Wednesday, May 17, 2006

'Professional' facials

I finally got my Spa Week treatment today at Euphoria Spa. My appointment was postponed for weeks b/c they had a flood back in April when there was a lot of rain. On the continuum of facials, this one falls about the middle. The best (and most expensive) facial I've ever had was at Bliss Spa in SoHo. You start off with a full spread of snacks: brownies, cookies, cheese and crackers, lemon and cucumber water, red and white wine, grapes, strawberries, and other fruits. The bathroom and locker room is stocked with all sorts of health and beauty aids (kinda like those bathroom baskets that ppl create for weddings), including their own lotions and soaps. You get a customized facial, complete with a wonderful massage of the neck, shoulders, decollete, and arms, down to the fingers. It was soooo relaxing and blissful. The massage bed was also warmed and so comfortable that I almost fell asleep. Afterwards, my skin was so smooth and clean and I didn't have a pimple for the next few months. But alas, I can't afford Bliss (the tip I left there was equivalent to how much I paid for the facial today). On the other end of the facial spectrum is the facial at a Chinatown shop. Often they will try to sell you packages (if you pay for 10 treatments, each one will turn out to be about $30 for the low-end). On top of that, I've had experiences where the ppl will denigrate you thinking that this is a way for you to add on more expensive treatments. Sometimes the treatments will be OK, sometimes bad, and I often look like a wreck afterwards and I'll still break out. Also, needless to say, there are no freebies (drinks are not usually offered either). However, they don't make you strip (something I never understood the need for when you're just getting a facial) and you can keep all your stuff with you in the room instead of locking it away in a locker.

Today's facial was slightly better than the Ctown ones but way below the Bliss one. There was no first-class service (just water or tea at the end, and served in a plastic goblet) but everyone was very nice and no hard selling. Because this was a Spa Week special, the treatment was just 45 minutes long (it is usually 60 minutes and costs about $300). It started out with an antibacterial cleansing and then a bunch of other stuff she swiped all over my skin. Then came the painful (but necessary) part -- the extractions. She was a lot more gentle than other places I've been to but I think she just uses her fingers and not that tool with the metal loop and needle on either end. She also said that the gunk was coming out pretty easy and she didn't do many extractions. I don't know if that's b/c of the time limit or if I really have fewer clogged pores nowadays. I'm not sure whether there was any microdermabrasion but something was tingly at one point.

Then the best part -- called a microablation. She said this method used to be used (still continues to be used? don't remember) in hospitals to hydrate an area. In fact, she had to hook up a bag connected to a tube, much like what you see in hospitals. What it is a saline solution sprayed on your skin, "conducting a plasma field to the dermis."
This supposedly reduces acne, tightens and brightens skin, and does a bunch of other stuff. It was a really weird sensation b/c there's quite a bit of water coming at you through this wand thingy and every once in a while you feel a zap (a bit like static electricity). There was enough water that she had to wrap a thick towel around my head and every so often mop up the water off my face. This was kinda refreshing but it ended all too soon. Then she gave me a quick massage (not a very good one), slapped on some moisturizer and lip balm and that was it. I was not crazy about the lip balm (I hate it when it's applied sloppily b/c it gets all over the place and it feels so greasy) but afterwards she was good enough to show me all the stuff she did for me (extractions here and there, pimples in random places). She also pointed out that I touched my face as I was coming out (I'm not very conscious of that, hence all the pimples) which I really need to stop. Another thing I learned was that all my water drinking pays off -- she could tell from my skin that I am a "water drinker."

Perhaps I would've raved about this place if I got a full treatment (instead of the special, which felt incomplete) but the overall experience was not bad.
I like that the owner is just starting out (she opened the place a few years ago) and I think she does all the treatments herself so it is very personal service. That can also be a drawback though, b/c she talked quite a bit. I'm not a fan of talking during facials (how can you even talk as your face is being smushed back and forth?) but I guess it can get really boring for the facialist. Anyway, the spa was recommended by my dermatalogist (the owner is a patient of his, I think) and when she learned that, she was so happy. Consequently I think she treated me a little better than she would have otherwise (or maybe I just imagined it). But I think I have to see how my skin holds up and whether I break out in the coming days to really decide whether I'd go back or not.

All this talk of facials reminds me of my recent visit to Amy's Salon on Pell Street in Ctown. I was in bad need of a trim and my friend thought they did a good job on her. The only downfall is that they really try to sell you a lot of stuff (like highlights or perms when you go in just for a haircut). The owner said that she can be a one-stop shop on my wedding day -- she does hair as well as makeup. I'm not sure about the makeup part but she seemed very confident about doing hair. I really liked my haircut (she pointed out what was wrong w/ it and I could see what she was talking about, not just some fiction she made up) and she explained how she designs hairstyles based on your features and it's like art for her, where she fashions it for you all in her mind w/o having to look at any pictures or anything. And unlike all the other things she kept trying to sell me, she said it wouldn't be necessary to do a hair trial with her b/c she'll do it well the day of and I can save my money. But I digress. The relevance to facials is that she also does facials. And despite my bashing of Ctown facials above, I am a bit tempted to try hers out. She said that there's some serum that would use that would totally change my skin type so that it's less oily and less prone to break out. Back in college, someone told me she used to have terrible acne on her forehead and she went for a few facials somewhere in Ctown and now her skin is perfect -- I wonder if this is the place she went to. But aside from all the wonderful promises of the treatments, I am wont to believe Amy b/c I got the feeling that she was telling the truth (even though she was trying to sell stuff, she didn't try to sell me stuff I didn't need). I also find truth in her statement about cheaper places that don't customize the facial to you -- they just do a simple exfolation or something -- and that's why it's so cheap (which has been my experience). The package (a lot more expensive than other Ctown places) would include hand treatments as well (she may have said eye, it got lost in the translation for me). So ends this rambling facial post (I am exhausted from running around trying to find the spa today -- it's in a location that I'm not very familiar with and Google Maps completely misled me -- so this may not be completely coherent).

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