My face has started to collapse. Nothing dramatic, you understand, just a slight creasing of the eyelids, a downward turn of the mouth and a mini-trench where my "laughter lines" used to be.
Ageing is probably not much fun for any woman, anywhere in the world. But I would propose that it’s a particularly cruel fate when you live in Dubai. Here, as if by magic, even the busiest of women almost always look impeccably turned out. Beyond the gym-honed, designer-clad physiques, a blow-dry is a daily occurrence, and manicures, pedicures and eyelash extensions are considered almost a basic part of personal hygiene. Eyebrow tattoos and facial fillers are de rigueur, while a full face of make-up is all but compulsory for your morning trip to the supermarket. It is no coincidence that the city has one of the highest numbers of plastic surgeons per capita in the world. Facelifts, nose jobs, liposuction, body contouring and other such treatments are routinely performed at the countless surgeries lining Jumeirah Beach Road. The results are proudly displayed everywhere else.
I decided early on that I was going to sit this one out. It is my aim to at least try to age gracefully (even if that trench in the side of my face is growing deeper by the day). That does mean that, in certain circles, I'm greeted with shock when I admit my forehead is a Botox-free zone. I try to explain that I have severe reservations about placing a powerful poison that close to my brain, but to no avail.
Lest we forget, botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. As per the World Health Organisation: “Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces dangerous toxins under low-oxygen conditions. Botulinum toxins are one of the most lethal substances known. Botulinum toxins block nerve functions and can lead to respiratory and muscular paralysis.”
I’m also of the firm belief that you can always tell when someone has had any kind of work done. They may look great, or they may not, but they never look entirely natural. Ever. Plenty of my friends have tried to tell me how little Botox they use or how subtle the effect is, but I’m always too distracted by the fact that their eyebrows are barely moving to pay them much heed. I lament the frozen features of Nicole Kidman and the overly taut skin of Catherine Zeta Jones. Seeing the actresses that I grew up watching on the silver screen slowly disfigure themselves is incredibly disconcerting. I’m hoping that, when the time comes, I have the courage to Judi Dench it.
As far as I can see, Botox is the modern-day equivalent of Elizabethan women smearing their faces in white lead and vinegar to create those smooth, snowy-white complexions championed by Elizabeth I; it might seem like a good idea at the time, but it will invariably be seen as madness by generations to come.
All the same, it can be difficult to stick to one’s convictions when faced daily with acres of wrinkle-free forehead, plumped lips and stretched cheeks. Constant exposure to high levels of facial tinkering means that your perception of normal becomes warped; you almost forget what women are supposed to look like as they move through the various stages of their lives. In an act of rebellion, I have decided to go in the absolute opposite direction and look to the natural world for my anti-ageing beauty solutions. I have gradually tried to remove as many chemicals as possible from my skincare regime, and introduce ingredients that are, wherever possible, organic. Argan and coconut oil are now constant companions and, in lieu of a future facelift, I recently invested in a facial roller. Most evenings before I go to sleep, I am to be found massaging the muscles of my face with this hand-held contraption, furiously trying to iron out my wrinkles.
I’ve experimented with a host of other weird and wonderful things – including cleansers crafted from cow colostrum and, most recently, a moisturiser made from a mixture of ginseng and snail slime. The ginseng extracts are rich in phytonutrients, which promise to help tone and brighten, while snail slime is purportedly packed with nutrients that hydrate and increase the skin’s elasticity. To future generations: it seemed like a good idea at the time.