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A primer to the county's best of the best for looking and feeling fantastic

The facial techniques at Spa Gregorie's leave skin glowing.

I made my career as a fashion and beauty commentator on television, from the “Today” show to “Entertainment Tonight” and dozens of others, but I have to admit, when it comes to watching TV, my personal favorite was “Downton Abbey.” The elegant lifestyle made me envious. As I sit in Lululemon workout clothes writing at my computer, I dream of changing into formal attire for dinner, with handsome men in tuxedos and women in beautiful gowns.
But would I go back to that time if I could? Absolutely not! Our era has something important theirs did not: the accessibility of agelessness. Spas to pamper, exercise classes for health, dentists for beautiful teeth, cosmetic dermatologists to take years off our faces, and plastic surgeons to make us look on the outside like we feel on the inside. None of these services were available in the days of “Downton Abbey.” But lucky us, they are not only available today, they really work.

In Orange County, everything is readily available. We might not have a staff of downstairs servants, but we have the best of the best to keep us looking and feeling ageless. Some treatments might not feel so comfortable while you’re undergoing them, but yield tangible, lasting results to your body; others feel luscious and heavenly, lifting your spirits and your sense of well-being for that intangible but nevertheless vital sense of joie de vivre. Even Lady Mary, given the opportunity, would surely have relocated to Orange County.  

Advanced Dentistry
I always notice teeth, mainly because people who care about their appearance and want to be the best of the best invest in cosmetic dentistry. Dr. Mike McKinley can bleach your teeth to a sparkling white in his office for around $500 or send you home with your own customized bleaching kit for $350. He makes a mold of your teeth and includes a de-sensitizer. This is to prevent the bleach from leaking to your gums. Veneers are put on in one visit thanks to his advanced method using a CEREC machine, used by only 8 percent of dentists nationwide. He designs the crown ($1,600 per tooth) and fabricates it right in the office. In less than two hours you will leave with a beautiful smile. “Computer technology is really advancing the way teeth look,” says the dentist, who invested more than $1 million in his cutting-edge techniques. “This technology is faster, more precise and better-looking.” 949.644.2484 :: mikemckinley.com

Cosmetic dermatology
What was once a treatment for acne and skin rashes now takes years off our faces with tiny needles that hurt less than a pinprick. A little Botox to firm, a little filler to fill in lines, and you leave feeling and looking like you turned back the clock. Only it wasn’t you turning back the hands of time, it was Dr. Dore Gilbert, who says, “You can’t outrun genetics, but you can slow them down.”

With lasers, he can resurface your face to take five years off. Other lasers can take off hair where it’s unwanted, firm your neck, and remove redness, blood vessels and brown spots. Then there are lasers that can soften the upper lip’s vertical lines – you know, the ones that lipstick loves to fill in. If you’re thinking “pain,” then you don’t know how much smaller the new lasers are, making them much more gentle. Gilbert also uses “coolsculpting,” a noninvasive procedure invented by two Harvard doctors for the fat that won’t go away, even with exercise. This treatment, which removes fat cells, is replacing liposuction in a lot of patients because it is safer, easier and works on flanks, tummy, buttocks and bra fat. And for the men who workout but still can’t get rid of their love handles, coolsculpting will do it easily. Gilbert cautions that patients should be “reasonable about their diets” because while fat won’t return to the areas sculpted, it will deposit in other parts of the body.

The procedures are an investment in time and money: Full-face laser treatments, about $4,000, take one hour; treatments just around the mouth, about $2,000, take 15-30 minutes. Anticipate a full week to recover. Makeup can be applied after that. For body sculpting, prices range from $1,500 for two areas to about $6,000 for multiple areas. 949.718.1222 :: drdoregilbert.com

Cellular Regeneration
Many doctors talk about stem cells in today’s medical world, especially Dr. John Laura, the leading provider for regenerative cellular medicine in OC. At his cosmetic dermatology office in Newport Beach, stem cells are removed from the stomach or thighs of men and women, and separated with a process called “blood spinning.” These stem cells will be used for tightening skin, growing new collagen and regenerating new blood supplies to any needed areas. After spinning, they are redistributed into the desired areas of our body, the most popular being the neck and face. This procedure takes about 3-4 hours.  Remember when Kobe went to Germany for this process on his knee? Now it’s available for our agelessness, at around $6,500 per area.  949.646.0077 :: drjohnlaura.com

Plastic Surgery
The best of the best has to include a face-lift that doesn’t look like a face-lift. No more of that over-pulled, tight look with Dr. Milind Ambe, the doctor who is known for his “natural face-lifts.”  

