What happens when you take a four-year-old to an anti-ageing fair?

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Taking a four-year-old boy to the Anti-Ageing Show at Earls Court was perhaps not the smartest idea I have ever had. Firstly, little people don’t travel terribly well around large exhibition halls; they tend to hang off your arm, tug at your trouser leg, lie flat on the floor like a truculent starfish and generally whine. And secondly there is nothing like the guileless view of four-year-olds to really point out the extraordinary lengths and vagaries of the Anti-Ageing arm of the beauty industry.

Straight through the door and past a handy bowl of low-lying, quickly snaffled chocolates, we came across a group of women having black eyebrows boldly painted on their faces.

“Mummy?” quizzed Rafe, frowning with curiosity. “What are they doing?”

“They’re having a cosmetic tattooing consultation,” I replied airily.


“Yes, their eyebrows.”

“YUK! Why ON EARTH would you do that?” he declared, shovelling in another chocolate and moving in for a closer look. “That’s just weird,” he said very loudly up the nose of a woman, horizontal in white padded chair. “And what’s happening to her!” he demanded, swivelling around and pointing a plump finger towards the demonstration area in the centre of the hall. “Is she being killed?”

I have to admit, watching a demo IPL (intense pulsed light) session with a prone middle-aged woman being zapped by a man in a white coat wearing safety specs, does look a little disconcerting at 10.30am on a Sunday morning.

Attempting to dodge the sci-fi treatments, we went further into the fair, where clearly the hot product of the moment is collagen. You couldn’t get away from the stuff. Collagen cream, collagen oil, collagen capsules, collagen shots, even a collagen cocktail – the Ultimate Anti-Ageing Drink served with acai berry. I enquired about bottles of Gold Collagen, only to work out that if you were to knock back the 50ml bottle a day they were suggesting at the price of just over £35 for a box of 10 bottles, that was quite a lot of £35 packages a month.

Just then I spotted the Su-Man  stand, a skincare range that everyone from Sienna Miller to Kylie Minogue has been going crazy for. And there was Su-Man herself in all her shiny, bright, clear-skinned glory, despite, annoyingly, being quite a lot older than me. Using a mixture of Asian and Western skincare her Purifying Cleansing Gel Oil and Velvet Skin Brightening Serum have won numerous beauty awards. Known by Vogue Magazine as “The Master Facialist," I grabbed my chance for a quick consultation underneath the charming exhibition light.

“So,” I said, proffering up an open-pored cheek that was gently sweating last night’s bottle of Pinot and packet of Marlboro (it had been a difficult week). “What would you suggest?”

“Well,” she said, moving her shiny baby’s butt skin a little closer. “Exfoliation. And lots of it.”

“Really? I was thinking cream?”

“No, your pores are blocked and your skin is dull… you need to exfoliate three times a week at least.”

And what Su-Man says, I do. Well, if a Master Facialist proffers up a free pearl or two, you’d be a fool not to heed it. Did I say free? Well, not exactly because I shelled rather a hefty £135 for her starter pack and moisturiser and popped it in my bag.

By which time, Rafe was huffing, puffing and announcing in the loudest possible voice that he was “BOOOOORED!!”

So we briefly passed the fabulous Marion Gluck Clinic stand, who were offering up hormonal advice for the fatigued, the flushed and the depressed, and then I popped by the Harley Street Skin Clinic to see if they had any of their Enzyme Mask going, which I am a little bit addicted to.

Then we headed back to the car and as I strapped Rafe in and handed him a packet of complimentary chlorella tablets I said:

“So that was fun, wasn’t it?”

“No,” he said, yawning in my face. “The people are strange, I didn’t like all the eyebrows and the sweets were rubbish.”

I don’t think he was quite the target market.