000 units at $750 (units can be used over multiple visits).
Dermal fillers, $699 per syringe*
The ingredients in dermal fillers add volume to the skin’s surface, to plump up areas that have naturally thinned due to aging.
Verdict: My laugh lines needed quite a bit of filler, so a cannula tube was in order. The filler at the top of my cheekbones was done with just a tiny needle. My jawline ended up being my favourite filler enhancement—a strong jawline is a confident jawline.
*until September 30, The Clinica is offering two syringes for $999 (can be used over multiple visits).
Power Peel, $199
In a chemical peel, specially formulated acid solutions remove the top layers of skin to treat discoloured skin, scars and the appearance of wrinkles.
Verdict: I didn’t love the experience of the procedure — the peel stings, doesn’t smell great, and feels like your face is on fire — but I really enjoyed the results. The next day my skin looked brand-new and felt as soft as a baby’s.
SkinDiamond treatment, $999
This signature treatment from The Clinica uses lasers to break down damaged cells and stimulate naturally occurring collagen and elastin. A skin stamper then delivers a customized serum that hydrates and helps promote circulation.
Verdict: The redness lasted several hours afterward, and my face was swollen for a few days (although, really, no one noticed but me). After eight weeks and counting, my skin elasticity feels like it has gone back to what it was in my 20s.
Treatments for this story were provided by The Clinica. The Clinica did not review or approve this story.