I have been grappling lately with the thorny issue of ageing. It feels like I’m caught between two ever-widening binary positions; with every passing birthday I am grateful for another trip around the sun (especially in recent times when that’s been a privilege denied to so many), with the feminist in me vowing to lean into my changing appearance, accepting and embracing the years showing on my face via dullness, decreasing tone and a multitude of so-called laughter lines. On the other hand, I am reminded of the classic (and classically caustic) line from the genius that is Victoria Wood: “Madame, nothing is THAT funny!”… I don’t want to beat the clock! I don’t want a cushion-y face that undulates like the Malverns but fails to bear even a single remnant of human expression! I just want to look like…me, but a few years ago, before two kids, no sleep, poor diet and too much lockdown booze took their (costly) toll on me.
Enter Dr. Vicky Dondos, and her new book The Positive Ageing Plan. When I meet Dr. Vicky in person, she is certainly a glowing endorsement of her philosophy (glowing being the operative word), embodying the sweet spot of where aesthetics, feminism, pragmatism and intervention meet. These strands are woven together in her book, making it unlike any other guide I have read…packed to the rafters with information that will appeal to the skincare enthusiast, this is also about helping those who find themselves at the bottom of the perceived mountain, staring upwards, and not knowing where to start, with quizzes and questionnaires a-plenty to help identify the path that is right for you – no ‘one size fits all’ approach here, thank you very much.
It’s become a cliché to call this kind of joined-up thinking a ‘holistic’ approach, but, in this manifesto for modern women, with her vehement anti-quick fix stance, Dr. Vicky makes a compelling case for considering the whole picture. It’s a rallying call for owning your space and being the best version of you. For example, the chapter on Lifestyle Medicine – i.e. everything that affects our appearance that isn’t directly to do with our appearance – is absolutely vital to her credo, and is as illuminating as it is gentle. I have a strong allergic reaction to anything that resembles the strict, bootcamp-style barking of orders, and thankfully that is the absolute antithesis of what you will find here; at our meeting, I explained to Dr. Vicky that I hadn’t slept for more than 3 hours at a stretch for the last two years and was met with such a tender, empathetic response that I nearly cried.
That is the key to what is at the heart of this book, and of Dr. Vicky’s practice: compassion. And that is what sets her apart from a crowded field of quick-fix people pleasers. She may work with you to create a delicately balanced programme of skincare, treatments and tweakments, or you may decide together that identifying the bare bones of rudimentary skincare and prioritising drinking more green tea are the changes you are capable of making just now – what matters is choosing the plan that is right for you, and practicing some of that self-love, which is the magic ingredient Dr. Vicky recommends to all of her clients. I was treated to her signature Hydrafacial, an innovative procedure that combines cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, hydration, and antioxidant application and left my skin tighter, brighter and happier than it had been in years – it looked as if the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness of lockdown had been extracted from my skin too. If you’re not lucky enough to see Dr. Vicky in person then grab a copy of her book, be prepared to totally rethink your approach to ageing, and buckle up and enjoy those trips around the sun. You won’t look back.