For Peggy Stringer, it's not about looking 10 years younger, it's about looking good, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
PEGGY Stringer holds the secrets to very many of Ireland's famous faces. However, confidentiality is the essence of her business at Monkstown Laser Skin Clinic. "The secret is with me, and with me it will stay," says Peggy.
Peggy Stringer is at the forefront in her field of medical aesthetics and when in Paris, she works alongside Dr Benjamin Ascher, world leader in plastic surgery, cosmetic dermatology and aesthetic medicine. Peggy has also been a member of the IMCAS team (International Master Class for Ageing Skin) in Paris for the past 10 years.
Peggy was born in Carndonagh in Co Donegal. The youngest of a family of originally 11, of whom seven survived, she didn't have the easiest start in life.
"My mother died in childbirth when I was three years old, the baby died as well -- she had also suffered two cot deaths and one stillbirth. My eldest brother and sister had gone to boarding school before I was born but we had home help at the time and I was brought up by whoever was around. My father then died when I was 15 so after that there was 'no bringing up', it was be independent and look after yourself and get on with life. I always wanted to be a PE teacher but that required a lot of study, and when you don't have a mother or father to supervise you, study wasn't really an important part of my life back then."
However, Peggy did her Leaving Certificate and went to St Patrick's Hospital in James's Street, Dublin, where she did psychiatric nursing for five years, then she moved to St Vincent's Hospital where she did a post-grad course in general nursing.
"I specialised in the terminally ill and did that for 10 years. I was very privileged to work with people who were dying. It is up to you to see that that journey is as easy as possible for them, and for their loved ones around them."
Peggy got married at 25 and was very keen to have children quickly.
"During my nursing career, because I didn't have a mother myself for very long, my greatest passion in life was to have children." However, that didn't happen quickly and Peggy spent seven years attending an infertility clinic. Eventually Zoe, 23, and then Keith, 21, arrived.
"Erica, 18, was a bit of a surprise when she arrived, with no treatment, unannounced, and then Andrew, 17, arrived, which was wonderful. Then somebody said to me 'whoever lit that candle for you in Rome, would you tell them to go back and blow it out'," Peggy says.
"I was a stay-at-home mum for 10 years and then by accident I went to visit someone in medical aesthetics. I started working one or two hours, just helping out, and then it became a couple of days a week. In 2007, I opened my own business. Aesthetic nursing is anything to do with anti-aging -- well-being, looking the best you can for whatever age you are. It's not facelifts; what I do is non-invasive. I do things like hair removal, microdermabrasion, photo rejuvenation, skin peels, fillers, vascular treatments, anything to do with looking better.
"I also treat people with acne. I have children, young adolescents from 12 years of age who have problems with their skin, mild acnes, severe acne needs more treatment than I can give them, I would monitor them and look after their skin. Moving into their 20s and 30s, it's more skin maintenance. Anything that would be looking after blemishes, sun damage and rosacea, which can happen very early. Laser is used for veins, pigmentation, as in hyper pigmentation, for certain varicose veins, for hair removal."
When people attend Peggy for a consultation, she makes out a plan and finds out what bothers them the most. "Sometimes what bothers other people about them is not what bothers them. I would look at you and see a pigmentation mark, which clearly doesn't bother you -- you might think you had a little line you want filled!"
Some people want to look '10 years younger'; Peggy says if they do, she is not the one to do it. That's facelift territory.
"I make people look the best they can for the age they are, that doesn't necessarily make them look 10 years younger. Facelifts are usually for people over the age of 50. A good part of my patients would also be in the 35 to 50-age category, and a lot of the problems I would see would be as a result of sun damage. Hence, I recommend 110 SPF for people who are having laser treatments, and factor 30 for people every day of their life. If they are doing sport, golf, sailing, I suggest to increase that factor to the maximum they can get their hands on, here in Ireland it is about factor 50.
"Smoking is another factor that makes a big difference to your skin, you can tell the difference between a smoker and a non-smoker. People who drink to excess also have problems, it withers their skin," Peggy says.
In the old days, the aristocracy wouldn't dream of allowing the sun near their skin -- that was only for peasants. Tans only became popular about the time of Coco Chanel.
"The trend is changing, apart from heavily tanned 18 year olds going to discos and their debs, but girls in their 20s are starting to look after their skin because their parents are more aware of sun damage. We have the highest rate of basal cell carcinoma in Europe, and that's literally damage from the sun, so we have to protect ourselves in Ireland.
"It is still a botox world and people want botox younger and younger. The slightest little sign of a wrinkle or frown on the forehead, they want that frozen look. Botox is all right in small doses but I don't recommend it for people under 40. There is a combination that people can have, a little bit of botox and a little bit of fillers. From attending anti-aging conferences in Paris each year, it is clear that demand for surgery has gone down and non-invasive treatments has come up," Peggy explains.
Non-invasive treatment includes Pelleve, which uses advanced radio frequency technology to induce collagen contraction without damaging the epidermis.
"It's really a modern non-invasive facelift and it works. It also works for young people who want their lips plumped, it's every bit as good as filler. Treatments cost between €75-€250 per area. Fillers are for older people when they lose natural hyaluronic acid; it just replaces the hyaluronic acid. The back of the hands are also a great give away, spots or withering, you can have fillers. There is a risk of bruising with fillers, so you don't do it the day before your special event."
Has she ever refused treatment to anyone?
"I have had a couple of people who are obsessed with doing things to their bodies, but that's the great thing about having worked in psychiatric nursing, you can pick up on people who are. Medical ethics would not allow me to treat people who are not suitable. I have had people who have had burns from treatments elsewhere, or were unhappy with the fillers they have received, who have come to me to repair them," she says.
The format at Monkstown Laser Skin Clinic is: consultation, skin analysis, plan, skin resurfacing, Viora, an electro-infusion of essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins which go directly into the nucleus of the cells, it is an additive. "Peels are the basis before you do any work, like an artist, you want to clear the decks and have as clear a skin as possible to work," says Peggy.
Perfect for this time of year is the Winter Skin Rescue Package to include a Peel, Microdermabrasion, Viora Hydration, and Photorejuvenation. This would normally cost €540 but if you quote Sunday Independent you can have this package for €375 -- and 10 per cent off individual treatments this month.