June 16, 1997 12:00 PM

>Helen Bransford

THE KINDEST CUT

HELEN BRANSFORD CALLS IT HER “trigger event”—the night two years ago when her novelist husband, Jay McInerney, came home from interviewing Julia Roberts for a magazine profile. “I told her all about you,” McInerney assured his wife. “Well, everything but your age,” he amended. “I didn’t tell her that.” Bransford, then 47 to McInerney’s 40, immediately dialed M for makeover—of the plastic surgery kind—and wrote about the experience in her guide Welcome to Your Facelift.

“It made me less self-conscious. I felt liberated,” says Bransford, the mother—via surrogacy—of 2½ &-year-old twins. In 2½ hours of surgery, she had her eyes tightened, dermabrasion above her lips and under her eyes and a general peel to combat sun exposure.

Since her own nip, tuck and tighten, Bransford, a jewelry designer and contributor to Vogue, has become something of an expert at spotting other people’s surgical makeovers. “It takes one to know one,” she says. “Anybody in their 40s and beyond and who makes their living by their faces and is astonishingly great-looking, just book it. They’ve done something, and they’ve been doing little somethings for years.”

Bransford, who divides her time between a 10-acre farm in Nashville and an apartment in Manhattan, has seen her inspiration several times since the surgery. “I told Julia,” says Bransford, ” ‘I had a facelift because of you, and I want to thank you.’ I’m not sure she knew what to say.”

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