Unless you’re a mathematician, architect or possibly an artist, it’s unlikely you would have heard of Phi. Represented by the Greek letter, it’s the number 1.61803399, and goes by a number of names including the Golden Ratio, the Golden Number, and the Divine Proportion to name a few.
But what makes a single number so interesting that it would fascinate the ancient Greeks and Renaissance artists, and author Dan Brown, who wrote about it in The Da Vinci Code, his 2003 bestseller. Phi is a ratio which occurs when a line is divided in a unique way. Gary Meisner, of the Golden Number website, explains. “Suppose you were asked to take a string and cut it. There’s any number of places that you could cut it, and each place would result in different ratios for the length of the small piece to the large piece, and of the large piece to the entire string. There is one unique point, however, at which the ratio of the large piece to the smaller piece is exactly the same as the ratio of the whole string to the larger piece, and at this point this Golden Ratio of both is 1.618 to 1, or Phi.” What makes Phi so much more than an interesting exercise in mathematics, however, is that this Golden Ratio appears throughout creation, and extensively in the human face and body.
It’s found in almost everything, including the proportions of animals, plants, the solar system, art, architecture, design and even music. As a result, Phi’s appeal ranges from mathematicians and doctors, to naturalists, artists and mystics. So what has all this got to do with fabulous 40-somethings, I hear you ask?
Phi has been adopted by some of world’s leading enhancement and rejuvenation specialists. It was pioneered by Dr. Arthur Swift, a Canadian plastic surgeon and a trendsetter in the field of cosmetic injectables, who coined the phrase ‘Beauti-Phi-Cation’, and through his work is known as the ‘Phi guy’. He believes that beauty isn’t just about recapturing youthfulness; it’s about balanced facial proportions. Dr. Swift developed a process which makes a face as beautiful as it can be using the principles of Phi as much as possible.
One of his fans is Dr. Shaun Walsh, a Sydney-based cosmetic physician. “Using Phi is especially relevant to an ageing face, as the entire shape of the face changes over time,” he says. “Although you can’t change the anatomy or structure of a face, you can use injectables to maximise a person’s beauty, by restoring symmetry, harmony and balance and bringing their proportions closer to Phi.” An essential tool here is a pair of Phi calipers, which open and close a bit like a compass or divider, and allow the user to calculate the ratio exactly.
Part of Dr. Walsh’s philosophy in rejuvenation is using less product for a more natural look, and striving for a look of health and wellness. “It’s very important to look natural,” he says. “The acid test is when people look at you and say you look ‘fabulous’, rather than you look like you’ve had something ‘done’. Okay your BFF may know, but if everyone else can easily tell, then I think we’ve failed.” Dr. Walsh also prefers to look at the face in a global sense, and not just focus on one single feature; it’s not just about freezing foreheads, or filling lines and wrinkles. “I look at a face in thirds, being an upper third, middle third and lower third, as it’s very important that all three are in harmony,” he explains. “The reason for this is Phi, but also that people’s faces age differently. You may have one person who’s upper face looks great, and the middle third is okay, but their lower face has aged and looks much older than the rest. In some cases, rejuvenating a lip may not make you look younger if other areas of the face have aged as well, or more.”
For Dr. Walsh, another important area of rejuvenation for 40-something women is skin care, but no one solution that fits all. “Customising a skin care regime is important so you need to get good advice, and it’s essential to use a sunscreen and hydration products,” he says. The issue with skin care is that you don’t get overnight results – no matter what cosmetic companies promise.
“To achieve a more youthful look, you need to pay attention to the skin’s surface,” he explains. “It will have suffered environmental damage over time, and have fine lines, more open pores, look more granular and not feel so smooth as a result. Young skin is soft, smooth and shiny, which is what we all want, so tackling skin surface issues is also very important. In this regard you can’t ignore the benefits of all manner of facial treatments from a gentle microdermabrasion through to Thermage and IPL. Treating the skin’s surface alone can take ten years off a face when it comes to ageing.”
SPECIAL TIP #2: Phi And Me
To explore how Phi works on a firsthand basis, I had a consultation with Dr. Walsh to see what he thought I needed to achieve a natural, but refreshed and more youthful look. To say that some of his suggestions surprised me would be an understatement. But let’s step back for a just minute so I can share some of my personal history of rejuvenation. When I started actively writing about beauty and anti-ageing more than a decade ago, I got to try a variety of lunchtime procedures, including lip rejuvenation, muscle relaxant injections around and below my eyes and in my brows and forehead, IPL, skin tightening, filler on the inside of the eye for dark circles, filler in the backs of my hands, and in-clinic dermaroller treatments. I’ve even had a version of the famous “vampire facelift” where platelet rich plasma is extracted from your own blood and injected into your face. Through it all I had mixed experiences, and results.
