|  September 1, 2009

My forehead bares resemblance to a squeezed grapefruit – “these are muscular lines,” says the doctor. The wrinkled skin around my eyes, or rather the ‘crow’s feet’ are ingrained so deep they collect dust – “these are stress lines,” he continues ruthlessly. My hair is falling out leaving me looking less primal-hunk and more effete English Conservative Party geek – “transplants” the hair doc suggests, and the excess fat I’ve been storing over the years now burns at nothing less than the speed of light, “ultra-lypo” he nods sagely.

I used to be so beautiful. Bar girls don’t even call me handsome man these days, my chances of marrying a bar girl and accommodating her aspiring, estranged family with a ‘soo-perr’ dowry is nil. Age the despot, age the tyrant, age the omnipotent, how can you repel this bugger? Age x Wrinkles x Bald x Ugly = the need for a lot of money. I don’t really know, but a conclusion was wrought after many weeks of vain postulation: true love and sincere worldly happiness will only find me if I can get back my beauty and youth.

Oi, Oi, Ointment

If promises were kept then no one would ever get old, and everybody would be happily in-senescent: ‘gets rid of wrinkles’, ‘gets rids of blemishes’, ‘gets rid of time!’ Re-grows, rejuvenates, transforms; gives confidence, vigour, vim, courage and even inches. But what if it doesn’t do what it says on the bottle? And what if it does a bit more, aka dodgy copy, L’Oreal, made in Uttaradit, ‘Gets rid of you’!

According to a recent article in the UK’ Independent, the answer is, pretty much, no. None of it, never mind how many years in the lab, how many times biologically tested or how many zeros following the pound sign. “Promise of a miracle in a pot of cream, however expensive, is unrealistic,” says the newspaper, reporting on a recent scientific study that found, “even the best creams reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than 10 per cent, a magnitude of change that was barely visible to the naked eye.” The report stated that one certain cream, costing a princely 230 pounds a bottle, was totally useless. The unique combinations of this and that, the infusions of collagen, essences of wild flowers, vitamins and fairy freckles according this report, are a modern day, global phenomenon and flagrant rip off, their only redeeming quality being that they block UV rays.

Sally Penfold, of the International Dermal Institute, says that one of the most important things is to “use a sunscreen that also works as a moisturiser.” Many other scientists on the matter of anti-ageing state that a good diet, not too much excess in the smoking, drug taking, drinking department, exercise and avoidance of stress will play a role in staying young looking and healthy. You may have wondered why you’re pretty Thai girlfriend’s dad has the weathered look of an 18th century Irish peasant, with missing teeth and eight kinds of skin disease. It certainly wasn’t the lack of beauty products on the market during his (in)formative years, rather a shabby diet, hard work and years under the sun that created the monster. Dad’s weatherworn looks have had a knock on effect, creating an overabundance of whitening/anti-ageing creams and lotions in the Thai marketplace, with many modern women spending a disproportionate amount of their, often paltry, wages on trying to stay young, white and beautiful, when all they possibly need to do is stay out of the sun, exercise and eat healthfully.

The Damage Done

Nevertheless, it’s no good telling me at this stage not to stay up for two days smoking cigs and drinking lao khao _ the stress, the excess, the deleterious Micro-Chips diets, a thing of the past, but its left a mark, marks, all over my once pristine body. Evidently the chemist is nothing but an Aladdin’s Cave of false promises and purveyor of lies, so where do we narcissists turn?

Fortunately Thailand, and Chiang Mai, is now home to tons of cosmetic surgery merchants with all kinds of magical procedures to staunch the wasting and turn back the clock. The damage might be done, but it can be reversed. All in all, after a few – undercover – visits to local clinics, I found out that I could be a teenager again for about 500,000 baht with an upkeep of around 80,000 – 100,000 a year. Not bad for an old dog.

Here’s how it works:

Face lines: For forehead, crow’s feet and vertical wrinkles between eyes. The nice doctor explained that within 15-20 minutes, enduring hardly any pain at all, you can be line free. Although too many Botox injections will make you “look like a doll”.

Within two weeks you will see the full effect. You are no longer wrinkled and blighted by age, you are smooth and transcendent. The doctor guaranteed that much. Well, not in those exact words. He also said there were very few side effects, some people may have a small allergic reaction and mild headache but this is easily treated. He stated that there are no long term bad effects of Botox treatment.

