Why celebs all look the same age...

WHAT is the ‘year zero’ face?

Columnist Eva Wiseman says it is a cosmetic surgery look that sets the facial dial to ageless, so young women in their late teens and twenties look tight, stretched and ‘done’. Wiseman says 36 is the ideal ageless age sought by women both older and younger, and that looking a little bit ‘done’ is no longer undesirable, but quite the opposite.

That you are nobody unless you look ‘done’. That ‘done’ is the new fabulous.

Could this be true? It seems entirely counter-intuitive to the essence of cosmetic surgery — that is, to look anything but ‘done’. Or could it just be a columnist hypothesis?

Yet there are real examples of the ‘year zero’ face. Lindsay Lohan is 24, but despite her dewy youth, she now bears the face of someone older, a little more tweaked, and a little more taut.

And 25-year-old American celebutante Heidi Montag, who admits to having had 10 procedures in 10 hours, bears a facial look known as ‘ice rink Botox’ — flat and shiny. One star of Glee, Charice Pempengco, had Botox before filming an episode; at 18, her facial skin is glowing with youth and naturally full of lovely, plump collagen that is all her own.

So why do they pay to have artificial stuff injected into their faces? You can understand why older men and women use Botox, fillers and surgery. In the entertainment industry nobody looks their real age, and the pressure on women to remain looking as they did when they really were 36 is particularly intense. But young women who have not started ageing yet? What’s all that about? You may remember a few years ago Catherine Zeta Jones having under-eye surgery before she had ever developed eye-bags. This was publicly perceived as odd at the time, but nowadays would be regarded as ‘normal’ in a preventative sense — what seems truly bizarre is the concept of a younger woman wanting to look overtly Botoxed or lifted.

The whole ‘year zero’ face thing began with a comment by Park Avenue plastic surgeon Douglas Steinbrech, who told W magazine: “There’s this new mentality that if you do not look a little bit fake, then the surgeon hasn’t done his job. This used to be a much more prevalent idea on the West Coast, but now you walk up Madison Avenue and you see these young girls with that cloned, cougar-like face. Either they don’t know what they look like, or they want to look like they’ve had something done.”

So although it may sound insane to want to look like you have had facial cosmetic surgery (the whole idea, you would have thought, was to pay lots of money to the best surgeon possible so that you look natural, and not hiked, yanked or pulled), perhaps there are some bigger reasons. Conspicuous consumption? As in, “Look at me, I’m wearing my wealth on my face”? Hardly.

Or is it meant to reflect the fact that women are doing the traditional stuff later these days — marrying, having babies in their late 30s? Even more unlikely. Or could it simply be an idea put out there by a single canny (anonymous) plastic surgeon who may have botched a few young faces and is trying to turn it into some kind of nano-trend? Hmmmm.

A friend of mine, Annabel Giles, is 51. A former model and television presenter, she is now a writer with various television projects coming up — she is in a profession where looks matter. A few years ago, she spent £6,000 on a facelift. I had no idea she was ‘done’ until she announced it recently. She doesn’t wear make-up, is facially mobile, and just looks healthy and fresh and natural. I had put her fresh-facedness down to good lifestyle, but actually, it was a very good plastic surgeon, supported by healthy living. Like Madonna, and other non-Cher types.

“I did it because I didn’t want to look tired and worried even when I wasn’t,” she says. “Why shouldn’t we look younger or healthier? There’s no prize for having wrinkles. But I didn’t want to look ‘done’ either. I doubt anyone does.”

Irish cosmetic surgeon Patrick Treacy agrees. “I am always of the belief a woman should look her best and still not look like she has had anything done,” he says. “This takes a special skill by the cosmetic proceduralist to create a ‘perfect aesthetic’ look. I am aware there has been a recent trend, realistic or otherwise, for people to want to look a little bit fake and try to look in their mid-30s.

“I feel that this is being driven by a recent trend in television to portray ‘cloned, cougar-type women’ as the new social mentors. There is possibly another trend by some surgeons to cover up what effectively is a poor result achieved in Heidi Montag’s face as something someone was actually trying to achieve. It is too early to see whether this is a West Coast phenomenon spreading its wings or something else.”

Certainly the idea of looking ‘done’ has not spread to the UK and Ireland just yet. There are no reported trends of young women marching into clinics asking to be made look older, or conspicuously altered.

“Our clinics are mostly in London and Dublin, which I would imagine are not as far advanced as in the US,” says Liz Dale of the Harley Medical Group. “We have not noticed a trend for looking ‘done’ — in fact, our clients want quite the opposite. They want to look healthy and fresh rather than shiny and artificial.

“However, what we have seen is that the average age of Botox patients has come down from 40 to 34. People who were waiting until the wrinkles appeared are now doing preventative ‘baby Botox’. But in terms of younger people coming in wanting to look older, we don’t see that at all — we see older people wanting to look their best. And that goes for men too.”

But we are still no wiser about the whole looking ‘done’ idea. In the end I phone Douglas Steinbrech in Manhattan, the man who put the idea out there in the first place. What is it, this wanting to look ‘done’? Have young women lost their marbles, or is it just bad work on the part of doctors?

“It’s a combination of factors,” he says. “The personal taste of doctors plays a part. They have all passed their exams and are capable practitioners, but there’s also an artistic side to what we do. My partners and I are of the belief that our patients should grow old gracefully, not rapidly.

“Paradoxically, too much injected [Botox and filler] too soon actually makes you look older than you are, or too much injected in the wrong location. It really is an art as well as a science. Your doctor must have a sense of good taste — if you don’t like the aesthetics of his or her office, or the before-and-after photos in their book, then don’t use that doctor. Some surgeons’ taste is gaudy and trashy and is reflected in their work.” By which he means, on your face.

“Also, economics plays a part,” he says. “Success means happy patients and patients who look good, not patients whose doctors have aggressively pumped them full of filler. It’s all about making a patient beautiful and natural and happy, and this applies equally to men — too much facial filler can make a man look feminised. We are not salesmen, we are physicians.”

So really, it may be that this ‘year zero’ face idea is simply a combination of two things — bad surgery and a good columnist, rather than 20- somethings wanting to look older. Although walk down the street of any major city today and you will see more and more women of all ages who look ‘done’. Clearly, not everyone can afford surgeons like Dr Steinbrech — so either sag or save up. Alternatively, you can simply not give a hoot either way and love yourself as you are. Far easier, and you’ll save a fortune.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

great irish summer

From walking and hiking, to day trips and camping, your guide to holidays at home in 2021


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up