ByLast updated at 4:03 PM on 29th September 2008
It’s the issue that has been plaguing us for centuries. Now one doctor claims he can reverse the ageing process without surgery or needles…
When it comes to top-of-the-range skincare and a straight-talking, holistic approach to looking and feeling younger, Dr Nicholas Perricone is the man for a host of Park Avenue princesses and Hollywood’s leading ladies.
But while most dermatologists accept that their job is to try to minimise the effects of ageing, Dr Perricone’s turns traditional thinking on its head.
Far from seeing wrinkles and sagging skin as an inevitable result of getting older, he argues that ageing is actually a disease.
Unconventional: Dr Nicholas Perricone argues that ageing is a disease
‘As controversial as that might sound, I truly believe ageing is a progressive inflammatory disease that occurs at a cellular level and, as such, you can fight it,’ he says.
He’s not claiming to hold the secret of eternal life, but he does believe that the physical degeneration associated with ageing is largely preventable – and he’s managed to convince some influential ladies that he has a point.
With a celebrity fan base said to include Cate Blanchett, Kim Cattrall, Uma Thurman and Julia Roberts, the Perricone brand is big business.
He first hit the headlines in the early Noughties with his books The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription, which claimed that a diet rich in salmon and berries could help you look younger within as little as three days.
This anti-inflammatory diet, rich in lean proteins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, is just one of the keystones of the Perricone approach. The other two are potent antioxidant supplements and the doctor’s range of anti-inflammatory topical skincare.
Despite eight more books and a constantly expanding range of products, Perricone isn’t resting on his laurels. Over the past few years, he has been analysing what makes people look young, and conversely what makes them look old.
‘What really gives the appearance of age is loss of convexity on the face,’ he says. ‘When you’re looking at a youthful face, what you see is curves and volume – the forehead curves out, the mouth protrudes, there’s volume in the cheeks and in the temples.
‘With age, we lose muscle mass and subcutaneous fat so those convexities flatten and eventually become concave. We’ve realised that ageing is less about lines and wrinkles and more about tissue loss.’
Perricone is not the only skincare expert to recognise this – more and more surgeons and dermatologists have started incorporating volume-boosting fillers into their procedures.
But the rapid growth in the popularity of Botox and fillers in recent years concerns him.
‘I’m worried about the constant procedures, whether they’re injectables or surgical,’ he says.
‘They all cause inflammation and trauma and I’m not sure this is the best strategy for maintaining a youthful face.
‘The problem with science is that there’s a flavour of the month and people get excited, and a lot of it is driven by economics.
Wrinkles and sagging skin are not an inevitable result of getting older, says Dr Perricone
‘If you’re a dermatologist, you make money by doing procedures, so you’re injecting fillers of various kinds, doing various surgical procedures and injecting toxins that paralyse muscles. I think people have to use some common sense.
‘Look at someone who is paraplegic and has no muscle tone – their legs are like twigs, they waste away. The same thing happens to the muscles of the face when you inject them with a neurotoxin, so that’s a bad strategy – you’re flattening the face, which is the opposite of what you want to do. You won’t have any lines, but you won’t actually look any younger.’
If Perricone is to be believed, by the end of next year there will be a viable alternative to the hugely popular injectables.
His latest master plan is a four-step, noninvasive approach that he claims can give you the sort of results you can get from Botox and fillers, but without needles or knives.
Perricone claims that someone following his programme for eight to 12 weeks would genuinely look ten years younger at the end of it.
It sounds too good to be true and you won’t be able to put his claims to the test until his new product line launches, but if you want an exclusive preview of what the future of anti-ageing holds, and a practical guide to how you can start to reverse the signs of ageing right now, read on.
STEP 1: DIET AND SUPPLEMENTS
No surprise that diet is one of the founding principles of Perricone’s latest plan.
‘Good underlying bone structure and muscle mass are the foundations of a youthful face,’ says Perricone.
‘Loss of muscle mass is the result of inflammation, so an anti-inflammatory diet that helps maintain muscle mass and prevent osteopenia (a weakening of the bones) is essential.’
However, one of the other issues with age is that the subcutaneous fat that plumps out the skin is lost, so the diet also has to include nutrients that will help maintain, and promote, these fat levels.
