My area of west London prides itself on being a ‘village’ and we are by and large a friendly lot. I live next door to a popular gastropub in a street that also houses a corner shop, vet, restaurant, church, primary school and community centre. All are hubs that bind the community, but perhaps the person who has done most to pull us together – especially the women – is Hanna, the local beautician.
When a rent rise forced the Armenian butcher to close a few years ago, Hanna took over the premises and exchanged the chopping blocks and meat hooks for massage beds and pedicure chairs.
Most women in the neighbourhood are, like me, thrilled to have a reasonably priced, friendly person to wax their legs and thread their incipient moustaches in a peachy setting prettified by chandeliers and fluffy throws.
So when Hanna invited us all to a party to launch the Soprano Ice we turned up, heedless to what she was promoting.
What is Soprano Ice?
The Soprano Ice has a reputation as the last word in laser hair removal, but it doubles as a device that uses a hot laser to tone, plump and lift the skin.
Over wine and her native Ethiopian canapés, Hanna introduced us to Soprano Ice’s saleswoman, who explained the simple procedure to transform our faces.
“After six sessions, skin will look firmer, fresher, less lined. It’s like a facelift but without needles, implants or any other invasive procedure,” she told us. We were agog.
One woman said she’d used Soprano Ice on her sagging stomach after pregnancy and the results were astonishing. Another said that after three sessions, someone walked into her office and asked if she’d been on holiday.
It didn’t take much for Hanna to talk me into a trial session. It only took half an hour and involved my face being ‘ironed’.
This was not altogether pleasant and occasionally I winced slightly from the heat and the sensation of the hot plastic blades rolling over a cheek or jawbone. But it was certainly not painful.
The science says that the heat (Near-Infrared, or NIR) activates collagen deep beneath the layers of the skin and thus tightens and plumps. After my first session, I looked red and hot and arguably fresher; the rosiness certainly made a welcome change from wintry grey pallor.
Hanna insisted I looked healthier and said my jawline was tighter, so I booked in for a second session.
Lightstim: celebrity anti-ageing
The problem with judging the efficacy of anti-ageing procedures and products is that people tend to try more than one at a time.
Just days after my first Soprano Ice session, I was sent a new LightStim to try. This hand-held plastic device from California is allegedly loved by Kate Beckinsale and claims to reduce lines and wrinkles, improve the skin’s moisture retention and overall tone, reduce pore sizes and diminish puffy eyes.
It emits beneficial, UV-free light rays that are absorbed in a similar way that plants derive energy and nourishment from the sun, stimulating the body’s natural process to build new proteins and regenerate cells, increasing the skin’s collagen and elastin levels.
The LightStim comes in a neat white zip-up bag with a vial of serum that you smooth on before you start and all you have to do is plug it in, sit still and hold the device close to your skin, allowing three minutes for each area of your face.
It takes at least half an hour but you can also treat eyes, lips, cleavage, neck and hands. You need to do this five times a day for eight weeks to see visible results. Easy, right?
Well, that depends. If you are a very calm person and possess the relaxed demeanour and time to sit still for so long without moving, this is for you. But I found the LightStim difficult to use.
For a start, the red LED glare makes it hard to read without feeling you’re blinding yourself and even if you’re watching television, you can’t keep your eyes open all the time.
Second, who has a spare socket, not already loaded with plugs, next to their sofa or bedside? I had to move furniture, yank a chest of drawers away from the wall, pull out other plugs and go in search of an extension lead before I was ready to settle down.
Apart from that, as a working single mother, I am simply too twitchy and time-pressed to find half an hour with such regularity.
I await the invention of the battery-charged LightStim because if I can move around and one-handedly stir a pot, unpack the groceries, open the post and check emails at the same time as blasting my face with red light, there’s a chance I might achieve a modicum of the necessary regime.
None of this comes cheap. The LightStim retails at £249, and Hanna charges £150 for a full-face session with Soprano Ice, and it’s £180 for the neck or £145 for the chin.
Obviously LightStim is the cheaper option in the long run but it’s less reliable for those, like me, who need to be physically pinned down by their beauty therapist to ensure they complete any course.
My anti-ageing treatment results
I have now done four Soprano Ice sessions and a couple of people have told me that I look young or well. This could just be politeness or may have something to do with a new cream I bought called Genius Ultimate Anti-Aging Cream by Alegnist.
I found it in Space NK and it cost a whopping £85 to match its grand claims: this is not just cream but ‘biotechnology’ from San Francisco that fuses – “for the first time” – Alguronic Acid and breakthrough Microalgae Oil combined with plant-derived collagen.
It’s a wonder my wrinkles stand a chance against such a technological onslaught. But they remain defiant.
Does anti-wrinkle technology really work?
It’s hard to calculate whether my face looks firmer, younger, plumper or less lined despite all the LED and laser and American biotechnology, especially as my face seems to vary wildly depending on the kind of day (or night) I’m having.
Like so many other women in their fifties, I ricochet between feeling fairly happy with my appearance (“Not bad for such an old bat!”) and terminally depressed (“What the f*** happened?”).
To be fair to the products I was testing, I am only two-thirds of the way through the recommended Soprano Ice course and I am just too much of a fidget to have given LightStim a proper chance.
My conviction remains that if you’re going to live like me, with lashings of hard work, stress, Tube journeys, alcohol and late nights muddled up with motherhood and deep financial insecurity, no fancy gadget is really going to transform or ‘fix’ my face.
Each time I leave Hanna’s, I believe I look a bit rosier and firmer but that may be more to do with my sense of wellbeing after an hour spent relaxing and laughing in her pretty little salon than with any hi-tech wand she’s been wielding.
For all the new light and laser technology and gadgets, I prefer to imagine that if I do have occasion to glow it’s with light from within rather than because of light applied from without.
Nevertheless, if, like me, you have no intention of surrendering to needles or the knife, a trip to Hanna at Beauty Royal will certainly make you feel good and probably look considerably better too.