Finally a cure for the curse of WRINKLY KNEES!
When I was in France on holiday about a year ago, I first noticed a serious deterioration in my knees. It may have been the harsh sunlight, or just the angle I saw them at, but as I looked at myself in the mirror before heading out to the beach I realised that a longer dress might be more flattering than shorts.
My knees looked wrinkly and tired, two little knobbly nubs surrounded by saggy skin. They didn’t fit the rest of my legs, which, while not exactly coltish are in relatively good nick.
With dawning horror, I risked a peek at my elbows, the body’s other hinge, and equally renowned as a bellweather for ageing. I soon wished I hadn’t. A lifetime of bicep curls mean I’m bingo-wing-free, but they’ve done nothing to halt the march of time on my elbows.
I’m still slim and young-looking for my age — 49, since you ask — but, along with my baggy knees, it seems I’m on route for ‘elephant elbows’ where the skin is so wrinkled as to verge on the pleated.
Most women know how to make the most of an ageing face. We use a careful skincare regime and sometimes more drastic measures such as peels or laser treatments. A well-stocked make-up bag can do wonders to hide some of the effects of the passing of time. And if all else fails, there’s always Botox.
And then there’s the body. Obviously, the older we get the more effort we have to make to look anywhere close to how we did when we were in our 20s or 30s. We pay more attention to what we eat and we need to exercise regularly. Let’s face it, as we age we need to really work at it, and many of us do.
But there are areas, such as your knees and your elbows, that have always been trickier to maintain or disguise, areas that are an age giveaway for even the most high-maintenance woman.
The skin around the knees and elbows tends to sag rather more than elsewhere owing to there simply being more of it, which of course gives the joints the cushioning and the flexibility they need to move.
All well and good, but as we age, the skin around the elbows and the knees deteriorates, just like it does everywhere else. And, as there’s more of it, there’s more ageing, saggy skin to see.
Moisturising and exfoliating help texture, but do nothing to tone or tighten. Until recently, the only answer has been to hide the offending bits under a cardy and long hemline. But finally, it seems, cosmetic surgeons have worked out a potential answer — the puppet knee and elbow lift.
It’s done using threading. And no, I’m not talking about the innocuous kind that you have done to prune bushy eyebrows. This kind involves inserting medical threads into the skin and creating a kind of supportive mesh underneath it. A sort of secret lift I suppose you could call it.
The threads dissolve over a period of six to eight months, but by this time they have encouraged the body to produce fresh collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, all of which, of course, slow the ageing process. Remarkably, the effect lasts for two years.
I meet Dr Gabriela Mercik at her Harley Street clinic. An energetic, warm woman who is clearly passionate about her work, Dr Gabriela was one of the first to introduce the face thread lift to the UK in 2013 and travels around the world teaching the procedure.
Thanks to the fact that no knives are used, the face lift — also known as a puppet lift because of the way the threads pull the skin upwards — has become popular among the rich and famous.
Now, Dr Gabriela fervently believes it’s no longer just about the face — these days, she says, her ‘miracle’ treatment can be used pretty much anywhere.
As I lie back on her couch I list the areas I’m not completely happy with. Everything I mention — from my Caesarean scar to my eyelids to my buttocks — is greeted with a cheery ‘we can fix that’.
It’s rather like consulting a builder. You want a small job doing and suddenly the entire house needs rebuilding!
Dr Gabriela explains that it’s a simple procedure. First, a numbing cream is applied, then the threads are inserted and tightened.
As she works she continues her analysis of the rest of my body: ‘You should have your jawline lifted,’ she tells me and then rather helpfully takes a picture of my face side-on to show me what she means.
‘You don’t see this, but other people do,’ she adds. ‘Poor things’ is the implication.
I must look slightly crestfallen by her brutal analysis because she pats my hand. ‘Don’t worry, we can fix your knees and elbows. This is an easy procedure, and brings great results.’
By the time she’s applied the numbing cream to my legs and arms and wrapped them in cling-film, I’m wondering if there is any part of my face or body that doesn’t need ‘fixing’.
