Can A 45-Minute Appointment Really Eliminate Your Double Chin?
Have you ever seen a photograph of yourself that made you want to punch a wall?
Perhaps it was a selfie taken in a nightclub when, with an intake of breath strong enough to suck kitchen appliances off the counter, you realised just how fulsome your beer gut has become.
Or maybe it was a holiday snap, taken at just the wrong moment on a windy beach, when you realised the sniggering from your mates about your receding hairline wasn’t just pub banter but genuine bullying based on a brutal truth.
Sound familiar? Then maybe you can understand why I’m lying down on a dentist’s chair in a Harley Street clinic, squeezing a stress ball while a man rubs what feels like a gel smeared rolling pin around my neck which seems to be giving off minor electric shocks.
Somewhere along the line, I’d acquired a double chin.
We need to rewind a month to tell the story of how I got here. To accompany a story I was writing for a magazine, my girlfriend had just taken a photo of me on a Welsh hilltop gazing quizzically at an Ordnance Survey map (don't ask). The resulting snap triggered a torrent of revulsion in me I can only imagine Morrissey might feel were anyone foolish enough to present him with a plate of lamb cutlets.
I’m a northern, working class bloke who firmly believes that a little bit of emotional repression goes a long way. My vanity usually extends to little more than checking I don’t have egg yolk on my shirt. Perhaps because of this, I’d missed the fact that, somewhere along the line, I’d acquired a double chin.
It didn’t wobble like a fleshy jelly. And it wasn’t hanging down my throat like some kind of skin bib. But boy, was it pronounced. And boy, did I suddenly feel every single hour, minute and day of my 40 years of age.
It got me thinking: aside from the obvious point of not smoking 20 cigs a day and drinking gallons of lager whilst devouring cheese toasties, what can a man do to get some cash back, should he suddenly feel a little short changed by the ageing process?
“You’re just going through what every woman has been through many times.”
Going under the knife may be an option for sheiks, oligarchs and Steven Tyler. But for mere mortals like myself, the expense, downtime and - frankly - self-loathing this would involve would be too much to bear.
Then a lonely, rambling online search took me to something called 'Ultherapy'. On first glance, it’s a treatment that has more than a whiff of snake oil about it. For around £3,000, you turn up at a clinic, take a few painkillers, then let a doctor deliver ultrasound waves through the skin for 45 minutes which, so the blurb tells me, triggers the growth of new collegian, lifting and tightening the skin.
There’s no scarring, no trauma, no need to take to your bed afterwards with bandages and box sets. You can walk straight out of the door and back to work; though probably not without looking into every available mirror and window along the way to check you haven’t been conned into resembling Charles Bukowski in his ‘brandy and boils’ period.
The temptation to adopt a Mourinho-esque sneer at all this online promotion of Ultherapy was all but overwhelming. But, in the days since my horror-pic, a growing sense of genuine depression came over me regarding my looks.
“You’re just going through what every woman has been through many times,” my girlfriend told me in slightly exasperated tones. “Speak to any woman and they’ll tell you that, at some point, they’ve see a photo of themselves that they can’t un-see. You hate it so much you do something about it. Why do you think so many women get botox or have boob lifts in their 40’s? Most of it is prompted by just one selfie photo.”
It’s a theory that’s confirmed by a stat I read from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. A survey they made two years ago found that 55 percent of facial plastic surgeons had dealt with patients who admitted they were considering treatment because they wanted to look better in selfies.
But can this really be the case for men too? I gingerly pick up the phone to one of the dozen or so clinics in London that offer Ultherapy treatment. Kate Whiting, the general manager for the clinic of Dr. Ariel Haus, a Brazilian doctor who has had a clinic on Harley Street for the last decade, talked me through the basics.
“Lots of our male patients come into our clinic searching for confidence boosting procedures,” she reassures me.
“There are a number of different reasons: a recent divorce or a job where you’re in the spot light. There is also a lot less stigma around cosmetic procedures, lots more exposure in the press and an increase in male grooming guides – Instagram has played a really huge part in this.”
