Strictly’s head judge Shirley Ballas' has had Neogen Plasma and looks great – but will it set a trend the way Judy Murray’s tweakment makeover did?

Two years ago, tennis coach/mum Judy Murray (63)  broke the internet with the spectacular results of her Morpheus 8 ‘non-surgical facelift’. Overnight, scores of people wanted to have the tweakment done in the hopes of achieving the same skin tone-evening and lifting results.

This week, 62-year-old Strictly Come Dancing star Shirley Ballas’ fresh face has been all over the news to reveal the results of another cutting-edge tweakment called Neogen Plasma. Available in the UK since 2017 but relatively little-known, the procedure uses plasma thermal energy to dramatically rev up skin cell renewal, which can result in visibly tighter, plumper-looking, and more evened-out skin. 

It’s certainly worked for Shirley, who’s released the unvarnished before-and-after pictures that her doctor, Dr Judy Todd (incidentally, the same doctor behind Judy Murray's tweakment transformation) would have taken. They show a very clear tautening of the rumba queen’s jawline and jowls as well as beautifully juicy, bright skin where it used to be rather dull and pigmented (no doubt due to years of tanning to maintain that professional dancers’ perma-ebony hue).

So should you get on the waiting list for Neogen before it gets too long? Let’s see…

What is a Neogen Plasma non-surgical facelift?

Neogen Plasma is an energy-based treatment that achieves skin-rejuvenating effects by heating the skin through a form of intensive energy, in this case, one caused by a chemical reaction between plasma and nitrogen. You needn’t worry too much about how exactly it works, but the principle is the same as that of lasers, radiofrequency and ultrasound; skin is ‘wounded’ by the heat to a lesser or greater extent (depending on the level/settings you choose), corresponding to lesser or greater downtime and results that vary from visible to dramatic.

Are plasma facial treatments safe?

Plasma treatments have been widely available for quite a while, but Neogen has new, and more sophisticated technology.

The best-known and most successful plasma treatment so far has been Plexr, which is most often used to achieve and non-surgical blepharoplasty or eye lift. Like all plasma treatments that aren’t Neogen, it fuses plasma with oxygen (not nitrogen), creating an ionic surge of energy emanating from a ‘plasma pen’ that vaporises the tissues it encounters. 

You end up with a battery of small burn marks which will heal over the space of a few weeks, revealing brand-new, tauter skin that will make eyelids look lifted. Lots of red, puffy inflammation goes hand in hand with this, making the downtime of Plexr distinctly un-pretty.

Plexr is an FDA-approved and EU-certified medical treatment and should therefore be safe, but there are a lot of very dodgy and non-approved alternative plasma devices (going by names such as ‘plasma pen, ‘plasma shower’ and ‘fibroblast’) out there, often wielded by non-medical practitioners. And the burns, and permanent damage and scars they can leave are often horrific. So don’t go there unless the treatment is certifiably Plexr, and performed by an accredited physician.

Is Neogen Plasma safe?

Now, Neogen offers a second certified and safe plasma treatment, and it has some features that definitely make it sound preferable. As Dr Raj Theti explains on the specialist non-invasive procedure website The Tweakments Guide, “Neogen’s energy permeates the skin’s surface and penetrates the reticular dermis [the thick bottom layer of the skin], where it ‘deposits’ the high heat.” 

So it bypasses the skin surface without burning it, and gets to work only inside the skin, where it can set off new collagen and elastin production. “The heat generated can be very tightly controlled,” adds Dr Theti, “which translates into predictable, reliable outcomes. I don’t want anything unpredictable in my clinic – I want to make sure that I am tightening, resurfacing and regenerating the skin in a safe framework where it won’t cause my patients any harm.”

Neogen Plasma downtime - what is it?

The downtime depends on the heat controls. You can have the ‘full blast’ option, which is a one-treatment, one-hour procedure that will ‘cook’ the deeper skin layers on much the same way that sub-ablative laser treatments such as Erbium Glass can. It doesn’t hurt because numbing gel will be used. But afterwards, the skin will feel very burned. Significant redness and swelling will ensue, which may be under the skin's surface but will still be very visible (in a ‘been in a car crash’ sort of way). As Tweakments Guide founder Alice Hart-Davis reports in the Daily Mail, you’re looking at “ten days of downtime indoors while your face recovers.”

Ballas, perhaps not surprisingly, went for the ‘slowly but surely’ option. The energy blasted into the skin here is lower, meaning you require a series of treatments (three to six initial ones are advised, spaced four weeks apart) that entail, says Hart-Davis, “no downtime”, although you should expect some peeling as the skin starts shedding its redundant dead skin cells in favour of shiny new ones. There is no pain (just a ‘warm sensation’) and no anaesthetic required for these treatments.

Was Shirley Ballas’ non-surgical skin transformation achieved with just Neogen Plasma?

As in many cases (including that of Judy Murray), Ballas’ results were mostly but not exclusively down to her non-surgical procedure. These tend to require prescriptive skincare and sometimes supplements to optimise the results, and for Ballas it was no different. With the plasma mostly focused on regenerating collagen for a lifting, firming effect, she was prescribed a six-week course of Obagi Nu-Derm to properly help fade her pigmentation patches. 

Apparently, she also used ‘natural herbal supplements’ to help speed skin healing. Special topical creams rich in epidermal growth factor are also often suggested, again to accelerate the rate of healing after causing what is relatively significant trauma.

Image: Instagram @shirleyballas & @dr_Judy_todd

What can Neogen Plasma treat?

The increased cell regeneration has an effect on all signs of ageing and skin imperfections: you’re likely to see an improvement not only in plumpness, firmness, even skin tone and lines and wrinkles – skin texture, acne scars and enlarged pores will also likely end up looking less pronounced. And because nitrogen plasma has anti-bacterial properties, it can treat active acne as well.

How much does Neogen Plasma cost?

Expect to pay roughly £3000 for a one-off treatment, and £750 per facial treatment for the less-intensive version (add another £250 per session of you want your chest done too). To give an idea of what prescriptive skincare can cost, the Obagi programme is about £500.

Shirley Ballas saw Dr Judy Todd who practises in London and Glasgow.