“Face-lifts are more of an art form than a technical exercise,” the soft-spoken doctor told me. I liked him the minute I walked in the room. No hard sell, no outlandish promises – just beautiful, natural-looking before-and-after photos of men and women who wanted to look their best – and did. “A good face-lift should not have any distortion, shouldn’t look like you had a face-lift. You don’t stop the aging clock; you just turn it back.” Some people look for cosmetic dermatology to replace the face-lift, but the reality is that nothing replaces a face-lift when it’s time. The investment? Up to $25,000. Within 15 minutes I knew that Ambe would never turn out a patient who looked anything other than their natural, attractive self. This man is an artist.  949.759.5539 :: newportbeachplasticsurgery.com

Hair Replacement
One important issue for both men and women is hair. For a woman, a good hair day is a good day, period. For some men, shaving their head is a stylish trend. For others, hair loss is devastating. “Most people believe it’s only men who need hair replacement,” Dr. Craig Ziering told me as I sat in his office with 12 hair extensions taped in my head, flipping my new thick hair back over my shoulders. I know this issue all too well. Thin hair runs in my family, and after years of thickening shampoos, body-building gels and hair spray, I finally ended up with extensions (more on that in a minute) that changed my life for the better. “Early in my career I recognized that women were ignored when it came to hair loss,” the doctor said, noting hormonal changes can cause significant hair loss.  

That said, men can’t wear extensions, unless they’re rock stars, but they can replace hair as it falls out – real hair, with real roots that are permanent. Other options are the many FDA-approved medical therapies like minoxidil and laser therapy, and good oral supplements like Viviscal can be tried early on. For women who have overplucked their eyebrows, there is eyebrow restoration, one hair at a time. The future? “Stem cells, platelet-rich plasma therapy, potential injectables – ultimately we will have something that will be like Botox for the hair. It might not replace transplants, but used early on to give patients unlimited supply of donor hair.” Current practices range from $7,500 for eyebrow replacement upwards of $20,000, depending on the amount of hair to be replaced. 800.759.1330  :: zieringmedical.com

Back to my latest passion: quality hair extensions. They’re defined by the skill of the person who puts them in your hair and the quality of the hair used. Sarah Martin at the Hampton Salon in Bay View Circle, Newport Beach, delivers on both. Martin’s enthusiasm for extensions matches mine – that is to say, we are addicted! I warn you, once you have them you are hooked. Instant gratification. Martin uses the best of the best in hair. I personally like the tape application because it’s easier on the hair. Extensions must be removed, cleaned and reapplied every two months. You can use the same hair for about six months. My secret is to put your hair up on top of your head at night in a bungee band so you don’t tug and pull at the extensions during sex or sleeping. Take away my designer bags or my favorite pair of earrings, but don’t even think of taking away my extensions. Initial hair extension pieces and application run $150-$2,000, depending on the number of pieces used. Maintenance cleaning and re-applying, $200. 949.854.6100  :: hamptonsalon.com

Spa Solutions
This is my objective opinion, from someone whose job it has been to know the best: OC has some of the best spa treatments in the world. Three favorites:

The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport is not only beautiful, but the spa is my definition of paradise, and you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to avail yourself of the spa treatments. You walk in with the daily stress of life and you float out in calmness. I spent an afternoon enjoying a coconut neroli body polish ($230 M-Th, $265 F-Sun) treatment. Not only was it relaxing and pampering, but I left with the skin of a newborn. I think this must have been the way the “Downton Abbey” women felt when their lady’s maid prepared their bath. 855.315.8214  :: pelicanhill.com

