Yep, both these photos are me. So says our deputy editor Claudia Waterson, who underwent three months of beauty treatments and procedures to solve all her beauty woes - and to enlighten YOU about what's worth investing in and what's not. The results are staggering...
Who knew that after three months testing beauty treatments and products I would look this good? Not me! I wouldn't say I hated the way I looked before but there have always been things about my face that bothered me. So, putting myself in the place of a bride-to-be, I wondered, would I be happy to get wed without addressing them? The answer, honestly, was no. My main areas of 'beauty angst' were my nose (broken) and teeth (wonky). Also, my skin had been neglected for the past 20 years (laziness), and I was showing signs of ageing. But could I expect a skincare routine or two-minute nose job to change that? An email to the best beauty journalists, and I had my shortlist of what to buy, who to see and where to go. Here are the results, wrinkles, frown lines and all.
The products: A thorough skincare regime is a no-brainer for a fab complexion
It turns out if you buy the right products for you and use them correctly, they will work. I've never stuck with a regime long enough to see the benefits, but after three weeks of using this potent combo, my parched skin looks undeniably better (plumper, smoother, more even). While cleansing is the norm for most of us, it's easy to overlook toner and exfoliator. But this, it seems, is when the magic happens: both help to remove dead skin cells, to reveal a fresh layer of skin underneath, which in turn helps with the absorption of other products. Cost-wise, the firming mask is pretty hefty but it is obvious why; almost immediately my skin looks plumped and hydrated, and stays that way all day. I would definitely buy this combination of wonder creams again.
CONCLUSION Once you get past the nearly £500 price tag, and the chore of sticking to the regime, you can't deny the results. After the 28-day trial, my fine lines are reduced and I looked less tired. Take that wed-min insomnia.
Anti-Age Day Cream SPF 30, £144, www.laprairie.co.uk
Hydrating Eye Cream, £32, www.bobbibrown.co.uk
Advanced Night Repair, £49, www.esteelauder.co.uk
Secret De Pureté Gentle Polishing Exfoliator, £34, Guerlain at www.houseoffraser.co.uk
Pore Minimizing Serum, £26, www.clarins.co.uk
The Lifting and Firming Mask, £150, www.cremedelamer.co.uk
Intral Toner, £27, www.darphin.co.uk
Intral Cleansing Milk, £27, www.darphin.co.uk
The treatments: refine your looks in a matter of hours
A HAIR COLOUR-OVER Cost: £140
I have flitted between blonde highlights and brunette my whole life. I hate this brown but can I go back to blonde without frying my hair? Siobhan Jones, colour ambassador at Headmasters, suggests an ombre effect, a graduated colour using Balayage - where colour is applied freestyle by hand. It's less harsh than highlights because the hair is not in foils, which warm bleach and damage hair, and it also gives quick results. 'Ombre is about blending your natural tones through to lighter ends,' says Siobhan. So in my case, my brown roots remain and blonde is applied around my face, the mid lengths and ends of my hair: the effect is 'blonde', without the damage of highlights.
CONCLUSION The joy of this 'colour-over' is that in one, one-hour session, I can be blonde again. And thanks to the small amount of colour being applied, the condition of my hair is silky, not crispy. I swear I will never have highlights again!
Completely Gorgeous colour services, from £110, www.headmasters.com
Brow'n'lash upgrade: Cost £608
Any beauty editor will tell you: brows structure your face, but great brows can transform it. After years of filling mine with pencil, I was ready to take the semi-permanent step. Initial anxiety subsides as I quiz Priya from Browhaus about my 90-minute Brow Resurrection. Are needles involved? Yes. Is there pain? Minimal. And the results? Fab brows for up to two years. Using a dark pencil, Priya draws on the brows she thinks my face can take; I suggest a few tweaks. (FYI she has no problem telling clients if she thinks that the shape they want is wrong - which is reassuring, given the semi-permanent nature of the treatment.) Tweaks made, numbing cream applied, colour chosen… it's show time! The 'needle' is a line of seven tiny needles that make a mark like an individual hair. Priya tattoos over my mock brows, filling in sparse spots. It's a light tugging feeling. The 50 minutes fly by, and Priya enquires if I'm happy with the shape. Yes, but the shock of seeing mega brows on my face is huge. (For the first two weeks, my brows are bold but fade as the micro-sized scabs heal.) The Tube journey home, I'm so self-conscious but the next day, and a load of compliments later, it's a different story. I feel groomed, expensive even! Two weeks on and I can't imagine not having these low-maintenance lovelies on my face. At a second, one-hour appointment, I have individual lash extensions. Each artificial lash is glued to my own, for a fuller, fluttery effect that last up to three weeks.
CONCLUSION The new brows have helped define my face. Perfect for a bride-to-be who wants to look glossy on the big day, and on the beach afterwards. The lashes looked great on day one, but by day four I felt grubby (you have to avoid water, make-up remover etc). I can see why a bride-to-be might want them for her honeymoon, but they are one step too far for this beauty commitment-phobe.
Brow Resurrection, £550 and lashes, from £58, www.browhaus.com
The A-list facial: Cost £200
Celebrity facialist Su-Man doesn't mince her words; my skin is dehydrated and the muscles are tight, which explains my dull skin. After a steam and extraction, she goes to work using her specially devised massage technique. 'Massage will open up the energy channels in your body to reinvigorate, lift and sculpt your skin,' she says, as her hands tap their way across my face. Next, a gel-like mask from her eponymous skincare range. As the mask sinks in, the focus turns to my feet and more energy corralling. I can feel my body tingle - could the energy really be flowing to my face?! I ask Su-Man the secret to great skin: 'A combination of facials, great skincare, exercise, diet and laughing… a lot!' she smiles. Sound advice from a woman who looks 30 at 51. The treatment ends and I'm handed a mirror. Radiant is the word, with zero redness or blotchiness.
CONCLUSION A week later, I can still see the Su-Man effect. The grainy texture of my skin has smoothened. It looks velvety smooth.
The 'perfect' smile: Cost £2,081
Smiling on your big day isn't much to ask but what if, like me, your teeth aren't quite bridal ready? Cue celebrity cosmetic dentist Dr Uchenna Okoye and her Quick Fix Bridal Makeover. 'A bride should start planning her smile as soon as she gets engaged,' advises Dr Okoye. But if that isn't possible, the Quick Fix is 'a fast, effective way to reshape the smile, in as little as two sessions'. With my uneven teeth, this I have to see. First up, a deep clean; hygienist Shelley tells me I have the start of gum disease (oh, the shame), then gives me a strict regime to follow at home - floss, floss, floss! At my next appointment, I'm fitted for bespoke whitening trays and given syringes of gel, to begin treatment that same evening. The first few nights aren't great; my sensitive teeth fizz on contact with the gel and I start to dread using it. But after a week, the discomfort is negligible. Two weeks in and my teeth are 11 shades lighter! Teeth gleaming, my final one-hour appointment is for 'bonding', where the snagged edges of my teeth are smoothed and gently rounded, giving the appearance of a straighter smile; this is predicted to last up to five years.
CONCLUSION My smile, and confidence, have definitely improved, without the lead time of major orthodontics. For a bride needing results - and needing them fast - the Quick Fix is a great solution.
Quick Fix Bridal Makeover (home whitening, hygiene and bonding of six teeth), from £2,000, www.londonsmiling.com