Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's Spa Time

To kick off the bank holiday weekend yesterday (which started ceremoniously with several claps of thunder and heavy monsoon-like rain), I took Udita and myself to Purity Spa at the London Hilton on Park Lane for Dermalogica mini-facials, hoping for some BFF R&R time.  We did indeed get our fair share of relaxation but also some giggles, as it seemed that we crashed a bachelorette party (with the fiance and mother-in-law present) which made for major awkwardness.

To me, getting facials is no more enjoyable than going to the dentist (minus the cavity part).   I'm used to having an unsmiling Chinese lady named Eva (who looks like the Chinese version of Anna Wintour) at the aptly named "Key To Beauty" salon in Wan Chai, Hong Kong steam, (vigorously) massage, and extract various undesirables from the pores of my face.  Although piano music plays sweetly in the background, I can't help but get stressed out by it all and the reason why I go is because I know she is the only person on this planet who can help.  You see, up until, oh, about two years ago, I had severe acne.  Not only did I have acne, I had the scars to prove it as well.  It made me super self-conscious and my own mother (not to mention, over-helpful relatives) never failed to point out my problem skin.  She'd sit across the table from me at breakfast, mournfully, as if someone had died.  "WHAT?" I'd finally snap at her, when her heavy sighing and head shaking got unbearable.  "Just ... looking at your skin.  It makes me ... so sad," she'd say, propping her chin up with her hand.  "We've tried everything ... next time you go to Hong Kong, you must ask your cousin who her aestician is."

So I did.  And I met Eva, who calmly showed me to one of her treatment rooms and had her assistant cleanse, exfoliate and steam my face, while she spoke to my mother.  Half an hour later, she came back into the dim room and peered over me.  "I've told your mother that you need a series of laser light treatments to get rid of the scars on your face and eradicate the pimples from deep down," she said to me in Chinese.  "Okay," I said.  "Now," she continued.  "I must warn you of all the risks before we begin.   First, it hurts."  "Um, okay," I replied in Chinese, a little more nervously.  "Second of all," she said, "there can be side effects."  "What ... kind of ... side effects?" I whispered.  "Well, it could be nothing.  A little redness, maybe some tenderness, and do not - DO NOT - under any circumstances bring your face close to heat or steam after the treatment.  I've heard of people who have developed a liver problem, kidney issues, and -" And this is where I wasn't sure if my Cantonese was up to scratch - "even death."  I gasped.  I started cold sweating.  I wanted off this treatment table now and into the safety of my mother's lap in the waiting room (she patiently waited for me at each appointment).  "Do you still want to go through with it?" Eva finished.  I thought about how I sometimes cried when I looked in the bathroom mirror.  I took a deep breath.  "Yes," I said, bravely.  "Ok," she said.  "I'm going to put these patches over your eyes and they're going to stick to your eyelids, because the light is so strong, it can cause blindness."  Great, I thought.  I'm going to go blind and possibly die.  "Now, I'm going to test a patch on your arm, just so you can see how it feels.  I'll count to three each time, so you can prepare for it."  "Okay," I said, clenching my jaw.  I waited for the pain to come.  "One ... two ... three," she said.  A little beep sounded and I felt a slight pinch.  "Can you tell me when you've done it?" I asked, gingerly.  "That was it," she said.  Relief doesn't begin to describe how I felt.

About eight zaps later, we were finished and my face was redder than ever.  But after two or three sessions, my existing acne and scars were gone - and two years on, I've remained problem-skin-free (for the most part).  So my 30 minutes in the treatment room of Purity Spa brought back memories of anxiety, relief and finally, thankfulness that I can now put my "best face forward" (except with the added obnoxious sounds of the bridal party as the "waiting room" doubled as the mani/pedi area).

(For the record, I don't recommend you use this "spa" - it sucks.)

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