And at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in Dana Point I experienced something I never, ever anticipated: the barefoot Ashiatsu massage. Not your bare feet, but a massage given by the masseuse with her bare feet. The technique originated in India and has found a home at the Ritz. Was she going to walk on me? Would it hurt? Those were the thoughts running through my head until I felt the massage begin. I like massage; I loved this massage. The masseuse uses her hands on some parts of the body and her feet on other parts, and I couldn’t tell the difference, except to say I had never had such a deep, relaxing massage. You know the way you feel when you find the perfect outfit for a special event? This is even better. I left rejuvenated. ($325 for 90 minutes.) 949.240.2000 :: ritzcarlton.com

Because I have always been obsessed with the condition of the skin on my face, I visited Spa Gregorie’s. I often put on a home mask and sit at my computer writing while it supposedly gives me a facial. The difference between my home and Spa Gregorie’s is like writing a sentence versus writing a novel. Their antioxidant facial steamed, cleaned, scrubbed, extracted, and put antioxidants, bio-peptides and a super fruit antioxidant mask on my face, and intensive eye therapy cream line filler around my eyes. I left with skin glowing and a smile on my face that lasted even through deadline stress. And most interesting, the home facial products I usually buy are about the same cost as this best-of-the-best face and neck facial ($175). No more looking at my glopped-up mask face staring back at me from my computer screen. 949.644.6672 :: spagregories.com

Stress Busters
I have taken yoga classes in the past, but when I walked into Yoga Shakti Wellness Center, I knew something was unique. This highly recommended center is a combination of working your body and adding awareness to your mind. Program Director Diana Pipaloff has been practicing yoga for 23 years and says, “Today’s lives have so much more input than years ago, yoga and meditation can be as necessary today as brushing your teeth.” Just talking with this soft-spoken woman was soothing. When I asked her about the stress of running her business, she replied, “My ability to handle stress has grown from the meditation practice. It’s not about running away; it’s about bringing balance.” $49 for a month of unlimited introductory yoga, and $145 for five meditation classes. 949.856.9642 :: yogashaktistudio.com

Personalized Workout
Every Friday morning you will find me at Newport Physical Therapy in Irvine. Three reasons: 1. Vanity. 2. Medical. I have tightness in my neck and shoulders from working at a computer 3. Mental. I thrive on overload. I have had physical therapy on my neck and shoulders before and have taken many workout classes, but never had I combined the two. Now, five years later, after a thorough body assessment to develop my own personalized program, I can’t stop. If I miss a week, my body tells me. I start with Pilates then go right into physical therapy in a softly lit room where I am worked over on muscles I didn’t know existed. What makes this combination so terrific is that you are getting everything at once for the health of your bones and joints. Kathy Bradley and David Bradley manage this special place. Introductory package, $150, includes body assessment plus two private Pilates sessions. Add-ons: 10 sessions with physical therapist, $450, or single 30-minute session, $65. 949.644.2022 :: newportpt.com

...and finally, Retail Therapy
Once you have experienced the best of the best, what is there left to do? Retail therapy, of course. The second half of feeling good is looking good. There are two best options in my mind:

Go to A’maree’s on West Coast Highway in Newport Beach and be greeted by fashion experts who will dress you head to toe with accessories while you look out at the beautiful Newport Bay. Expensive but, as almost all their clients say, worth it. 949.642.4423 :: amarees.com

Or you can make an appointment with Sara Aplanalp, lead personal shopping stylist at Fashion Island. Sara does not shop at one store; she shops all the Fashion Island stores for you. After a phone consultation, she pulls items based on your photos, lifestyle and goals. At appointment time a fitting room is filled with pre-selected items, then she takes you to additional stores in the mall as needed. This woman has taste. And the service? Free. You can shop for an hour or a day with Aplanalp. Once you are a client, just call or text and she will find what you need. It’s as close to having a lady’s maid at “Downton Abbey” as we can get in today’s world. 949.701.3166 :: shopfashionisland.com

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