We are sitting here with Dr. Frances Prenna Jones, or the “Doctor” as she is known to her staff, at her Mayfair Clinic. Aging. It’s something that is inevitable and what many women fear most. With many of us on the search for that miracle elixir to give us the fountain of youth, in steps Dr. Frances Prenna Jones, London’s go-to cosmetic dermatologist.
It is here behind these discreet doors where the world’s bold and beautiful come to well, stay that way.
Semaine: You’re a daughter of two doctors, perhaps medicine was always in your stars. But why the switch from cardiology to cosmetic dermatology?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: When I decided to give up my place at art school to then study medicine, it wasn’t because my parents were doctors, it was more of just an innate desire to help people I think.
Semaine: So, you were a cardiologist before?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: I studied internal medicine so basically how the body works and sort of general medicine. I fell into cardiology. I loved the hustle and the bustle and fast paced nature of it when I was a junior doctor. I think internal medicine was my first love.
Semaine: What prompted the switch from internal medicine into cosmetic dermatology?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: It was when I went back to university to finally pursue an arts degree and a chance encounter with the founder of the College of Plastic Surgeons, who said to me that my two skills of artistry with internal medicine would fit amazingly with this new speciality of cosmetic medicine that’s coming together. This was 15 years ago and I was incredibly lucky that he introduced me to some amazing people at that time. I could study with them and home my specialities because 15 years ago this whole specialty of anti-aging medicine didn’t exist. When I was in medical school it wasn’t a speciality you could discover. If you are able to combine all your special sets of skills into one profession that you just love then you are very lucky and that’s what happened to me.
Semaine: Is it accurate to say that you are an expert in both internal and external aging?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: I would like to say that it is my USP if you like because I don’t just look at the outside, I look at the inside because I think the two are so intimately linked. It’s all very well that you have to look good on the outside but it is also how your body is aging internally and the two reflect each other.
Semaine: When your clients come in, you advise them on how to treat their skin topically or treatments but do you also talk about their lifestyle and look at what they put in their body?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: I absolutely do. I have to work with my patients and not against my patients. I want them to live a better life and I use my own grandmother as an example of that. She died, bless her, last year and she was 105 years old. She was such a stylish lady who got up every single day and would say “the Dior, the Dior, I am going to wear the Dior jacket today, I want to wear my Dior and my pearls and I want to do my hair” and I think that’s because she felt good about herself every day. Her priority was feeling good about herself. She didn’t look like a 20-year-old, she looked like a mature lady but she looked well and she looked healthy and that’s what I am about.
I am about looking, feeling and living well. I am not about changing the way that they look. I think that’s wrong and I think there is too much on the internet now about trying to distort the way that we look in trying to not actually show the way we look physically through filters and this that and the other. That is not what I am about. It’s about reality and what we look like when we look in the mirror. So, no I don’t agree with changing but I do agree about feeling good about yourself. In the same way, we buy an expensive jacket, it looks good on us, it is well cut and it makes us look a size smaller.
Semaine: Do you feel a responsibility with your clients to say stop?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: Huge, a huge responsibility and I do that. Firstly, I tell people to go away and have a think about it and they might say “I don’t want to do anything Frances” or “yes I want to do this”. They could also even say “actually Frances "I just want to take care of my skin, I just want great healthy looking skin, I do not want any procedures” and that’s OK too. It’s having that opportunity to go away and have a think about it. I say it’s a bit like going to the hairdressers. If you have never had a fringe before and the hairdresser suddenly says let’s have a fringe today and you think no let’s go away and have a think about it rather than walking out and thinking why did I do that! It shouldn’t be impulsive. It should be an informed decision that patients make.
Semaine: I know that you have a private practice so maybe you can’t divulge things like this but what would you say is the most common treatment that your clients come to you for?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: Nowadays, and there has been a big shift in the trends, but 100% it is what I call mesotherapy and that’s when we inject active vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, proteins and ordinary hyaluronic acid into a cocktail for the skin. More so than anything else we are doing this now. It is like having a cocktail of vitamins injected into the skin rather than taking them orally. I am pro oral supplementation but the problem is when we take something orally our heart, lungs and kidneys think that they are more important than our skin. In truth they probably are because our skin is the poor cousin to the rest of our organs as it never gets the most concentration. So, I would say that is the number one treatment that I do because it gives a subtle but fresh-faced healthy glow to the patient as opposed to removing away from things that are changing the way they look, it is just about freshening up.
Semaine: How do you feel about Botox?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: There are things around whether starting earlier with Botox prevents wrinkles further down the line and I say there is never any right or wrong answer. I think when you are ready you are ready. For 18,19 or 20 year olds though it is wrong, I would never do that.
Semaine: It is interesting this notion that a face is like a canvas and you are optimising this inherent beauty, how do you approach each client when they walk through the door?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: The first thing I make patients do when they walk through the door, which plenty of them roll their eyes at me for but no one ever says that wasn’t a really a good exercise, is that I make them do homework. What I make them do is bring photographs of themselves from 5, 10, and 15 years ago. Nothing airbrushed or framed, they bring me the real thing so we look towards that. That’s not to say that there are not patients who want you to do something slightly more cosmetic for them because they have got anomalies and then again this is the more topical debate that you have with them because there are these things called the phi proportions on our face that we are subliminally trained to look at. Our eyes do it in a nanosecond. They see a young face or an old face then an attractive or non-attractive face and so you could say that we could proportionate that to some of these proportions and arguably that comes from an artistic training.
Having done an undergraduate foundation course being taught how to do life drawings and still drawings, I learnt what to focus on, what not to focus on and attention to detail. It’s a party piece of mine, I can feel something that is a millimetre off in a nanosecond and I can carry that in my head. I can literally say to somebody ask me a colour and I’ll pick it by closing my eyes and picking it out of a line of colours.
Semaine: Do you have male clients?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: Yes, and my experience has been that men are more likely to recommend to other men than women are to other women. Women want to keep things secret and not talk about things, whereas, men if they decide to do something they take complete ownership of it and they tell all their friends. Whereas women tend not to be like this.
Semaine: Can you talk to us about your skin care line that you launched?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: It was an accident. I was learning about ingredients and how ingredients worked and I was teaching patients about how they work because they were so confused about what they should and shouldn’t use on their skin. I tried to narrow it down to this is what you need to do in the morning, this is what you need to do in the evening and this is how it works. I would get them to bring their products with them and I would go through the good, the bad and the ugly. They kept looking at me asking if there is just one thing they should use and where they should start. I said to them there is not just one thing. So, I initially started making a formula, and I worked with a formulating chemist because I didn’t know how to formulate and I came up with this one formula.
I would give this to the patients so they had something simple to use once or twice a day. Initially I would give it away and not charge for it but then suddenly I had realised I had created a monster because more people wanted it, it was evolving. I then started to manufacture it because no one would make it for me. It came more organically and grew that way so I am proud to say we made it all ourselves, we make it all in the UK and all the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible as well as the packaging. It is pure science, it’s an organic range. We don’t use nasty chemicals; we use honey suckle as a preservative so everything that we use I can stand behind it as an ingredient. Consequently, there are a lot of actives in there. My day cream has over 45 active ingredients in there.
Semaine: If there was one product you could recommend to your patients what is it?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: Always start with Formula. It is a cleaner, a treater and a preventer all in one so it makes it really simple. It is not a toner. It is a liquid that you put on with cotton pads and that you sweep all over your face. It has everything you need to clean, exfoliate, protect and hydrate the skin all in one. You can use it morning and evening.
Semaine: So, you don’t even need to moisturise if you have no time, you just put Formula on morning and night?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: Cotton pad with Formula and you are done. That’s how it came about because my patients were like “one thing, one thing!” so I thought OK what can I do. Everything else in the range are the add on’s if you want to go that extra mile. If you want to extra things during the day to protect yourself and extra things to help at night. I have a range called Enhance, which is about enhancing what we have. It is tinted hydraulic acid that hydrates the skin during the day but also has the capacity to fill out all the fine lines. It’s cosmetics with a difference and then there is an anti-oxidant spray which boosts the anti-oxidants to work.
Semaine: Any last words of wisdoms and secrets to impart on our Semaine readers?
Dr. Frances Prenna Jones: I think the biggest rule is consistency, whatever you are doing do it consistently. Don’t jump around from product to product. Try to have a simple routine because simple routines are what is going to work best for you so commit to it. Whenever I take on someone the skincare regime or regime of supplements I always say, start with one thing to begin with, get used to doing that, then add other things on to it.