I am left for half an hour to allow the cream to do its work. I’m also given a face mask that contains Dr Gabriela’s own-brand hydrating serum. Apparently, it keeps your skin moist for 72 hours.
Once the numbing cream has had time to work, she begins with my left knee. This will be the most painful part of the treatment as the cream has had the least time to take effect.
The method is as follows: a needle that contains the thread is inserted just under the surface of the skin. Dr Gabriela weaves the threads together until they create a mesh that supports the skin, almost like a hammock, and lifts it. She inserts the needles in an upwards direction in order to ensure the lift.
Once they are in, she twists them, which in turn creates a small knot so the thread will stay in place inside the skin tissue.
Most of the needles go in pretty painlessly, which is amazing given they’re about two and a half inches long.
There are times when I do feel them and the twisting does hurt sometimes. I would say mostly around one on a pain scale of one to ten, but some of the threading is closer to four or five.
Dr Gabriela inserts around 15 threads. I can see her assessing her work as she goes, a little like a sculptor creating the perfect form. She works quickly and efficiently. Some swelling is already starting and there is a _little blood, but overall it’s not too gory.
The second knee is much less painful and by the time we get to my elbows, they are reassuringly completely numb. Under normal circumstances Dr Gabriela would have let the cream stay on longer, but I was in a hurry and begged her to slightly rush things. If I had my time again though, I would have got there earlier and given myself more time to get properly numb.
The elbow procedure is slightly different. Here, Dr Gabriela uses a combination of filler and threading. The filler, which is injected, creates volume where there is none and the threads do what they will do to my knees; lift and encourage collagen production.
Dr Gabriela explains that she is using filler on my elbows because the skin there is dryer, more aged and there is less fat tissue. ‘You will see the full results in about eight months time,’ she tells me when the whole process is over. ‘Although the collagen will start to build after about two weeks.’
It has to be said that when I leave the clinic I am not in the best possible shape. My face looks fresh, thanks to the hydrating mask, but my knees are swollen and sore, my elbows less so, I guess because they have had fewer needles. I hobble out of the clinic clutching my bruise prevention cream, worrying that I may have caused myself some permanent damage.
I can barely bend my knees to walk normally — they feel so sore and vulnerable. My elbows are not as bad, but if I accidentally brush into something it’s agony.
I’ve written several books on anti-ageing and have tried countless treatments over the years — and my husband keeps saying ‘one day you’re going to do something really stupid’.
As I ease myself onto the train back home, I wonder if this is finally it.
On that first night after the treatment, I have been told to apply an abundance of the anti-bruising cream Dr Gabriela has given me and to wrap my knees and elbows in cling-film. As I lie there surveying my cling-film wrapped joints, I do wonder if I have finally lost the plot.
The following morning my knees are still bruised and sore. I cancel all my gym sessions for the week and rub on the anti-bruising cream regularly. There are bruises just above my elbows, but much less than the knees.
Over the next few days, the bruises seem to get worse. I do pink-up very easily, but I look like I’ve been been in a road accident. Added to this, there are periodic twangs of pain rather like someone flicking an elastic band or a slight electric current going through my knees, especially when I walk.
The bruising stays for about a week, and eventually the twangs fade away to almost none. But four weeks after the threading, I still get the odd sharp twinge.
The results are, as Dr Gabriela predicted, still developing. But there is a difference for sure. It is least noticeable when I stand with my legs and arms totally straight. But even then there are less creases and both areas look less ravaged.
But it is when I bend them ever so slightly that you see the really rather amazing effect. I suddenly have the knees and elbows of a much younger woman!
I am also aware that this is early days and that the effect will keep improving until it peaks this summer, just as the weather gets better and I can start to really show off my rejuvenated joints.
Now where did I put my shorts?
- Threading costs £2,500 per pair of elbows, and £2,500 per pair of knees. Dr Gabriela Mercik, 56 Harley Street, London W1G 9QA, 0203 4902 798 www.drgabriela.co.uk
Helena Frith Powell’s Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles: Anti-Ageing Without Effort is available for £12.99 from mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640.
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019