The numbers are genuinely compelling. Since 2017 Dr. Haus’ clinic alone has seen a 30% increase in men coming into our clinic with the clinic treating 600 men last year.
So doing Ultherapy as a man doesn’t make me a lone narcissist after all. I’m decided that my double chin is about to meet what I hope to be a painless death. But before my lunchtime appointment I meet Dr. Haus himself for an initial consultation and to get the science in layman’s terms.
Dressed immaculately in a blue suit, with jet black hair and a youthful grin, the good doctor sat down and admitted straight away that he uses Ultherapy himself two or three times a year.
“My whole family has turkey necks, I use it to make sure it stays away!” he said, before getting down to brass tacks.
“Ultherapy reaches the same deep tissue that surgical facelifts address but without surgery and downtime. During the therapy, ultrasound waves are micro focused at precise depths in the dermis; that spares the skins surface and intervening tissue from damage.”
Dr. Haus goes on to explain how ultrasound energy causes contraction collegian and initiates the body’s healing response. This new collegian growth leads to the skin lifting and tightening over time, ever improving for up to two years.
But, I ask, isn’t three grand a little steep for a treatment that’s shorter than an episode of Family Guy?
“Well, the transducer I’d use on your face to transmit the waves is a few thousand pounds each and I use up one of two of them with each treatment”, he reasons. “Plus the machine itself costs nearly £100,000 and each time I use it I’m also buying new transducers.”
Two weeks later, it's the day of my treatment and I sneak off on my lunch break to Harley Street. It feels like a component in a lifestyle that should also include surreptitious trips to Antwerp to meet diamond dealers and discreet dinners at The Halkin with women who wear Agent Provocateur and have PhD’s in Renaissance art.
But maybe that’s the drugs talking. Dr. Haus offers me a cocktail of Solpadeine, Fexofenadine, Ranitidine and Dicloflex washed down with a pot of camomile tea in his office before we begin.
Once I’m suitably drowsy, he tells me a few home truths:
“Rob, you have saggy skin plus fat under the chin so I’m going to target both conditions. On a scale of one to five you are about a two in terms of severity of the problem. I’m going to go just over four millimetres deep into the skin with the ultrasound waves to tighten the muscle and address the fat. That’s as deep as you can go.”
The machine whirrs into life, Dr. Haus leans over me and begins rubbing the gel smeared transducer over my jaw and neck which is lathered with numbing cream. It’s all very similar to having the most expensive shave of my life.
The sensation is like having the strands of a comb pushed into your skin; in essence a little uncomfortable but hardly traumatic. If you’ve ever had a tattoo, then you’d find this experience painless in its entirety.
Barely half an hour later and I’m done. No recovery time, no insistence that I go home and sleep. No warnings not to operate heavy machinery.
“You’ll see the improvement straight away but it gets better and better after several weeks and will definitely last for well over a year, maybe two.” Dr. Haus tells me. “I’m a sculptor as well as a doctor,” he insists. “These treatments are tailor made so there’s artistry to what I do here.”
It’s forty eight hours later now and any last vestiges of bashfulness and discretion about the whole episode are banished. ‘Can you notice?’ is the refrain I’ve irritated four of my friends with so far. To which the unanimous answer has been, ‘bloody hell, yes’.
My double chin has utterly and completely vanished. My jawline looks noticeably more symmetrical and chiselled. I don’t look younger. But I do look better.
‘Age has no reality except in the physical world’ wrote Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The problem is that Marquez wasn’t writing in an age of selfies and Instagram. The days of self-knowledge of your own image are no longer restricted to the mirror and the odd holiday snap developed at Boots.
Because in a world of virtual judgement and vicarious propulsion, where the bad holiday snap ends up online rather than torn up in a high street bin, I’ve decided I’m not going to be afraid any longer of asking - and paying for - an extremely unusual lunch break activity.
For more info on Dr. Haus go to drhausdermatology.com.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.