Jess Eaton was dropping off her young son in the playground when she bumped into her sister at the school gates.
"I remember she looked at me that day and said: ‘Ooooh you do look like Dad’ and it was like a knife through my heart," says Eaton.
"She didn’t mean anything cruel by it, but since my early forties I’d noticed that I was growing to look more like my father which meant inheriting his saggy jowls and eyebags.
"In my twenties and thirties I’d been very happy in my own skin. But as I hit 40, I felt I was ageing prematurely and it was knocking my confidence.
"I would avoid looking in the mirror and being in photographs. Whenever I saw myself in pictures, I felt slightly broken-hearted."
Eaton, now 55, from Brighton, felt that her looks were also affecting her credibility as a make-up and costume artist.
"When you work in the beauty industry, you’re used to empowering women to feel good about themselves but if you look awful yourself, it takes away some of your authority," she says.
"I kept using make-up to disguise my sagging eyes and jowls but I knew I needed something more drastic."
Eaton began researching cosmetic surgeons who could perform a facelift.
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According to the latest figures from The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the number of facelifts in 2018 rose by 9%. Over 28,000 cosmetic procedures took place in total in that same year with breast augmentation, breast reduction and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) still the top three surgeries.
"I spent a lot of time Googling ‘best surgeons’ because I knew I didn’t want to cut corners," says Eaton. "It’s one thing if you have a wonky boob job because no one will really notice but everyone will see your face.
"When I met Mr Alex Karidis at his clinic in London, I liked him straight away. He suggested a lower face lift to tighten my jaw and upper and lower eyelid surgery to remove the bags.
"It was expensive – at more than £12,000 – and as a single parent, I wasn’t wealthy. But I’d recently inherited a little money and I sold items to raise the rest of the cash. I’d never really spent this much money on myself and I felt it was justified."
Eaton underwent the surgery at Mr Karidis’ private clinic a few weeks later.
"Just before I was about to go under the knife, I was terrified and so nervous but I knew I had to be brave," she says.
"I was fed up living like this, feeling invisible and insecure and I knew I had to do something. I had to take a leap of faith, but it was strange knowing that I was going to be put to sleep and wake up with a different face.
"When I woke up a few hours later it was uncomfortable rather than painful. I could feel a tightness around my neck and asked the nurses to loosen the bandages, but it wasn’t the bandages which were creating the tightness, it was my skin.
"When I saw my bandaged head in the mirror I actually laughed out loud, I looked so silly. But I was told the surgery had gone well so I felt positive about the result."
Eaton left hospital the same day and recovered at her home while her son stayed with his father.
"I filled the cupboards with all my favourite foods, bought myself some new pyjamas and slippers and even some new perfume to make me feel good and stayed inside and watched movies for two weeks while I healed," she says.
"Every day I took a photograph of the healing process. It was fascinating to watch the swelling and bruising going down.
"Three weeks later I was back working and not one person could tell I’d had surgery – but people kept complimenting me on my looks. I felt fabulous and even embarked on a new love affair. My confidence was sky-high."
Now, Eaton says she doesn’t regret a thing about her facelift and would recommend it to anyone.
"It knocked a good decade off my age and even now people can’t believe that I’m 55," she says. "There’s no scarring, I can even wear my hair up in a ponytail and you’d never notice the little scar behind my ear.
"All the mums at the school gate were asking me how I looked so good and I was really open with them about it because I want to empower other women to feel confident about having surgery themselves."
For more info visit the Karidis website.
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