Actress Ellen Barkin, 56, with her trademark off-center smile, often marches to the beat of a different drummer.
While many actresses oppose cosmetic medicine and many others embrace it, Barkin straddles the fence.
Many plastic surgeons believe her, though they don’t think her position makes much sense. Other local medical experts are skeptical that she’s telling the whole truth.
Barkin says her skin-care routines include Fraxel fractional laser sessions and Thermage radio-frequency treatments, as well as low-tech facial peels. Each of those skin-rejuvenation methods works by doing controlled damage to the skin, forcing it to grow new, younger cells.
“I think facelifts make you look older, not younger,” she says.
When she meets women with facelifts, she says, “You look at them and think either they look crazy or awful. For some of them, I will say, ‘Oh, wow! That looks like a beautiful woman (but) it just doesn’t look like the same beautiful woman.’ ”
She refuses to see movies starring actresses who got facelifts, she says.
“I don’t want to see someone I’ve watched in movies for 20 years and not know who they are, with their eyebrows somewhere in the middle of their hairline,” Barkin says. “If I see someone on screen whose face can’t move to express emotion, then I’m no longer interested in watching them act.”
She once tried Botox, didn’t like how to affected her, and dislikes the changes is makes in people who do use it.
“I don’t like the way it makes people look,” she says. “Too many people go overboard, and for an actress, that’s deadly. It keeps you from being able to have expressions. Some actresses who used to have a beautiful smile have this weird kind of oval thing they do with their mouths instead. They can’t frown anymore, either. They look like they’ve lost their minds.”
“The whole Botox craze, what it says to me is ‘I am desperately unhappy with where I am in my life’s journey, I don’t like it, I want to disguise it, I want to erase it,’” Barkin says. “Like, ‘I’m not comfortable being 30, 40, 50, 60.’ And I have issues with that.”
Many cosmetic doctors believe Barkin when she says she shuns the knife.
“I believe her completely,” says Orange County plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow of Newport Beach. “She still has excess upper and lower eyelid skin and laxity of skin in the neck. I think she looks amazing and I commend her for deciding not to have major facelift and eyelid surgery if she chooses not to. Plastic surgery is not a one size fits all undertaking.”
Dermatologist Dr. Vince Afsahi of Tustin and Newport Beach says, “Ellen looks good for 56. In fact she looks better in the 2007 photo than in the 2004 photo. And this does not happen by chance. Radiofrequency devices can help tighten the areas of her neck while fractional lasers can help with pigmentation and smoothness of the skin. Moreover, her laugh lines look softened and her lips are plumper and full — likely from fillers such as Juvederm or Restylane.”
Plastic surgeon and blogger Dr. Tony Youn of Michigan says, “Ellen looks fantastic, and is a great example of conservative cosmetic work done right. It appears that she’s had her lips enhanced, likely with Juvederm, and some injectable fillers to her deep wrinkles. Her skin is smooth and wrinkle-free as a wax statue. If only all of us had the money to have all of these maintenance treatments, then all of our patients would look this good.”
Plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Persky of Encino sees signs of the long-term filler Sculptra: “Ms. Barkin has excellent facial volume in the proper proportions, leading me to believe that she has an excellent Sculptra injector.”
Skeptics about Barkin’s rejection of surgical procedures include several local cosmetic doctors.
“She has had fillers to her lips and probably a facelift between 2004 and 2007,” says Orange County plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Domanskis of Newport Beach. Dermatologic surgeon Dr. David Sire of Fullerton agrees, as does plastic surgeon Dr. John Di Saia of San Clemente and Orange.
“I would counsel her to continue with her maintenance Thermage treatments,” Domanskis says. He also suggests that she might want to use filler in the folds between her nose and the corners of her mouth.
Barkin has said that she frequently gets a skin-rejuvenating chemical Laser A-Peel and used to rub Retin-A on her face but stopped on advice from a “facialist” who was opposed to acidic products.
Dr. Christopher Zachary, chairman of the UCI Department of Dermatology, says she’s confused, but he’s sympathetic with her plight:
“Sometimes, the mumbo jumbo is just too confusing … so let me get this right … she has stopped ‘acid peels’ on advice from her “facialist”, and yet she is still using the ‘Laser a-peel’ … which is, of course, an acid peel! I really feel for her and all the other beautiful people who are trying to understand the jargon dished up in expensive packages at the beauty stores. Sometimes, I think one needs a Ph.D. to get a hang of all the hype.”
“In her defense, there is no doubt that long term retinoids (like Retin-A), peels, radiofrequency (Thermage), and the newer fractionated devices (Fraxel etc) can really make a difference, and possibly put off the need for more invasive procedures like facelifts.
But Zachary adds, “Botox (or Dysport) and fillers go hand-in-hand … to avoid one while engaging in the other is a bit like eating apple pie without cheese (it’s like a kiss without a squeeze).”
Plastic surgeon Dr. Marcel Daniels of Long Beach agrees, saying, “Her opposition to Botox is unfortunate, as it would help her crow’s feet. Her facialist’s opinion on Retin-A is not supported by science as many studies have shown its beneficial effects on skin with regards to skin elasticity, collagen formation, and the deposition of pigment.”
Di Saia would go further:
“She looks like she has had a good deal of skin care and her skin looks pretty good from what I can see. As I recall in years gone by she was a smoker. Considering this her skin looks really great. Sun and cigarettes are skin killers.
“Despite her comments to the contrary, the Retin A was likely helpful. … I would keep her skin care going although Thermage plus peels plus Fraxel is kind of redundant in my opinion.“
Writer: Colin Stewart