The Facial Face-Off

Going to the spa or beautician is somewhat of a typical female thing to do, but becoming accustomed to the ins and outs of beauty treatments can be an interesting ride for those of us taking the scary steps into the world of woman-hood. What do I take off…or leave on? Will it hurt? Do I talk to the beautician while she’s doing her thing….am I being rude or distracting? I may not know all the answers to these and many other beauty treatment questions but I do know that there’s really only one way to find out; diving right in and giving it a go!

Last year for my birthday I received an $80 gift voucher for a service at Janesce- a skin care treatment service or ‘Beauty Bar’ as they like to call themselves. I decided my birthday this year was as good a time as any to spend this luxurious gift and so booked myself in for the ‘Bliss Treat’- a 45 minute facial and head/ shoulder massage. As someone who rarely indulges in things I generally think I can do a good enough job of at home (e.g. manicures, fake tans), prior to yesterday I had never experienced a facial before and was maybe even what you could call a facial-sceptic (is that a thing?). Safe to say, I went in with an open mind but high expectations- totally understandable at nearly $2 a minute, and with a name like ‘Bliss Treat’.

Let me set the scene.

I was asked to arrive a few minutes early to fill in some ‘paper work’ and, in true grown-up style, I arrived exactly 5 minutes early. I was quietly proud. I was also wearing my favourite leather jacket and Tony Bianco boots (AKA ‘my babies’)- a golden duo supplementing my existing aura of superiority which I felt was a definite pre-requisite for walking into such a luxurious establishment. And of course let’s not forget, it was my birthday- I’m not sure if it’s just me, but on my birthday I walk around feeling like everyone should see me and automatically know it’s my birthday and proceed with treating me like a princess (even though I look exactly the same as I do every other day). So when I walked into Janesce and there was no opportunity to advise anyone that it was my birthday and hence, that I should be treated as such, I was surprisingly disappointed. I began to fill out my paper work: name, address, key “skin concerns” *proceeds to tick every second box*, and skin care regime… yet no opportunity to write my date of birth….more disappointment (my expectations of receiving free things were set way too high).

Just before I was able to feel too sorry for myself after being grilled about the condition of my skin in the initial paper work, a well-kept middle aged woman calls my name and asks me to follow her. I immediately found it strange that she 1. Didn’t introduce herself and 2. Wasn’t laughing at my awkwardly nervous jokes- do you ever get the feeling someone is not quite on your wavelength? This lady was the perfect example.

We walk down a long hallway, amazing aromatics wafting over me; the anticipation was building. Knowing I was a facial-virgin, the woman somewhat patronizingly explained to me that I needed to take off my ‘top half’ and slip under the towels set out on the treatment bed and then she would come back in and begin the treatment. I clarified, “My bra too?”, naturally thinking that it would be quite awkward if I stripped down more than necessary and seemed a little too ‘keen’. “Yes, don’t worry I won’t see anything” Facial Lady replied. “Oh don’t worry, it doesn’t really bother me, I’m quite comfortable” I replied…never mind not seeming too keen!

Facial Lady leaves the room and I’m conscious of the fact that she could be walking back in again at any minute so I’ve got no time to waste- I must prove that I am capable of following simple instructions so to be accepted in this ‘world’. I strip off my top half AND bra as instructed, toss my hair into loose bun before putting on my lunch-lady-esque fabric hair cap (so sexy) and try to carefully slide under the towels without messing them up. This was a surprisingly hard task, so much so that it wasn’t until I was completely laid down that I realised I was lying on my stomach….for a facial. Realising this I then had to careful wiggle myself onto my back, once again preserving the sacred arrangement of towels, yet as quickly as possible so not to be caught by Facial Lady ‘mid-wiggle’. I made it onto my back, looked down to see my feet sticking awkwardly at the end, Kmart black socks and all. Surely this would have no practical implications but it didn’t seem right. In the middle of this thought, Facial Lady walked back in unannounced. She moves straight to the foot of the bed. She too had noticed my feet awkwardly poking out. She then pulled the towel over my feet while forgetting that this same towel is also covering my boobs which she had previously assured she “wouldn’t see”. She quickly instructs me to pull up the folded down towel to cover myself and moves on as if nothing happened- probably for the best.

Next came the questions…. Now I have admitted that I am new to the facial game but I certainly had not expected what was to come next. Facial Lady wanted to know all about my skin care routine and what products I used (because obviously I was not using theirs, I am a broke Uni student). I got the sense that no matter what I said, it wasn’t going to be right in Facial Lady’s books. Next, she pulled an ultra-bright light over my face and made a similar sound to how I might imagine someone would react to a dead possum on the side of the road… “Oh ooohh”. “Oh yes…”… she begins her critique. I try to break up the intensity of this skin interrogation with some light-hearted comments about how the stress of exams had affected by skin (which had otherwise been great for over a month), but still there was not a sign of a sense of humour to be seen in Facial Lady.

Finally it was time to get down to business- I’m staying positive, things can only get better from here. The next 45 minutes mainly consisted of Facial Lady layering one concoction after the other onto my face and neck. There were cleansers, moisturisers, serums, exfoliators, masks and mists, which particularly took my surprise- it took a considerable amount of effort to not sneeze (I would imagine this to have definitely been a faux pas). I must say that once I mentally stopped myself from listening to her fiddle around with the various lotions and such, trying to anticipate what might come next, I did find the whole experience quite relaxing. The mask was definitely the best stage, the painting on of the warm paste was strangely soothing. The massage was slightly shorter lived than I’d expected and the head massage left my hair looking like I hadn’t brushed it in a month. I came out smelling amazing but still quiet oily, which was a slight concern when it came to re-dressing. The whole experience ended with Facial Lady saying, “That’s the end of your treatment Gemma” in somewhat of a robotic tone and her asking how it was…and obvious fish for compliments. She even had the gall to point out that I should use the exfoliator she had used on me to “keep my skin clean”, somewhat suggesting I wasn’t doing a good enough job of this already. She then left me to sort out my nest-hair, re-dress and find my own way back to the front counter.

At this stage I was completely ready for the hard sell. The entire front room’s walls are lined with products- the same as those used in the treatments. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lady at the front desk was in fact gentle and helpful- I let her write down some prices and information about the products to take away and “think about”. We both knew I wasn’t coming back but we went along with the charade. Finally, Gentle Lady told me that the treatment was $85, of which my voucher would cover $80 and I would need to pay $5. I had not expected this because the pamphlet I received with the voucher had said the treatment was $80 and prices had obviously increased in the last year. I mentioned this and Gentle Lady agreed to keep the price at $80- 10 points to Gentle Lady for being professional and law abiding.

So, would I go back and spend my hard earned cash on a repeat experience? Unlikely- at least in the near future. However I am glad to say I have had the experience and can now weigh in on any of the appropriate girl conversations which may arise, and for the chance to write a (hopefully) entertaining blog post about the entire ordeal.