This story first appeared in the August 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Joan Rivers once quipped, "Hell is living in L.A. with a bad body." For once, she wasn't kidding. But she left this part out: If one doesn't also have a young, good-looking visage in Hollywood, one might as well take up permanent residence in the underworld.
Botox, Restylane, lasers, fat transfers -- these are as routine as vitamins, quotidian antidotes to aging as a lifestyle-threatening disease. So old school. Beauty and health -- considered the same in show business -- has reached a new phase: Call it Frankenbeauty. While these far-flung treatments might sound scary, even Tim Burton-like, they're very possibly the next wave of beauty maintenance standards. Fifty as the new 30 is just not good enough -- ageless forever is the new 30. And when a few people are pulling it off, suddenly everyone's in.
Some of these treatments even have horror-movie names -- for instance, the Vampire Face-Lift and its less-intense variation, Vampire Needling. Explains plastic surgeon Paul Nassif: "You take a tube of the patient's blood, extracting platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, from it. It's yellow in color, but it does all kinds of good things for the body: It speeds up healing, fills out the face. I spray it into wounds and use it in rhinoplasty." PRP is mixed with a filler like Restylane and injected under the lower eyes and into the cheeks for a "liquid face-lift," producing long-term filling and smaller pores for $2,800. For $1,500, select areas can be filled in and poofed out using a dermapen, "which makes tiny holes in the skin and injects PRP into the top level of the dermis," says Nassif. PRP seems to be catching on: New York dermatologist David Colbert also is starting to use it in procedures. "People are having it shot into their hands for smoothing," he says. "All the models are doing it."
Mummylike body wraps to lose inches have been popular night-before-awards rituals, even though they're as effective as horoscopes. But major actresses and actors are devoted to the wraps at L.A. SlimWrap salon. For $135, you're tied up in Ace bandages (good for S&M types), soaked in minerals like potassium, then you bounce on a trampoline for 50 minutes -- still in the wrap. The salon claims you can lose six to eight inches off your body, but how soon does it come back? "Other wraps pull water from the body," explains owner Afsi Naim. "Ours pulls toxins. It helps with skin-tightening, and the effects can last up to a month. It actually does do cellulite reduction." Ellen DeGeneres, Tyra Banks and Minnie Driver are shown on the salon's website. We'd love to catch sight of them on that trampoline.
How does having a big blade like that of Sweeney Todd whisk off several layers of your face sound? If you're flinching, you're not alone. Beverly Hills facialist Ronit Falevitch is one of the few who performs dermaplaning "because everyone's afraid of it," she admits. "You have to have good hands to literally just shave the skin off. It removes the dead cells and is less abrasive than microdermabrasion -- and faster." Luckily, she's much gentler than the demon barber of Fleet Street. The result? Baby's-butt perfection for $125, but only $50 if you add it to a full facial.
And horror of horrors, placenta is the new Prozac. Sara Pereira of Mommy Feel Good Placenta Preparation Services is the foremost Hollywood progenitor of turning a mother's placenta into a capsule, administered mostly for postpartum depression and to make "everybody look brighter and the skin clearer." She explains: "A woman has three times the amount of normal hormones in the third trimester. In Chinese medicine -- which has been practicing this for thousands of years -- the placenta is filled with jing, or life force. I've done close to 500 of these now. Ione Skye didn't take it with her first daughter then did with her second. She said she had much more energy. You can't take anti-depressants if you're breastfeeding, so this is a good alternative. Clients also report it helps them with their skin." January Jones has partaken after giving birth, and we hear Kate Hudson and Isla Fisher have too ($275 in L.A., $325 in Malibu).
The hair-braiding face-lift has been done on aging drag queens and rock stars alike. A number of local African-American braiding salons perform it. Four tightly braided cornrows from the temple and brow temporarily lift the eye area, cheeks and forehead. Cinema Secrets in Burbank has the tools for this, and some claim Madonna has been doing it for years. Someone on the web posted, "It hurts like bejesus and makes your hair look like Coolio in Dangerous Minds." But hey -- he looks really young.
Recently, there have been hard-to-believe reports of unctuous-sounding animal ingredients in beauty products. Japanese spas throughout L.A. are using a centuries-old treatment that includes nightingale droppings to make the skin shine. Gwyneth Paltrow and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, have tried bee-venom masks from Australia (Abeeco) or England (Skincare Organics, used by Michelle Pfeiffer and Victoria Beckham) that freeze muscles as a natural alternative to Botox. Then there's a product called Wrinkle Butter With Earthworm Complex, aka excrement, that is purportedly good for cellulite and is sold in health food stores nationwide. One of L.A. facialist Sonya Dakar's best-sellers is a snake-venom face cream called MicroVenom, also a "natural muscle inhibitor;" available at Barney's, Mindy's and on Dakar's website. And Sephora is doing well with Masqueology, developed in South Korea, which contains snail secretion.
