Face up to the new millennium

More of us are preparing for Y2K by going under the knife. Marina Baker reports on the new boom in plastic surgery
For many, a glass of champagne and maybe a visit to the Dome will be enough to celebrate the dawning of a new era. But some people are taking "out with the old and in with the new", in its most literal sense, and booking themselves in for cosmetic surgery, to see in the new millennium with a new face.

If you're tempted to join in, you may have to hurry; clinics are reporting record levels of clients. And leave it much longer, and you'll be singing "Auld Lang Syne" with a bandage round your face. The British Association of Cosmetic Surgeons says the increase in demand continues into the new year; bookings for January and February are 17 per cent up on last year.

Wendy Lewis, who advises fashionable New Yorkers on cosmetic surgery, says, "It's a wonderful time to change habits and beauty regimes. It provides a nice excuse - that extra push to go ahead and do it."

Mel Braham, chief executive of the Harley Medical Group, which specialises in cosmetic surgery, adds: "You'd be amazed how many calls we get on Monday mornings. It's as if people get out of bed and say, "right, I'm really going to do it. The new year is popular for the same reason. Since it's an extra-special one this year, people seem more determined than ever to put their plans into action."

Enid Gill, 55, is a retired PR from West London. She had a face-lift last week, to enhance her career prospects.

"I've been thinking about having my face done for some time. I'm planning to go to college next year and train as a scriptwriter. People are still prejudiced about age. I've always looked younger than my age, but after a while gravity takes over; you can't help but lose some firmness.

"I found a surgeon, Laurence Kirwan, and decided to have my eyes lifted, jaw tightened and chin tucked.

"I'm not looking for anything unrealistic. I'm not having the old Hollywood face job. I just want to look as young as I feel. When you look old, people don't take you as seriously as before.

"Everyone goes on about Y2K. Why not? I thought. Now's the time to get it done. I'll be back wearing make-up just before Christmas.

"On New Year's Eve, I'm dining out with my new face. On New Year's Day I'm having friends and neighbours over for a celebratory brunch to show off the new me. None of them has tried to put me off. They're looking forward to seeing the results. A new millennium is a fresh beginning. It doesn't change how old you are, but it makes us stop, and think about how far we have come. Even in ancient civilisations people beautified themselves, with hair bleaches and henna. Now, we're facing a brave new world of technology. That goes for cosmetic surgery as well. Already we have seen major developments using lasers and collagen. Just think what they will be able to achieve soon. But I'm too old to wait any longer.

"I was nervous.The face-lift meant I was out for four hours - it's major surgery. But next year I may have some collagen implants and I plan to have laser treatment on my legs, so I'll never have to wax again. That's progress."

Suzanne Howe, 51, is a psychic consultant from Hertfordshire. She has just had new cohesive gel silicone implants (costing pounds 4,000) and an eye lift (also pounds 4,000).

"We should start as we mean to go on - with a fresh approach. It's a chance to be creative; I want to start the new year in a positive frame of mind. It's a hell of a lot easier to have a positive attitude when you look in the mirror and like what you see.

"When I was young, I used to read about the stars having cosmetic surgery and I thought to myself that I would have these things done, too. It was just a case of when - and the start of a new millennium is a good excuse for plastic surgery.

"I had my eyes done because they were starting to look like Margaret Thatcher's, drooping at the sides. I've always had nice, big eyes and it was sad to see them looking a bit crinkly. After eye surgery I was back working the next day with dark glasses on. I think the operation has taken years off me.

"There was nothing wrong with my old breasts. They were just small. Then I tried those inserts that you put in a bra. I got used to the new shape and decided to go for it. After the operation there they were: amazing new breasts. The scars are tiny - unless I waved my arms in the air, you wouldn't see them.

"It was fantastic going shopping for underwear, and I'm reluctant to cover up this winter, I'm so proud of myself. On New Year's Eve, I shall be wearing a stretchy top to show off my new figure."

Jackie Wilmore, 41, from Hailsham, is a health-care assistant. She had breast augmentation this summer, increasing her cup size from 34AA to 34C, for pounds 4,200.

"I thought this was the right time to have the operation. My husband and I had been saving for a new kitchen. Then he asked, would I rather spend it on the operation? I'd always wanted to have it done but we'd never had the money.

"The operation has completely changed my life. I've always been small and I didn't have the confidence to wear the clothes and dresses I wanted to wear. Now I have the figure, it's a whole new beginning - and for New Year's Eve, I shall be wearing a ball gown to show off my new shape. I can't stop looking at myself. I'm so delighted. As for the kitchen, well, we've just tidied it up with a lick of paint. It looks fine.

Jeanette Allen, 49, a bank worker from Bristol, opted for a pioneering pounds 4,000 "thigh lift" operation.

"I'm going to a fairly swish party on New Year's Eve. Who knows, I might end up in the hot tub, so I want to look as good as I can get. I've had flabby thighs for a long time. My legs were never brilliant, and they got worse from the age of 30.

"The top of my trousers didn't look right; they used to pull on the inside seam. Women with lovely, thin thighs have unmarked trousers, and they look nice and neat.

"I decided to do something about it, and booked into a private hospital. I was fairly apprehensive - I nearly ran out of the room at one point - but once I'd said what I wanted, it was plain sailing. The operation took two hours.

"They use a laser to melt the fat and draw it out in a tube. If your thighs are a bit saggy, you're left with an excess of skin, so I needed a little half-inch cut to take the skin out. They made a row of stitches along my knicker line. The scars will fade. When the bruising and swelling had gone down, I definitely noticed a difference.

"Surgery is so good now, I think it should be written into your contract: two weeks off for cosmetic surgery, on top of holidays. Maybe that should be a New Year's resolution for employers."

Harley Medical Group: 0800 917 9000. Surgical Advisory Service: 0171- 637 3110. Wendy Lewis: www. wlbeauty.com. Laurence Kirwan: www.kirwan frcs.com

Additional reporting: Kate Peacock