The problem with Botox is it only lasts about 6 months so you have to keep getting a top up. For better results you may also get the Collagen Filler with the Botox. A synthetic collagen, that will dissolve, also gets pumped into you.

Botox, 25,000 baht and 12,000 baht of collagen.

Cost: 64,000 baht a year, at least.

Face skin: For face skin tightening the Dry Polar machine will pull back loose skin. You need 1/2 an hour on the m/c 1 or 2 times a week for 1 or 2 months depending on how baggy you are. No pain, no side effects. 3,000 baht a round. So for the initial rounds, as my skin isn’t too baggy, the cost might be about 15,000 baht for the first month and then I would have to return for maintenance, another 3,000 baht, every month. The doctor explained that the results are noticeable in the first week.

Dry Polar machine, about 48,000 baht a year, depending on results.

Fat: The Ultra Lypo Machine will dissolve fat. It is ultrasound so no messy or painful procedure. There is another machine called the RF machine that will shape your body and another process called Carboxy that will inject carbon monoxide into you and dissolve more fat. It is not immediate and takes a few visits to the doctor to see the results. The doc looked at me said no problem getting my fat dissolved. He recommended his Fat Plan which contained a few different treatments. Over the 3 months it would take to see significant progress I’d have to spend 120,000 baht.

For a simple treatment, seeing as I’m not that overweight, 120,000 baht a year.

Right now I am young, fresh and thin. But my hair is thinning.

A very genial doctor, fluent in English, showed me tons of photos and videos of his patients. Hair transplants do work, if they are done right, and this doctor seemed to know what he was talking about. The, ahem, long and short of it was this: for my hair to be full again I’d have sit for 5 hours (2000 grabs/plugs) with him and his nurses and have hair follicles transplanted from the back to the thin parts.

If you take a supplement, Propecia, one of two drugs FDA approved (FDA do not approve any of the other hair growth treatments and advise to ignore any drugs/gimmicks/miracles that promotes hair growth) and scientifically tested to actually stop hair loss or promote hair growth, can be taken after the transplants to make sure old hair doesn’t’ recede further. New transplants will grow on and on and be healthy hair.
Transplant, 120,000 baht.

My teeth are ok but not magnificent. To look like a Fox newsreader I would need, according to Dr. Nik Kantaputra, owner of Dentaland and orthodontist extraordinaire, three procedures.

The top layer of teeth is grinded off, just 1mm, and then is replaced with ceramic. There are different shades of white to choose from. “There are some consequences,” says the doctor, explaining that regular brushing is important and even so in years the ceramic may have to be replaced. 8-10 thousand baht a tooth.

To straighten my jagged bottom row and take out a few at the top. Quicker than braces for straight teeth but more “traumatic” on the teeth. 10-15,000 baht a tooth.

Composite Resin: This just means changing silver fillings for white plastic ones. Starts at 800 baht.

“You can have a Hollywood smile,” says a very personable Nik, but adds that the work will have to be tempered with bi-annual visits to the dentist and regular brushing. Obviously one or two good teeth will look slightly daft so let’s say six at the top and six at the bottom and a few plastic fillings should be around 120,000 – 150,000 baht.

Beauty is not skin deep, that is a lie to make average and ugly people feel better. Beauty is far more popular and powerful than say brains or brawn, and it pays better too. Just 500, 000 baht and I could be happy; it’s not much to pay for equanimity, contentment and female adoration. It’s just I don’t have 500,000 baht, I don’t even have enough to lift a crow’s foot, shine one decent tooth or plug in a hundred new hairs. I will have to wait for Botox. . . first thing tomorrow I’m getting a plastic cat with a wagging paw, I’m going to the temple to release some fish, or maybe birds. I’ll get the money, and I’ll be beautiful again one day.

Zotys Clinic
Soi 7 Sirimangklajarn Road
Tel: 053 895 096, 082 388 9722
Thailand Hair Transplant
22/3 Sirimangklajarn Road
Tel: 081 765 2547, 053 357 526
7 Nimmanhaemin Road
Tel: 053 224 578

“I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realised the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray