Have you had the traumatic experience of seeing Madonna without her makeup recently? The lower left thumbnail gives you a taste of the dreadful experience. But despite this sometimes ghastly visage, Madonna's face is considered something of a model for rich and vain women of a certain age, and New York magazine this month tracked down perhaps the most acclaimed sculptor of their flesh, Dr. David Rosenberg. Just to give you some idea of the pride he takes in his work: Rosenberg nearly weeps when he is informed that many divas have begun referring to one of his signature looks as "the Rosenberg nose." The key to his technique — and to what New York calls the "new new face" — is not the old stretching upward of the entire facial skin, but instead an under-skin lifting of the muscles of the lower face, preserving essential facial "architecture." A regimen of injections of fat and collagen and whatnot supplements this work by creating the appearance of baby fat. Even the young Olsen twins are maybe having some of this work done, the magazine artfully implies!

Once I starting thinking of it in these terms-the face as the new handbag, say-I started seeing New New Faces everywhere: Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Liz Hurley, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour. They all have it! Even the Olsen twins seem to have a starter version of the New New Face, with their big crazy doll eyes and plush lips. Just to be clear, I don't presume to know exactly what any of these women have done to their faces, if anything at all. It's possible (though in some cases before-and-after pictures would seem to suggest otherwise) that this face is occurring entirely naturally-after all, these are women who are famous for being beautiful. The point is that there is a noticeable aesthetic shift happening in the face, and that it's dovetailing with quantum leaps in plastic surgery and dermatology.

The article also bitchily calls out women who squandered their distinctive beauty with surgery or injections — the old new face or whatever. Most of these women are in their 50s or 60s, and had old-fashioned lifts (in which the whole face is stretched) and nose jobs. That's why it seems especially cruel that 46-year-old Meg Ryan is clumped in with them:

"Meg may think she looks beautiful," [Rosenberg] says carefully. "But what we are picking up on is a sense that maybe there is an overinflation of the lips, there's an overabundance of fillers in her face." He pauses. "What I see with Demi [Moore] is more of an operation. Let me say it this way: I see preservation of definition, a preservation of facial architecture. Angularity. Very pretty."

Virtually all the patients mentioned in the article are women, save for designer Calvin Klein. But the pretty new wave of boy-toy TV news anchors is going to need some work done in a few years (if it isn't being done already!), so probably this sad vortex of endless cosmetic work will soon draw in the half of humanity that can, at the moment, sometimes afford to let its skin sag, even in front of cameras. And maybe it can invent the new new new face!

[New York]