Does Botox work? Salmon is better, says Dr Nicholas Perricone
Does Botox work? Salmon is better, says Dr Nicholas Perricone
Meet the US dermatologist who says you don’t need needles to stay looking youthful
He treats some of Hollywood’s most famous women and has a multimillion-pound skincare company with customers including Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez and Eva Mendes. But ask the celebrity dermatologist Dr Nicholas Perricone the secret to ageing well and he’ll tell you to start in your kitchen. He is strictly against Botox or fillers, or any injectables for that matter. The secret to good skin, he says, is mainly diet, ideally with a little help from good skin creams and supplements.
“I’m very anti-Botox,” he tells me. “People may say that with Botox you look ageless — no, you look like a space alien because you’re not using your face. If the muscle is paralysed it will atrophy. You may have no lines or wrinkles, but you don’t have convexities — the shape to your face that makes you look youthful.”
Central to Perricone’s approach is his belief that premature ageing is an inflammatory disease that occurs at a cellular level in the body, but which can be controlled by what we consume. Thus, he says, if you know what to eat there is a “facelift in your fridge” that will do far more for you than any cosmetic surgeon. His go-to youth-enhancing food is salmon, and his best-known prescription for smoother skin is a three-day blitz of intensive salmon eating: for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
He says that eating salmon two or even three times a day (the wild variety, ideally) provides DMAE, a compound found in oily fish that gives tone to the skin. It also provides the antioxidant astaxanthin and the essential fatty acids that help skin to appear supple and glowing.
“People say, ‘Why are you talking about food? Don’t you have a skincare company?’” he says, chuckling. Perricone MD, the company he founded in 1997, has global annual sales of more than $100 million. “But food is the most important factor,” he adds. “It’s about beauty from the inside out. If I follow my own advice for three days, I feel different.”
He prescribes 4-6oz of grilled salmon three times a day, with porridge and melon or berries at breakfast, a green salad or leafy greens and more melon or kiwi fruit at lunch, then the same for dinner, with steamed vegetables. A bedtime snack of an apple, turkey breast or hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds is allowed. Any form of sugar is strictly forbidden. The low-GI fruit — berries and cantaloupe melon — is designed to break sugar cravings gently. After this three-day salmon diet (some of his followers do it as much as once a month) Perricone advocates sticking to a low-GI diet full-time, introducing other forms of protein such as tofu, tuna, cod, trout, turkey and goat’s cheese for variety, although he still advocates eating salmon most days.
While Perricone’s eating plan resembles other low-GI or low-carb diets, his aim is not just to regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation. Based around nutrigenomics — the branch of genetic research into the relationship between food and genes — he says it’s about “eating the right foods to trigger and manipulate the activation of good genes. Blueberries, for example, activate transcription factors [protein messengers in the cells that respond to different stimuli], which turn off inflammation and turn on the production of more than 100 anti-inflammatory proteins.”
I meet Perricone in the St Regis hotel on the Upper East Side of New York, not far from his former clinic, where he treated the city’s rich and famous, but which he closed a few years ago to focus on research. Now he sees a handful of VIPs privately. Aged 71, he is tanned, slick and handsome in a Savile Row suit. His skin is smooth, although not suspiciously so, without a trace of tweaked weirdness.
Perricone has written ten bestselling books. His first, The Wrinkle Cure, sold a million copies in two years. Today his ideas about inflammation are more widely accepted. In addition to a strict diet, Perricone also advises taking targeted nutritional supplements — namely omega-3, calcium, magnesium, more of the antioxidant astaxanthin and DMAE. Naturally he has his own range of pills that contain all of these — at £75 for a 30-day supply.
His face creams and serums don’t come cheap either — that’s because, he says, they don’t merely affect the skin at surface level, but also contain bioactive ingredients such as amines and DMAE that affect the skin at a cellular level and help to turn off inflammation. The brand’s top seller, Cold Plasma, is £129 for 30ml.
If you think that sounds expensive, Perricone has just launched his most expensive product yet: High Potency Plus Regenerating Growth Factor Concentrate, on sale for £500 for 59ml at Harrods. He says that this is because the ingredients, which include egg membrane and new second-generation amines called polyamines, cost $12,000 per 500g. But “it’s phenomenal — you can see the difference in 24 hours”, he claims.
I don’t have the budget to spend £500 on a skin cream, although many do. But on the morning of my 42nd birthday a tiny jar of the new serum arrives for me to try. And to be fair to Perricone, a few minutes after applying the serum my forehead, which I hadn’t even thought of as particularly lined, does appear noticeably tighter. And after three days of applying it, morning and night, my skin is glowing.
Perricone considers his creams to be a high-performing investment and says that his supplements too are helpful “if you can afford them”. But he adds that there’s plenty we can do to look younger without spending anything.
Reduce stress and sun exposure, don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess, get enough sleep, meditate, do yoga or pray, he says. “You can actually see people getting younger when they meditate.” He meditates for 30 minutes a day.
Perricone also advises to exercise moderately. “People think they have to go to the gym and work out like crazy, but after 30 minutes you use up your antioxidants and you go into a pro-inflammatory state, and then your stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, kick in,” he says. “Doing anything over 30 to 45 minutes is pro-ageing.” Marathons, triathlons and Ironman challenges are definite no-nos.
Then there is the ageing effect of emotional stress. Perricone advocates dumping your partner if they’re not up to scratch. “Relationships are very anti-inflammatory when you’re in a good one,” he says with a smile.
“But nothing could be worse than being in a bad relationship. All that stress 24/7 — that’s definitely going to age you.”