My first “lip job” for example, certainly gave me a more perky pout and reintroduced red lipstick into my cosmetic bag. Although I didn’t exactly have trout lips, it definitely changed my profile so I didn’t look like me anymore. Another time I was overzealous with muscle relaxant in my forehead; I couldn’t frown on any level for over four months, leaving my husband unsure if I was cross with him or not! Of the positive results, however, using filler in the inner corners of my eyes was one; carefully injected, it forms a barrier between the surface of the skin and the blood vessels below, toning down the darkness in the eye area as a result. Another was injecting muscle relaxant below my eyes. After moving to Australia at the end of the 1990s I developed dermatitis around my eyes, and use of a strong steroid cream over time had undoubtedly made the skin between my cheeks and lower eyelid thinner; when I smiled, the skin creased over my cheekbones, but muscle relaxant largely eliminated this.
Over the years, I’ve paired down my various experiments and trials down to a modest list of “essentials” which I felt I worked for me, and which I had done once or twice a year, or less; a little filler in the upper lip for fullness, a little muscle relaxant around the outer corners of the eyes to soften crows feet, and dermal filler in the inner eye area for dark circles. I have also followed a line of being conservative. Following the principles of Phi, however, Dr. Walsh had other suggestions for minor tweaking he felt I could benefit from, some of which took be by surprise. For one, he recommended adding a dermal filler to the upper area of my temples to eliminate hollowness and plump out the end of my eyebrows, so they didn’t “disappear” around the side of my face. Then there was my lip; rather than adding volume to the fleshy part of the lip itself, Dr. Walsh suggested improving the lip line, to lift it up a bit, and soften smokers lines, using dermal fillers. Although I have never smoked, like all women I’ve developed fine lines around the mouth as a result of natural movement; it is just that in smokers they’re exacerbated by the action of more frequent pouting, and by the damage done by the smoke itself.
Another suggestion was adding some dermal filler to plump up the area around my cheekbones. Using the principles of Phi, I discovered that the right side of my face was a tad more prominent and sitting higher on the cheekbone than the left; I was subtly asymmetrical, which according to Dr. Walsh is quite common. The final suggestion concerned my nose. Although it wasn’t especially crooked, there had always been a distinctive bump on the bridge. To be honest it had never really bothered me, but Dr. Walsh felt it my entire face could benefit from a touch of what’s been dubbed “non surgical rhinoplasty”. My appointments for a Phi-inspired rejuvenation took place over a period of a few months, using the quality hyaluronic dermal filler Esthélis, this enabled Dr. Walsh to track the results slowly, as well as be conservative. As he says, you can always add a little more, but if you inject too much you may have to wait a long time for the effects to wear off. Also, when you work this way, one area which you think needs fixing, may not need as much, or any, attention as a result of another area being treated first. A good example of this is the effect that plumping my cheekbones had on my lower eye area; it created a subtle lift, rendering the muscle relaxant injections below my eyes unnecessary.
Before starting out, I stopped taking my regular fish oil capsules around 10 days beforehand. Fish oil thins the blood, which might be good for preventing heart disease, but makes you more susceptible to bruising. Thinking back over each procedure, there was very little pain or discomfort for any of them, and very little or no swelling or bruising at all to cover up – I didn’t have to miss a meeting or a night out as a result. I always have some local anesthetic when having anything done to my lip area, as it’s very sensitive and can be too painful, but even the cheek enhancement was a breeze, even though it required a local anesthetic, a tiny incision on each side of the face, and use of a thicker cannula to inject the Esthélis filler. The only thing here was that the procedure was a tad more physical, in the sense of pushing on facial tissue, so it was bit tender afterwards for a few days. Just remember, however, that everyone is different, from their pain thresholds and their reaction to “trauma”, to their ability to heal.
As for the results, I have to admit to being astonished and thrilled. While I was used to seeing my face after my “regulars” are done, the new enhancements including my cheeks, temples and nose were quite a revelation. My temples were no longer hollow, and my eyebrows looked longer; this was a double blessing as over plucking in the past had already affected my brows. I also loved my new cheekbones. Although I’d been slightly nervous of looking like a chipmunk with a face full of nuts, instead I had subtle volume and lift, which had a positive affect on my lower eye area and hitched up my jawline a bit. The most surprising result, however, was my nose. Although its minor imperfection, including the bump, hadn’t bothered me, I could see a big difference and improvement in its shape. Also, as Dr. Walsh pointed out, the light bounced off the centre of my face in a more balanced way, subtly affecting how the rest of my face looked.
This is an extract from Joanna E. Hall’s e-book 40 and Still Fabulous: The Next Chapter. Buy the book here.