Loaded oldies digging deep to mask the truth

Ita O'Kelly-Browne winces at the Mask, a new longer-lasting facelift designed to lift and peel for startlingly youthful looks
Time, Gravity, living and loving all take their toll on us, and if the face is the map of life as it is often reported to be, then some people have managed to clock up more miles than were obviously recommended for the model in question.
There are basically two options when it comes to dealing with the ravages of ageing - A, you accept that nature is the boss and cope accordingly with damage limitation measures like staying out of the sun and drinking water instead of alcohol, in addition to the subtle use of make-up and a suitably flattering hairstyle. In the meantime, you hope for the best and get on with some more living and loving and all the rest.
The B plan, on the other hand, takes you on the road to the doctors surgery, and ultimately his operating table, for the dressmaker's equivalent of a few darts or gathers to smooth out skin folds, otherwise known as wrinkles - that horrible little word which you almost have to screw your face up to say.
And while time stands still for no man, the general speed of changes in the field of medicine are frequently mind-bogglingly swift with enormous implications for all our lives, including helping us to live longer, and of course, helping us to look younger as we do.
Until now, the route to more bloom - surgically speaking - meant a face-lift, a procedure whereby the skin is cut and then pulled tautly over the face. Excess is simply cut away and a stitch or three is used to adjoin the remaining skin with a spot of 'invisible mending'. The result in most cases is good, but alas is not lasting, and in a few year's time procedures will have to be repeated until such time as jokes about navels reaching chin level become close to the cutting edge, not to mention the truth!
And while you may have heard of deep pan pizza, the changes are that you may not have heard of deep cut lifting, the new and improved version of the facelift, also known as the Mask or Extended Subperiosteal Facelift. In layman's terms the new procedure means lifting not just the skin but all the facial tissue including muscle and fat and hence the deep cut necessary to remove some from the face before they can be pulled upwards, reaffixed and anchored with the patient's existing skin.
As one might expect, the new Mask procedure was pioneered in the United States, the home of the nip, tuck and gather brigade. 'Startlingly youthful' is how some American clinics are describing the benefits of this new face-lift, the results of which will last for between 10 and 15 years compared to the average lifespan of around two to three years for a skin deep only lift. The Mask lifts the face by between 2 and 3 cms, a vast amount relative to a canvas the size of the face.
The procedure, newly available at a private clinic in London's fashionable Harley Street, where Irish patients interested in the procedure are warmly welcomed, is most definitely not for the faint hearted. Managing Director of the Surgical Advisory Centre Jacqueline Sullivan says it is without question a major operation and one which will require a cheque for around £3,500, and three to four weeks out of the limelight due to facial bruising, a commonside effect from ordinary face lifts also.
"The main difference between a reqular face lift and the Mask is that this is a vertical lift rather a temple-to-temple one, and hence the fact that the results are so much better and last so much longer," according to Ms O'Sullivan. "It is particularly beneficial for those with a double chin or poor neck, and for those who have aged badly around the cheek area." But not everybody is suitable, in particular those who have thin hair and/or a receding hairline because the incision is made 'Alice band' - like across the top of the scalp. Thin hair would obviously reveal the scar and in general terms women in the 45+ age group are the most suitable, especially those with oily skins.
Cosmetic plastic surgeon Dr Jan Stanek who trained in Texas and carries out the proecedures at the Harley Street Clinic describes tha Mark as a 'superb operation' with virtually no complication rates.  He says that fears about facial palsy as a result of nerve damage are unfounded because surgery is performed at bone level rather than flesh level - well below the location of the nerves and their endings.
But Irish cosmetic surgeon with the Blackrock Clinic Dr Tom O'Reilly, who regularly carries out standard facelifts, describes the new Mask procedure as being, in his view, 'deep and dangerous'.
"In a procedure like this the nerve endings are much more likely to be damaged. In my view it is far too risky, and as far as I can see, the results are no better. Also I would like to point out that precisely because it is new, there are no gurantees that it will last for as long as 15 years. The sort of facelifts I do last between five and 10 years and, very importantly, the result is natural looking," says Dr O'Reilly.
He regards the Mask method as being well named because he says that the pictures which he has seen of the results give a mask-like appearance, and most certainly do not look natural. He adds that his patients are very happy indeed with the results he provides them.
While the Mask lift will result in a distinctly younger looking face, it will not help crepey eyelids or sagging skin below the eyes. If a patient wants to deal with the total area, a special eye operation can be incorporated into the three hour surgery session according to Ms Sullivan, bringing the total cost up to around £5,000.
All patients are very thoroughly screened before being admitted to the clinic and they are also psychologically assessed to see if their expectations about surgery are realistic. Accommodation for those travelling from far afield can be arranged. The stay in the clinic is between two and three days, and if required, a nurse can call to your hotel each day to help you towrds a speedy recovery.
But while a figure of around £5,000 may seem a trifle for those keen to rid themselves of their  'world weary' look, for others a good holiday or even a cruise could prove to be just what the doctor - or indeed the patient - SHOULD have ordered in the first place.