These days, "The Cocktail" isn't a cosmo -- it's an IV drip of vitamins C and B with zinc and chromium, which celebs get a few times a week to: A) avoid daily vitamins, and B) cure hangovers. Also known as "the party-girl drip," the infusion of energy has benefited Rihanna and Simon Cowell. Hollywood producers and talent are indulging in it at Be Hive of Healing, a holistic wellness center on the Westside, with real-deal doctor Habib Sadeghi at the helm.
We accept needles of filler in the forehead. But what about all around one's face? Nassif and Beverly Hills dermatologist Peter Kopelson are working on new strategic sites for nonsurgical lifting, injecting fillers or fat into the temples and around the circumference of the face to plump it. This conjures an image of a human pin cushion, but it counteracts the facial sinking synonymous with aging and thus is becoming increasingly popular.
There are several sci-fi-seeming beauty experts in town with big celebrity clients who are always booked. Harold Lancer in Beverly Hills, considered one of L.A.'s tippy-top derms, performs something he calls Exilis, in which computer-controlled radio frequencies shrink fat cells and stimulate collagen in various areas of the body. A patch is placed on the back side of the patient, and heat penetrates the front and back for additional shrinkage. "There's a 20 percent improvement in key anatomic areas," says Lancer.
Madonna has been touring with oxygen facialist Michelle Peck for many years. Peck visits clients with a huge portable oxygen tank and claims the oxygenizing facials, called Intraceuticals Infusion, can ward off surgery. If the facialist is an example, then it works -- the fortysomething Peck looks 28. Gita Breslin, a 74-year-old woman who looks about 50, claims to be able to recontour the face, lifting and toning muscles with a massage infused by current from an electrical pad on which she sits, which connects to another placed on the patient. She worked on Madonna from 1998 to 2005 and on Jane Fonda three times a week for 10 years. Breslin has helped Goldie Hawn since her Laugh-In days and claims to have reshaped her chin.
Lots of Hollywood types suddenly are swearing by Panchakarma, an ayurvedic cleanse that is said to reset one's physical and mental clock. Martha Soffer, who is spoken about in almost-mystical terms, administers herbs and oils -- in forehead drips and through massages -- and clients pay $420 a day to stay at her and husband Roger's Surya Spa in Pacific Palisades and eat only the clean vegetarian food she cooks. Everyone's treatment is customized to their unique needs. But there also is the daily detoxifying: a gentle enema called Basti to clean out the colon. One can do the entire regime for three, five or seven days. No one walks away untransformed. TV writer Maurissa Whedon (married to Joss Whedon's writer brother Jed) has lupus and last year did chemo for eight months, causing her kidneys to stop working and her feet and knees to swell to 20 times their normal size. "I went to Martha," she explains, "and in five days, my symptoms started getting better. She cleaned out all the toxins and reset my system. My doctors were astounded at the results." There's similar enthusiasm from nearly everyone who does it -- and an element of weight loss no one complains about. Amber Valletta went on record saying she always uses Soffer's organic skincare products.
Now, if any of this sounds extreme, in Japan, women are using Bane-from-The-Dark-Knight-Rises-like plastic clips to straighten their noses, 24-karat-gold facial masks, bull-semen hair treatments and black-eel pedicures, all in the name of beauty. That makes Hollywood sound positively … normal.
EXTREME BEAUTY DIRECTORY: Where to go to get the latest and daring-est treatments in town.
Be Hive of Healing
Dr. Habib Sadeghi
11695 National Blvd., Los Angeles
4400 Riverside Drive, Burbank
Dr. Peter Kopelson
414 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills
1313 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles
Dr. Harold Lancer
440 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
c/o Tarin Graham
Mommy Feel Good Placenta Preparation Services
New York Dermatology Group
Dr. David Colbert
119 Fifth Ave., New York
Ronit Falevitch Skincare
414 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills
Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic
9975 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills
Spalding Drive Comestic Surgery
Dr. Paul Nassif
120 S. Spalding Drive, Beverly Hills
1576 Via De La Paz, Pacific Palisades