Tighter and brighter and wrinkle-free: Monique Roffey puts tongue in cheek to look at a new form of facelift

Say facelift and I think scalpels, operating theatre, blood and bandages. I don't think of a face covered in cold, ectoplasmic goo and blue-hued mini-light dancing over my features as electrical probes are applied.

But here I am, blue in the goo-ed face, with a cold metal rod slipping and sliding over the contours of my jawline, cheek and brow. Then, slowly, I start to feel an intramuscular twitch here and there. After about 10 minutes, the twitch becomes a slight tug. In the same way that the steel bands of a teenager's braces are tightened by a minute screw, I feel as though someone is tightening my facial muscles - from the inside. This is a facelift?

'Try and put your tongue into your cheek,' says Eileen Mulligan, the woman who has brought the Caci (pronounced Casey) facelift to Britain. I do, and it hardly fits. My cheek feels as though it's been vacuum-packed. 'Now stick it in the other side of your face,' she says, meaning the side she hasn't worked on. My tongue makes a lump in my cheek.

Eileen, a former Harley Street nurse, is 32, with flawless skin. She stays out of the sun, cleanses and moisturises every day and has a Caci treatment every month or so. She discovered Caci - Computer-Aided Cosmetology Instrument - while working in the US for a physiotherapist who was using the machine to work on athletes' damaged muscles. Invented by Dr Thomas Wing, the machine works with the body's own bio-electrical field, restoring muscle tone by recharging the electrical energy potential within the muscle and improving skin tissue by triggering microcurrents of repair activity within the skin cells.

'It occurred to me that this treatment could also be used for cosmetic purposes,' says Ms Mulligan. The mild electrical current could lengthen and loosen facial muscles that had knotted and shorten ones that had gone slack.

Five years ago, clutching the the exclusive rights to the machine, Ms Mulligan brought the first Caci machine to Britain. Since then she has sold 4,000 to salons around the country and a Caci hotline has been set up to deal with inquiries. The treatment's image has been further boosted by such celebrity clients as the Princess of Wales. Caci's results are most dramatic on women with facial drooping or sagging. Some 'before' and 'after' shots Ms Mulligan provided me with showed women visibly transformed by the treatment.

Almost as if the creases in their faces had been ironed out.

'Women become addicted,' she says. 'Once they've had one session, it's not long before they book in for a course of 10 treatments as well as regular maintenance sessions.' At pounds 40 an hour, Caci isn't cheap, but its more discreet than a facelift - more like an uplift. The Caci-ed face registers a more subtle change than a facelift. It doesn't actually alter the shape or the look of a face, in the way cosmetic surgery can, but it does make women look healthier and younger.

When it was time to look in the mirror after an hour of treatment, the effects weren't immediately apparent. I did look better, but wasn't quite sure why. The wrinkles starting to appear around my eyes had softened thanks to the 'feathering' technique Ms Mulligan had used with a smaller probe. But it had more to do with how my face felt - much tighter and brighter. By the next day, however, that look had vanished. The red wine, cigarettes and salsa dancing had taken their toll. Old paper-bag face was back, pounds 40 poorer.

The Caci Clinic, 11 Heath St, London NW3 6TP. Caci National Hotline 071-431 1033.

(Photograph omitted)