Based on the Perricone Prescription, this means lots of high quality protein, (wild Alaskan salmon, free-range chicken, shellfish and tofu) essential for cellular repair and the building blocks of muscle tissue.
The Perricone brand: Dr Perricone’s fan base is said to include Julia Roberts, pictured here attending the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ last year
Low glycemic index fruit and veg ( blueberries, broccoli, spinach) keep blood sugar levels stable and supply the antioxidants that neutralise the free radicals that cause cellular damage, and essential fatty acids (found in fish, nuts and seeds) provide fuel for cellular energy.
In addition, Perricone suggests antioxidant supplements, such as alpha lipoic acid, resveratrol, pycnogenol, co-enzyme Q10 and astraxanthin, as well as nutrients that help redensify bones, such as calcium, magnesium, boron, silica and vitamin K2.
STEP 2: MUSCLE STIMULATION
Perricone is convinced that the key to youth and beauty lies in muscle mass – while the rest of the world is intent on paralysing facial muscles, he wants to build them up.
‘When I started to work with a lot of celebrities, I was fascinated by what made them look so glamorous. Were they just genetically different to the rest of us?
‘I realised that what made the difference was the muscle mass in their faces, the soft tissue on their cheeks and chin.
‘If you look at someone like Angelina Jolie, she has these beautiful apples in her cheeks – they’re the result of the muscles in the face.’
And, according to Perricone, you, too, could look like her. In the same way that you can make sagging, flat pectorals look pert, firm and curved by doing lots of bench presses, you can exercise the muscles of the face to create Angelina-style cheeks.
However, exercising your face muscles effectively requires electro-stimulation – essentially running a micro-current to the facial muscles which causes them to contract, firming the muscles and consequently making them bigger.
‘Using electro-stimulation, I can give anyone this sort of a look,’ says Perricone.
‘And, if someone is slightly lopsided, as many people are, I can balance them out by building up one side of their face more than the other.’
If you can’t wait for a treatment from the man himself (and you’re about as likely to be able to get a highly sought-after appointment with him as you are to find him eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal), he believes that a CACI Ultra (from Â£75 for 75 minutes) salon treatment once a month is a step in the right direction.
If you’re more of a DIY type, you might want to have a look at the Tua Viso (RRP Â£199), a handheld gadget developed in Italy. It’s not endorsed by Perricone, but it works in a similar way to CACI and has had positive reviews.
STEP 3: LIGHT THERAPY
The third weapon in Dr Perricone’s antiageing arsenal is light. He’s been waxing lyrical about the benefits of light therapy and its ability to reverse the signs of ageing for years, but his latest trick is to develop a unit for home use.
Light Renewal, a handheld device, has just gone on sale in the U.S. (retailing at around Â£180), and there are plans to bring it to Britain before the end of the year.
‘This light isn’t laser light, it’s red light [much less intense than a laser], at various frequencies, which has been shown to help rejuvenate the structures of the skin,’ he says.
Light therapy: Pure beams of cold light and colours may help regenerate the skins cells
‘Free radicals and inflammation damage the collagen and elastin in the skin, causing it to look saggy and uneven, but the light we use stimulates the fibroblasts to produce more elastin and collagen.
‘This works to thicken the skin and as a result you get rid of fine lines, begin plumping up the skin and see knock-on effects, such as eyelids being lifted and skin losing that crepey look.’
He recommends using the Light Renewal device for 20 minutes a day for four days a week and claims that patients will start to see a visible difference within three to seven weeks.
STEP 4: TOPICAL PRODUCTS
Lastly, and perhaps most excitingly, Perricone is in the process of bringing a number of creams to the market that he claims will help tone muscles and build subcutaneous fat.
His line already includes products that contain DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol), a naturally occurring substance that is found in human nerve tissue and in certain types of seafood.
When applied topically, it is said to improve muscle tone and diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
Set to hit the market next year are new products which Perricone claims will be able to increase the levels of subcutaneous fat in the skin by transporting the necessary nutrients directly to the fat cells, encouraging renewal and growth.
‘We’re waiting to get clearance from the FDA (the U.S. body that regulates the cosmetics industry) to use the active ingredients we want to use, as they have not been used in cosmetics before,’ he says.
‘We’ve done some initial tests on the products and, using ultrasound to measure the levels of subcutaneous fat before and after, we’ve been able to see that it does work in the way that we hoped it would.’