Health: Step into the Time Machine

Would you wire yourself up to this mask in a bid to hold back the years?
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The Independent Culture
IT'S NO longer enough just to slap a bit of night cream on your face. The ultimate beauty treatment of the stars is now a space-age robotic facial which is more sci-fi than "It-girl" but promises ageless beauty. Nicknamed The Time Machine, the introduction of the Dibitron facial in the UK has, apparently, seen celebrities rushing to hold back the years, including model Valerie Campbell, fashion designer Bruce Oldfield and comedienne Faith Brown.

It is similar, but distinct from two other facial favourites, the Cathiodermie and the Computer Aided Cosmetology Instrument (CACI) - which are both electronic beauty treatments. The Cathiodermie is supposed to deep-cleanse the skin using an electrical current and the CACI, a non-surgical facelift, applies a micro-current over the facial muscles to tone up saggy jowls.

You are supposed to get better results with The Time Machine as it is uses a much stronger current which works deeper. It gives the skin a harder workout, say beauty experts. The Time Machine is designed to stimulate 48 muscles in the face 21,000 times in 30 minutes. Its manufacturer claims this can help restore damaged skin, reduce wrinkles and facial lines, lift and tone, moisturise and treat problem skin. But it is not just for wrinklies. Even if you appear to be a flawless beauty, skin around the jaw and eyes can lose its tone pretty quickly (witness Kate Moss's early crows' feet).

The process is also said to be preventative. Monthly treatments are recommended but you could try a course of six if you are looking particularly ropey. You also won't wake up the next morning to a mass of spots, as is the case with some facials, so you can have it just before you get married and not look a fright on the big day.

It all seemed too good to leave to the celebrities, so I booked myself a treatment. It started promisingly, but any treatment which involves being horizontal with your eyes shut scores high with me.

After cleansing, exfoliating and toning with marine algae and aloe vera, vaso-dilatory oil was used on pressure points on the face (supposed to dilate capillaries sending fresh blood and oxygen to the skin, making you drop-dead gorgeous, in theory, at least). Then the real fun began as I was wired up to The Time Machine. The driving force is its "electronic brain" - which is really just a computer which can be programmed for your skin type and its requirements. I spent 20 minutes feeling like Robocop which would explain its obvious attraction to men as well as women.

It is a very strange, pleasurable sensation having electric current transferred into your face via air-filled silicone pads which inflate and deflate, giving you a tingling sensation. I fell fast asleep, which apparently doesn't happen if you have a CACI as you are far too aware of something digging up your face to relax properly. As I slept, my skin enjoyed a "pneumatic micro massage", supposed to ease stress, stimulate lymphatic drainage and remove toxins.

The only downside is that if you are claustrophobic the special mask you have to wear could freak you out. According to my beautician this hasn't happened yet and I was given a panic button to stop the machine.

And the result? My skin did look a lot better and felt really soft. I can't really say I looked years younger, but then you can't really expect that with anything other than a facelift. I think a 20-minute kip in the middle of the afternoon might have helped make the "visible difference", as they say on beauty commercials.

Made by DIBI, Italy's leading cosmetics company, it is unlikely that The Time Machine will be popping up at every local salon. It costs pounds 14,000 compared to the Cathiodermie which is only pounds 4,000. But I can see how it could become addictive, because after a couple of days, you start to feel ancient again.

The Dibitron Face Liftonic is available at the Pamela Stevens Beauty Clinic, 26 Beauchamp Place, London SW3 1NJ. Telephone: 0171 584 6691. For a salon in your area telephone: 0208 838 3858. Cost: pounds 60 or pounds 342 for a course of six. Duration: 1 hour OK, so it's not as much fun... but here's how to have healthy skin without a Time Machine: Have regular facials; cleanse, tone and moisturise twice a day; drink a litre and a half of water a day; don't miss on sleep; use a sunblock; avoid excessive amounts of alcohol; stop smoking.